Mining terms un-earthed at East Pool

 East Pool Miners at the turn of the 20th Century waiting to go underground

Over one hundred years on from the industrial mining peak, the bizarre terms used on a day to day basis in the 19th century seem alien in our modern language. Can you tell a 'tributer' from a 'tutworker'? Use our mining dictionary to decipher a 'leat' from a 'lode' or tell the difference between the 'stope' and the 'stamp'.

Arsenic (As)

A highly poisonous substance which was extremely profitable in the 19th centruy for East Pool Mine. Its uses included as a pesticide and in fireworks. Totally safe in its original ore form, it is not until this is roasted along with all of the tin etc, that is becomes extremely dangerous. The chemical symbol for arsenic is As.

Alluvial tin 

Tin found near the surface of the earth, often at the bottom of valleys, which can be mined easily from the surface using ‘opencast’ trenches. This was the most common type of mining up to the 14th and 15th centuries.


An alloy is a mixutre of two metals. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.


A Cornish term for ‘mine’.

Bal maiden 

Women and girls who worked above ground at Cornish mines carried out back breaking work such as crushing the ore by hand. Girls under 12 would sort the ore whilst older girls would break the rocks open or transport them between different stages in the dressing process.

Blowing house 

An older type of tin smelting furnace, where the concentrated ore - now a fine powder - would be heating to high temperatures to begin the process of smelting to turn the ore into molten metal.


An alloy which is 80-90 percent copper and 10 percent tin.

Copper (Cu)

Copper is especially useful due to its ability to carry electrical current and is often used as electrical wire. It is a soft metal and was used in history in decorative pieces such as jewellery. It was often mixed with other harder metals. When it oxidises (degrades when in contact with oxygen) it turns into a green pigment known as verdigris. The chemical symbol for copper is Cu.

Crowst, crib or mossel

Miners lunch (different terms were used in different parts of the county). This was usually around 11am and at East Pool Mine it was known as 'Crowst Time'.


A room where miners could wash and change their clothes at the beginning and end of their shift. It was a place of much cameraderie and singing.


A term used for the surface of the mine, getting ‘up to grass’.


Veins of mineralised material found in the ground which can extend for hundreds of meters in length and depth, depending on the geology. Think of curtains in the rock which contained the valuable ores.

Level/shaft workings 

Begun in the 13th century and widespread by the 15th century, miners would follow alluvial lodes downwards into the earth, supporting tunnels as they progressed. Such mines were not as extensive as later 18th century workings when steam powered engines could effectively drain them, but it was nonetheless an attempt to mine ores under the ground.


An artificial watercourse supplying water to a watermill or pond. They were often wood lined and brough water from where it was, to where it was needed, relying on gravity.


A rock that contains metals which can be extracted through refining.


A vertical passage used for accessing underground workings, ventilation and hauling the ore out.

Stoping and stope

‘Stoping’ is the term for extracting ore from an underground mine, the ‘stope’ is the open space that is left behind.

Stamping mills and stamps

Originally powered by water wheels and later steam engines, these where machines which crushed rocks to a finer and finer powder in order to extract the tin.


Where the tin was melted to separate pure tin/copper from impurities. The end products were ingots of solid metal.


Tallow is made from beef or mutton fat  and was used by miners to make candles. These were their only light in the mine and not only were extremely stinky, but gave off huge amounts of smoke. Carbide lamps were not used in Levant until the late 1920s.


A skilled sub-contractor who would bid for a pitch in the mine on a monthly basis on ‘setting days’ was paid according to the amount of ore they extracted and sent to the surface or 'grass'. Those who had an eye on bidding for a pitch next to the one they had worked, would often go to some lengths to conceal its true value.


Worked on non-productive but necessary tasks underground, at a fixed price per fathom.

Tin (Sn)

Tin is one of the most abundant and useful metals mined in Cornwall. Its uses included making tin cans, creating soldering joints, and plating other metals as it didnt corrode easily. Black tin was the name given to the concentrate produced by a mine, white tin was the metal produced by the smelter.  The chemical symbol for tin is Sn. 'The cry of tin' was the crackling sound produced when a pure sheet or bar of tin was bent.

Touch pipe

Clay pipe or ‘cledger’ loaded with twist tobacco, a favourite with miners.


Cornish term originally denoting ‘place of work’ and later ‘mine’ or ‘shaft’.


A Cornish term for a winding device to haul men and ore up from the mine shaft.g