A shady tale from the Stannary Courts

From the 13th century all matters relating to tin mining in Cornwall and Devon were dealt with by the Stannary Courts. Between 1836 and 1896, the Stannary Courts also dealt with other metalliferous mines, including Trenow Consuls Mine, a copper mine at Perranuthnoe. This story is from Stannary Tales: The Shady Side of Mining, by Justin Brooke (Twelveheads Press, 1980):

Opened by a cost-book company formed in 256 shares about the second half of 1843, the mine made its first sale of copper ore in December of that year. In 1845 it began paying dividends, and at one time its shares, on which £20 per share had been called up, reached a price of £190. In January 1846 an 85 in. pumping-engine was erected. The following month the mine reached a depth of 4 fms. below the 65-fm. level at Angove’s shaft, and the 50-fm. level was driven easterwards up to the boundary with Carn Perran mine. In June 1846 Dr Johnson, the mineral lord of Great Wengre (a field whose name may be derived from the Cornish whennegow, weedy ground), which was part of the area leased for mining, tried to have the lease revoked so that he could renew it at a higher rate of dues. This he did by pasting a notice to this effect on the capstan. His representatives then ordered the labourers to stop work, and promised them a good dinner as soon as the affair was settled. A large bottle of brandy was produced and served out, and attempts were made, both by threats and promises, to seduce the men from their employers, as a preliminary step to regaining possession of the mine. The next day was sampling day, but sampling by the representatives of the copper ore buyers was prevented by a mob that had been collected. Owing to the coolness and firmness displayed by the agents of the mine, knowing that they had justice on their side, nothing untoward took place. A neighbouring magistrate refused thirteen warrants for pretended assaults against Trenow men, and Mr John, a Penzance solicitor, gave Dr Johnson’s representative a severe lecture. After this the parties seemed to have given up the affair, but in the case that followed the Court refused Dr Johnson’s application to recover his land as he had acted improperly; and noted that his daughter had received £1,000 for the field in question.

A cost-book company was a mining partnership in transferable shares, without limit to the number of partners.



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