The story of 'Cornish Mining'

Our World Heritage Site consists of the most authentic and historically significant concentrations of metalliferous mining features within Cornwall and west Devon, spanning the nominal date range 1700 to 1914.

The landscapes created here during this period are testament to the development of deep mining for metals, principally copper and tin. The industrialisation of this activity and the innovations which occurred as a result had a profound impact on local culture, and were to fundamentally influence the development of global mining during the nineteenth century.

There are ten separate Areas which together comprise the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and these encompass former mining districts, ancillary industrial concentrations and associated settlements – mining towns and villages. These Areas have been shaped or otherwise influenced by the process of metalliferous mining or related activities, despite having developed separately.

The individual texts which can be downloaded by following the links below were prepared as part of the nomination process to achieve UNESCO World Heritage Site status. These texts set out the geological background to deep mining in Cornwall and west Devon, explain the principal processes and technologies involved, and address the physical and cultural legacy of the industry. The final documents in the list comprise a glossary and bibliography relating to the Cornish mining industry.  

In order to define the landscapes proposed for the World Heritage Site Nomination, a list of seven landscape components, or ‘attributes’ in UNESCO terminology, was complied, and these together encompass the principal themes relating to metal mining and its impact on places and people. Descriptions of these attributes can be found under the link: The sites and monuments which define the 'Cornish Mining' landscapes, towards the bottom of this page.

The story of 'Cornish Mining' includes the following topics; please click on the links below to find out more.

Geology and landscapes


The backdrop against which mining in Cornwall and west Devon took place, and the mineralogical resource without which it could not have occurred;

1) Geology and landscapes - overview

2) Geology, mining and the natural environment

3) The geological and mineralogical importance of Cornwall and west Devon’s mining landscapes

4) The ecological value of metalliferous mining sites

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Industrialisation shaped and made possible our modern global society; Cornwall and west Devon were at the forefront of this process;

1) History - overview

2) Prehistory and Romano-British Period (AD 43-410)

3) Medieval Period (AD 410-1500)

4) Post-medieval Period (AD 1500-1700)

5) Post-medieval Period (AD 1700-1914) - Mining landscapes and economy

6) Cornish mining (AD 1914 to the present)

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Technology and infrastructure


Remarkable advances in steam engineering and mining and allied technologies were made in Cornwall and west Devon during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which were to be exported around the world;

1) Mining technology - overview

2) Adits and water wheels

3) Steam technology and the beam engine

4) The Cornish type engine house

5) The Man-Engine

6) Mineral products and their transport implications

7) Engineers and inventors

8) Foundries and ancillary industries

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Communities and culture


Through mining, thousands of ordinary men, women and children contributed to the Industrial Revolution in Britain; they transformed the landscape, forged distinctive communities and transferred their mining skills and traditions internationally during a sustained period of migration;

1) Communities and culture - overview

2) Communities and culture: a socio-economic view

3) Working conditions

4) Living conditions - overview    

5) Mining settlements

6) Mineworkers’ smallholdings

7) Entrepreneurs and mine owners

8) The role of religion - Methodism

9) Mining schools and institutes

10) Mining migration

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The sites and monuments which define the 'Cornish Mining' landscapes


The distinctive and authentic remains of industrialisation can be found throughout Cornwall and west Devon. Imposing engine houses, mine sites, industrial harbours and tramroads, foundries, fuseworks, towns and villages, non-conformist chapels, grand houses and gardens of the mineral lords, mineworkers' smallholdings, technology schools and institutes, are all recognisable features of the 'Cornish Mining' landscape.

The sites and monuments which define the 'Cornish Mining' landscapes

A Cornish mining glossary


A collection of terms used historically within the Cornish mining industry - please click here.

A Cornish mining bibliography


A list of thematically arranged bibliographic references relating to the Cornish mining industry - please click here.

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