Kenidjack Valley. Streams are rare in the district and when
there is one, as in the Kenidjack Valley, it attracts a concentration of industry.
The mines have to be where there is ore, but the service industries needed to
be where there was power.
Kenidjack Valley Mines
o Boscean Mine (Lower Boscean Mine)
o Boswedden Mine
o Goldings Mine
o Wheal Boys
o Wheal Call (Wheal Coal)
o Wheal Castle
o Wheal Drea
o Wheal Grouse
Nancherrow and Tregeseal are in the extreme west of Cornwall, in the upper
Kenidjack Valley, about a quarter of a mile north and north-east of St Just
and about a mile from the valleys outfall into the sea at Cape Cornwall.
The Kenidjack valley is known by various names along its length. The section
eastwards up onto the high moors is called the Tregeseal Valley. The section
below (west of) Nancherrow Bridge is called the Kenidjack Valley and is a relatively
deep and steep sided valley to the north of St Just. It is the largest of a
small number of deep, sheltered stream valleys that run from the moors over
the coastal plain to the sea.
The valley bottom itself was literally full of mills (stamping and corn), leats,
ponds, sluices, together with the later foundry. The earliest cottages were
added to the old farming hamlets at Nancherrow and Tregeseal, and it was only
with the needs of the Holmans foundry from 1834 on that houses really
expanded amongst the mills in the valley floor
The history of milling in the valley pre-dates the industrial activity in
the area from around 1800. The source of water power meant that throughout the
19th century the valley continued to provide stamps and dressing floors for
most of the mines in the area steam was a relatively late introduction
into the St Just mining area, and only the largest local mines provided their
own steam-driven dressing and processing areas.
Holmans Foundry was established in 1834 and today the foundry site
has been cleared and re-developed, but its layout and walled enclosure still
influences the topography of the valley. The foundry not only made steam engines
and mining equipment, but also general, engineering and agricultural machinery,
and ran a gasworks which supplied St Just as well as the foundry. This allowed
it to survive until 1965.
The major areas of tin streaming were at the head of the valley – at Bostraze,
Halgoluir, and Leswidden, all dating back at least to the 18th century and probably
much earlier. Tin streaming continued into 1820s, but deep mining rapidly became
dominant. Balleswidden (closed by 1873) employed over 600 people at its height.
The Wheal Owles/Wheal Boys group at the west continued successfully until its
collapse after the flooding of 1893. The upper part of the valley, closest to
the tin streaming grounds, had the largest concentration of mills, stamps and
Below the Busvargus corn mill (certainly at work in the 18th century), the
stream, leats and ponds are dominated by the feed system for the foundry. Holmans
Foundry was quite small in the 1830s right up to 1860, but had doubled in size
by 1880. The various mills only stayed working as long as the surrounding mines
did, hence by the end of the 19th century, the mines and the mills had closed,
and the foundry was left as the only major employer.
Parts of buildings remain – Blackberry Stamps and Tregeseal Crofts, and Busvargus
Mill and mill house, the scanty remains of East Boscean, areas of waste dumps
and old shafts in many places around the valley. The leats, launders, ponds
and sluices can be seen. The outer wall (1857-80) of the Foundry, the counthouse
and the early 20th century gates still survive
Kenidjack arsenic works. These works contained a furnace
that was the precursor to the Brunton calciner. Most of the surrounding walled
structures contained waterwheel-driven crushing mills.
Boswedden Mine (Wheal Call). In 1837 the Wheal Call Great
Wheel was the second largest in Britain at 65 feet diameter (19.8 m).
The extant masonry wheel pit in the lower Kenidjack Valley above was enlarged
around 1865 to accommodate a waterwheel of 52 feet (15.8 m).1896 The last men
were discharged from the mine on February 15th 1896. The remaining materials
were sold off in March that year, when the stamping mills in Botallack Bottoms
(part of the Kenidjack valley) became independent. For the next decade the tips
were reworked for their tin content using water powered mills in the Kenidjack
Valley to the south, while water filled the underground workings.