Wheal Owles Disaster 1893

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: St Just, Cornwall, Englandmap
Surnames/tags: Mining Disasters England Disasters
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | England Mining Disasters |Cornwall Mining Disasters | Wheal Owles Disaster 1893

Contact: Fran Weidman


  • Date: 10 January 1893
  • Location: Wheal Owles, St Just, Cornwall, England
  • Casualties: 20 - 19 men and a boy
  • Cause: Flash flooding

The Wheal Owles Mine, also known as the Cargodna Mine, sits on top of the cliffs near Botallack in the parish of St. Just, Cornwall, England. It was an ancient mine with records that dated back to the 1400's, and was reopened in the 1830's. It was owned by John Boyns and his son Richard. The mine produced mainly tin, but copper as well.

Photo of Wheal Owles, taken 2018
Wheal Owles, 2018

Wheal Owles is currently a tourist attraction, being "famous" for being used as a filming location for the 2015 BBC television series "Poldark".

However, the mine holds a very dark and sad secret.

On the morning of Tuesday, 10th January 1893, a group of miners blasted their way through a wall in the Cargodna section, causing an inrush of water from the neighboring Wheal Drea, an older abandoned mine filled with water. Of the 40 men who were in the mine at the time, only 20 came out alive. In total, 19 men and one boy were drowned in the lower levels. One man, James "Farmer" Hall, was credited with saving five men and boys from meeting the same fate. Farmer Hall was the last man to leave the mine, after hearing nothing but silence from below.

Photo Wheal Owles engine house, taken 2012
Wheal Owles engine house, 2012

It was soon discovered that the accident was caused by inaccurate plans. Captain Richard Boyns, who was now the manager of the mine, had failed to "allow for the variation of the magnetic meridian". Boyns, who had been ill and bedridden for years, was fined £15. There was no appeal and no inquest.

Photo of memorial plaque at West Wheal Owles in St. Just, taken 2008
Memorial plaque at West Wheal Owles in St. Just

Wheal Owles was closed for good after the accident. In 2006, it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There is also a plaque on the wall of the engine house with the names of those who perished.

The bodies of those who drowned were never recovered. The last two lines of a poem written by W. Herbert Thomas sums it up:

"The mine is now a grave-yard, an’ the levels are the graves,

An’ the miners’ dust there slumbers near the wild Atlantic waves!"

Name Age Those they left behind Sourced Bio Connected Category
Thomas Allen 23 Mother (??) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lewis Grenfell Wilkins 18 Parents, siblings Yes Yes Yes Yes
Peter Casley Dale 23 Mother, siblings Yes Yes Yes Yes
William James Davey 18 CAN'T FIND HIS PARENTS Yes
William Eddy 20 Parents, siblings Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Edwards Trembath 34 Widow + 5 children Yes Yes Yes Yes
Thomas Ellis 35 Widow + 2 children Yes Yes Yes Yes
John Grose 54 3 adult children Yes Yes Yes Yes
Thomas Henry Grose 23 Siblings Yes Yes Yes Yes
John Henry Olds Bosanko 25 Widow + 2 Children Yes Yes Yes Yes
William Roberts 23 Grandmother Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Rowe 23 Parents, siblings Yes Yes Yes ** Yes
John Taylor 24 Widow Profile needs a LOT of work
Mark Taylor 20 Profile needs a LOT of work, mother's LNAB was Trathen, not Williams
Charles Hutchens Thomas 37 Widow + 4 children Yes Yes Yes Yes
William John Thomas 15 Parents, siblings Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Thomas 22
Edward White 43 Widow + 1 child Yes Yes Yes Yes
Richard Williams 25 Widow (??) Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Williams 22 Yes Yes Yes Yes ** Yes

**Connection is sketchy, due to the number of individuals with the same name who were born in the same place at the same time. Opinions/corrections are always welcome :)

Research Notes

Unfortunately, the newspaper accounts of the day were, for the most part, inaccuate. Many of the names of those who died are incorrect, which is also reflected on the memorial plaque. Any corrections will be noted on the individual profiles.


Comments: 4

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Can I please be added to this trusted list? I'm working off another FSP and need to copy everything over. Thanks.
Did I ever tell you how amazing you are?
posted by Susie MacLeod
Awwwww thank you...but that's only because an equally amazing lady named Olivia taught me everything I know :)
I love you ladies, you both do justice to these poor men and boys Xx