Cornwall LivingAutumn 2018
A tour through Tolgus
Discover the story behind Cornwall’s mining history with a tour of Tolgus Tin Mill.
If, like many, you’ve watched an episode of Poldark recently, you may wonder what life would have been like for Cornish miners working at the height of the industry. A visit to Tolgus Tin Mill offers a colourful insight into the men, and children, who worked there.
“Proceeds from this range of jewellery are then reinvested back into the mill, ensuring its restoration continues and its future is safeguarded”
Now part of the Cornwall Gold site between Redruth and Portreath, the little mill above the stream has been in action since 1865 and is at the heart of a renovation project to preserve its historic heritage. This was the over ground operation of the mining industry where local mining waste and tin ore from sand and river deposits were filtered for every last bit of tin that could be smelted and used. “Workers would spend up to 15 hours a day, hand sifting other people’s rubbish,” explains Cornwall Gold’s Steve Ackland.
Today, the mill is the last original tin streaming works in Europe and tin is still smelted at Tolgus and mixed with silver and gold to produce the stunning Tolgus collection. Proceeds from this range of jewellery are then reinvested back into the mill, ensuring its restoration continues and its future is safeguarded.
On your visit look out for the only set of original Cornish stamps left in existence, which are more than 150 years old and learn about what life was like for workers who toiled in back-breaking conditions to extract the smallest quantities of tin.
While Tolgus was undoubtedly a safer place than Cornwall’s underground mines, to wander through the mill is to remember how hard and dangerous the work could be. It’s noisy, dusty and wet. “Children were expected to follow in the footsteps of fathers and grandfathers, and would be placed on duty in the slime pits or under the frames. It’s a form of labour that would be unthinkable today”, says Steve. “Kids that visit us now are amazed at the harsh conditions, and it makes going to school look a lot more appealing!”
After exploring this bygone age, we’d recommend a spot of retail therapy in the beautiful Cornwall Gold showroom, before heading to their Cornish Pantry, where you can enjoy some amazing Cornish dishes, including the award-winning breakfast, which is served on a traditional tinner’s shovel!
"Proceeds from this range of jewellery are then reinvested back into the mill, ensuring its restoration continues and its future is safeguarded"