Location: St Just, Cornwall, England
Surnames/tags: Mining Disasters England Disasters
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.
|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.
|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.
|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!"
**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 :)
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.
- West Penwith resources; Rick Parsons, Wheal Owles Mine Disaster, 1893
- Ian Winstanley, Northern Mine Research; Wheal Owles Flooding-St. Just-1893
- Wikipedia: Wheal Owles
- Penwith Local History Group, On This Day
- Trove; The Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, NSW, 18 Feb 1893
- Login to request to the join the Trusted List so that you can edit and add images.
- Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
- Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)
- Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)