Account of some Remains found in Pentuan Stream-works - H M Stocker, 1852

Account of some Remains found in Pentuan Stream-work,
and of the circumstances under which they were found.


WITH this I have sent you a Spear or Arrow head, found in one of the most ancient stream tin works in this county,—that of Pentuan, in order that it, with its history, may be kept as one of the numerous and interesting evidences which have been collected by your society as records of past ages.

This stream-work, though very aged, in still worked by a Company who have given it the name of Wheal Virgin. It is about two miles to the south of St. Austell, and one mile and a half from Pentuan Harbour, and has the excavated appearance presented by stream-works in general. A great amount of overburden has to be removed to obtain the ore, which has been raised in a sufficient quantity here to repay fully the outlay of the present adventurers.

Besides the arrow-head and a small chisel, numberless blocks of oak trunks, and branches of trees, blackened throughout, have been continually raised, out of which snuff boxes, and other mementos, have been made to gratify the taste of travellers visiting this spot.

The tin streamers, while following the shelf of the valley, found, about ten feet below the present surface, the commencement of a shaft which was sunk on the tin shelf, and extended to a depth of from fifteen to twenty-five feet below the present surface-level, this was filled with sand, of which the before-mentioned ten feet stratum was composed. The square frame-work of the shaft was composed of oak, blackened throughout by age, and having the ends regularly morticed, though the tenets were very small compared to those now made. The interstices of this frame-work were formed of oak twigs similarly blackened, and regularly interlaced.

At the bottom of this shaft, lying directly on the tin-ground, was found the arrow-head I have sent you, with a small chisel about eight inches long, and of the same material as that of which the arrow-head was made, which seems to be an extremely hard alloy.

It may be of interest here to call the attention of those engaged in mining to the accuracy of judgment displayed by our ancient tinners, in their having thus sunk directly on the bed of tin. By what mode of reasoning they discovered it I must leave to better observers than myself to determine.

The chisel, about an inch in width, is still I believe in the hands of some one of the adventurers or the captain.

The only other recent discovery which bears any relation to the records of curiosities in mining found in this neighbourhood are those at the well known work generally called Carclaze mine, which is at present worked as a clay sett. Here, while the present adventurers were having a canal opened, in order to form a railway communication from the bottom of the pit, at a depth of twenty-two fathoms from the surface, they discovered several flat-bottomed boats, concerning which a tradition had long existed in the neighbourhood, as stated in Drew's History of Cornwall published about thirty years since. These boats, sixteen to eighteen in number, were found in the middle of the canal, chained together, and in an admirable state of preservation; they are six feet in length, four feet six inches broad, and one foot deep: their bottoms, which are made of oak, are flat, and the timber is firm, or at least that portion of it is which is imbedded in clay: the part which is exposed to the air is almost rotten, as may be supposed when we recollect that they have not been seen for at least one hundred and twenty years. The tin-stuff at this time was not stamped in the pit, but was thrown down shafts into these boats, which, floating in a canal, rendered it an easy matter for the workmen to transport it to the stamps situated near the bottom of the adjacent hill. After that period, this mine was frequently the resort of smugglers, and about fifty years since large quantities of their goods have lain in safety in some one or other of the excavations along the canal. The boats may still be seen near the spot: one or two of them have however been removed to the surface and broken up.

October 18th, 1852.

Extracted from the Report of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society for 1852, pp88-90.