Mining in Sennen


Looking out from Nanjizel Mine

1703 AD:- Henry Vingoe's Tin Bounds.

There is very little history of mining in Sennen Parish. Whilst researching the Vingoe family line at the Courtney Library at the Royal Cornwall Institute in  Truro I found a document dated 1703. This was issued by the  Stannary of Penwith in the name of John Grenville who was the Custodian and Guardian of the Stannary. Other officers mentioned where Ephraim Weymouth and Noye Edwards. The document is signed William Cock. 

The document is written in a shorthand Latin and also includes Cornish place names. If you click on the image you will be able to see a larger  image.

I was lucky enough to have the help of the late H. L. Douch at the Courtney Library, Truro. He gave me a quick translation of the main points in the document which is a licence agreement on tin bounds at a place called Gweal Vean. Gweal is the Cornish word for field or work place, whilst Vean means little or small. 

The bounds belonged to  Henry Vingoe and he was letting them to William Borlase, the son of Joseph Borlase of St Just in Penwith,  William Millett the son of Martin Millett also of St Just in Penwith and his own son  Henry Vingoe Jnr. These bounds are bordered on the four sides by Carn Colwidrocke, Sowen Peddenantes, Vaan Vrease and Mean Sebmen.. The date on the document is 1703.The last  two might possibly be Vean Crease & Mean Sennen, but so far we have been unable to locate any of these places today in order to find out just where the bounds were. 

Further research at the Courtney Library turned up a document entitled:-

1738 AD:- "A Survey of Tin Bounds, The Property of Sam. Borlase and Others."   

 This is another paper discovered in the archives of the Courtney Library. The date on this document is 1783 and in it we found just one mention of the Parish of Sennen. This appertained to bounds owned by John Pascoe and others which were mined by S Borlase 1/3, I Millett 1/3 and A Pearce 1/3.

There is included a sketch map of the bounds showing it to be on Trevescan Cliff. with the tin load being shown as running North to South going out to sea to the East of Dr Syntax's Head. These Bounds took in the whole of what we would refer to as the Lands End.




The Cornish miner had to find his way through rock of a very difficult character, consisting of solid  granite or elvan rock of excessive hardness. His tools were few, but  well adapted to their job; consisting, besides those represented in the following engraving, of a small wedge or two of steel, known as a gad, which was driven into the rock by the round end of the pick, for the purpose of splitting and detaching portions from the mass.


No. 1. is the pick of the miner; 2. the shovel; 3. the sledge; 4. the borer; 5. the claying bar;  6. the needle, called by some the nail; 7. the scraper; 8. the tamping bar; and  9. the tin cartridge, for blasting where the rock is wet: add to these a horn to carry his gunpowder, rushes to supply him with fuses, and a little touch-paper, or slow fuse and you have the equipment used by the Cornish miner.

The Nanjizal Mine.   

 Anyone walking the coast path from Lands End to Porthcurnow will pass the Nanjizal mine. Most will not even notice the workings as their eyes will be on the beautiful scenery around the Bay. Just when this mining commenced is unknown but it was in production in 1845 when Joseph Carne presented a paper at the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. The following report comes from the Mining Gazette of the 8th of November 1845.



Mr. Carne read a paper at the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, on this subject. Nangizell Cove is situate between Tol Pedn Penwith and the Lands End; on the very edge of the cliff is a stamping-mill for pulverising tin ore, worked by a water wheel. On looking round the cove, and the hills which bound it, the visitor discovers no appearance of a mine in all the neighborhood; he soon perceives, however, two spots on the slope of the hill, where small heaps of rubbish intimate that an attempt at mining may have been made, but there is no shaft, no adit, no machinery of any kind. At the most eastern spot an excavation has been made in the side of the hill, having the appearance of a stone quarry. The whole country is granite, and at the end of the excavation appears a mass of black schorl rock, which contains tin, and, by blasting a considerable quantity has been separated, and has been pulverised by the stamping-mill. The schorl rock is a mixture of schorl and quartz, in which the former greatly predominates - as hard flint - while the granite which encloses it is comparatively soft. Had the mass of schorl rock been continuous it would appear like a north and south vein, as it does not incline more than three feet in a fathom; but as it seems only an insulated mass the miners call it a floor; it is visible for about twenty feet in height. In the highest part of  it which can be seen, it is about seven feet wide, but it spreads out to at least sixteen feet in the lowest part. At the second heap of rubbish in another similar deposits, which the miners have pursued about 100 feet into the hill, and have found it from one to eight feet wide, inclining at an angle of fifteen degrees from the perpendicular. When the present miners commenced their operations, there were evident marks that the spot had been wrought by others long before, who probably followed the floor as long as they found tin in it. The present workmen have pursued the floor into the hill; they have found the extent of the schorl rock above and below them; they are still, however, following it northward into the hill, but southward, in the rocks of the perpendicular cliff, there is no appearance of either of these floors; had they been veins, they must have intersected the rocks. No veins have been discovered in the direction of the floors, but there are several minute veins crossing the schorl rock, and where they intersect it, it is most productive of tin.  These small veins, therefore, seem to occupy the same place, and to perform the same office to the schorl rock as feeders do to the regulate veins. The masses of schorl rock appear to be contemporaneous with the granite. How far the tin was of the same age, was a question which Mr. Carne would not undertake to decide.    

Mining Gazette, 8th of November 1845.



 Adit Portal Open Work Gunnis Crosscut
 Wheel Pit click on photo for larger image  Stream flows into the bay


Tin Miners of Sennen 

On the 1841 Census the following men of Sennen were involved in mining. Whilst it is possible that they were working at Nanjizal it could be that they walked to mines in the St Just parish. It is interesting to note that all of them except Thomas Uren, lived between Sunny Corner and the St Just boundary area of the parish. 


Name                     Age       Occupation                         Living

Thomas Uren          20       Miner                                  Treeve 

William White         55       Miner                                  Escalls   

Richard Nicholas    20       Miner                                  Escalls  

William Nicholas     50      Employed in Tin Mine        Escalls

Simon Mitchell        25      Employed In Tin Mine       Escalls

Charles Nicholas     35      Employed In Tin Mine       Escalls

Stephen Humphreys  45    Employed In Tin Mine       Escalls  

William Guy             15      Employed In Tin Mine       Escalls

 John George           60      Employed In Tin Mine    Sunny Corner

William Walters      30       Employed In Tin Mine    Sunny Corner

 John Warren           50      Employed In Tin Mine          Carlidya

Matthew Nicholas    50     Employed In Tine Mine        Carlidya


By the 1851 Census only one of the miners on the 41 census, William White, was still shown as mining 


Name                   Age       Occ.             Living                     Born

James Oats           30      Miner           Little Skewjack     St Just

John Nicholas       70      Tin Streamer  Carlidga               St Levan

William White       66      Tin Streamer   Escalls                Sennen

John Oats              36      Miner               Escalls                St Just

Richard Nicholas   39     Miner               Escalls                Sennen

 William Thomas    14      Miner              Escalls                St Just

 William Nicholas   43      Miner              Escalls                Sennen

 William Nicholas   19      Miner              Escalls                Sennen

William White         25      Miner              Pull Down           Sennen


By the 1861 Census the following Sennen men were working in the mines.


Name                   Age             Occ.                 Living          Born

William White        35       Tin Miner           Pull Down    Sennen

Lysle Nicholas       16       Tin Miner            Escalls        Sennen

Jesse Nicholas       15       Tin Miner            Escalls        Sennen

John Oats               46       Tin Miner            Escalls        St Just

John Oats               16        Tin Miner           Escalls         Sennen

Richard Oats         15        Tin Miner            Escalls         Sennen

Francis White        24        Tin Miner            Escalls         Sennen



By the 1871 census the following Sennen men were working in the mines.


Name                            Age       Employment      Living        Born

Zacheus Nicholas          19        Miner                Escalls      Sennen

William Barnes             37        Miner                 Escalls      St Just

William Barnes             16        Miner                 Escalls      Sennen


                                  By the 1881 census there were no Sennen men working in mining.                        

                                         This remained the case in the 1891 and the 1901census.



notes on the coinage of tin 

in devon and cornwall in 1595.

As reported in the state papers of the Reign of Elizabeth 1st of England. Vol.CCLIII.

July. 45. Note of the ordinary days of coining tin in Devonshire and Cornwall, for the Midsummer coinage, from 11 June to 9 July or later. The Devonshire tin is usually coined in small pieces of from 1 cwt. to 2 cwt., but the Cornish tin coined is from 2 cwt. to 400 lbs.

July. 46. Answers [by Thios. Myddletois I] to instructions concerning the coinage of tin in Devonshire and Cornwall, Midsummer 1593. I have attended the coinage, and, kept a book of the weights, but found no abuse. Midsummer coinage began at Chagford, 12 June, and ended at Helstone, 9 July; but there is an after coinage, at which the officers have 12d. for each piece of tin. Michaelmas coinage begins 15 September and lasts to 9 October, after which the accounts are delivered to Wm. Nele, the Queen’s auditor. There is a part coinage about Christmas, the Queen receiving 4 per cent, for licence, which is 001. a year, and the officers 12d. each piece of tin. Statement of tin the last seven years, varying from 1,148,891 lbs. of the quantity

1,3--1,5Olbs. The tinners cannot tell how much is exported, as merchants and pewterers sometimes deal for each other. It used to be all sent to France till the Ronen trade was stopped, and this price came down; then the Londoners bought for the Straits and the Low Countries; now it is sold in Turkey, France, and Flanders. 



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