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History of East Pool Mine

East Pool Mine at Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall
East Pool Mine at Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Discover the history of East Pool Mine, one of the few 18th-century mines that stayed working into living memory until the last engine stopped in 1954. Many local people, volunteers and visitors can still remember the engines working or playing on the then-closed site as young children.

Pool Old Bal

East Pool Mine began life as Pool Old Bal in the early 1700s. Bal is the Cornish word for mine and a common name in the county. The mine started out as a copper mine and worked until 1784. It later reopened under the name East Pool in 1834 and became a tin mine.

The land was leased from the Basset family, who were able to construct their family home nearby at Tehidy from the profits of Pool Old Bal and their other mines.

The exterior of Michell's Engine House at East Pool Mine, Cornwall, a brick building with a tall chimney stack attached to it.
Michell's Engine House at East Pool Mine | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Michell’s Engine House

Michell's Engine House housed the whim (winding engine) used to help extract tin from Michell’s shaft. Tin was extracted here for 34 years from 1887, until a large underground movement of rock destroyed the shaft.

The whim was built in 1887, designed by local engineer EW Michell. It was the last of its kind to be manufactured in Cornwall.

Flooding problems

Shafts were vertical passages used for accessing underground workings and for hauling the ore. East Pool had a problem with water pouring in from its neighbouring mine Wheal Agar, now the location of a Morrisons Supermarket.

Wheal Agar was continually losing money towards the end of the 19th century and kept threatening to switch off its pumps, which it eventually did in late 1895. As a result, the very productive lower levels of East Pool flooded, meaning that it was restricted to reworking its older higher levels.

Purchasing Wheal Agar

Negotiations between the two mines continued for over a year until the intervention of Lord Robartes, who owned the Wheal Agar land. East Pool needed to be able to pump the additional water from the productive lower levels.

East Pool purchased Wheal Agar and all its equipment for £4,000, taking possession on 10 March 1897.

The chimney at East Pool Mine at Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall
The chimney at East Pool Mine at Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

East Pool and Agar

The name East Pool and Agar comes from the sale of Wheal Agar. The mine had a very productive life, raising 92,000 tons of copper ore and 47,000 tons of tin ore. In the early days the copper ore here was particularly rich, selling at twice the average price. In 1913 the business became a limited company called East Pool & Agar Limited, known locally as EPAL.

East Pool was one of the few mines – along with nearby South Crofty and Wheal Basset – that were able to survive the depression of the Cornish mining industry in the late 19th century. These mines had to work together to remain open. If one pump stopped it could flood the surrounding mines and stop the mining work.

Taylor’s Shaft

In 1921 the shaft at East Pool and Agar collapsed and completely blocked access to the mine. A new shaft, named Taylor's Shaft, was dug between 1922 and 1925, 250m from the blocked shaft. The mine retained the name East Pool and Agar Mine and it is these initials that are on the tall chimney on site.

The main product of this mine was tungsten. It is a hard metal which was in high demand during the Second World War and used in the manufacture of weapons. The mine stayed operational until the end of the Second World War, when mining subsidies were stopped and bankruptcy was looming.

South Crofty floods

When the mine workers finally switched the pumps off at Taylor’s Engine House in 1945, the neighbouring mine started to flood. Because the nearby South Crofty was still mining, it meant that the pumps at Taylor’s Engine House had to continue working.

Even though East Pool Mine had closed in 1945 it continued to pump floodwater to keep South Crofty clear. The engine was to run for a further nine years, keeping the tunnels and shafts clear until 11 September 1954 when electric pumps were installed.

Visitors in the Industrial Discovery Centre and exhibition at East Pool Mine at Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall


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