On this Day 9th October 1821

The First Mineralogical Map of St Just

Photo of an oil portrait of Joseph Carne, attributed to the circle of William Owen RA (1769-1825). Copyright Morrab Library Photographic Archive, Penzance.  'Attributed to the circle of William Owen RA (1769-1825)Joseph Carne has appeared in On This Day before [link to search for Carne]. He was an active member of Penzance society, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a significant member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall (RGSC) and a leading figure in the establishment of the Penzance Library (now the Morrab Library).

On October 9th 1821 he was one of the speakers at the Annual Meeting of the RGSC and gave a presentation On the Mineral Productions and the Geology of St Just. It's a long and detailed account, probably given in an abbreviated form at the meeting, running to 69 pages in the published transaction. It's the most detailed account to date of the St Just Mining District and includes the first mineralogical map of the district ever published.

The Transactions preface states that it had been intended to include a geological map of Cornwall but that what could be produced in the time available would not have fulfilled the wishes of the Society and they had no interest in producing a mere sketch when what was needed was detail. The work of Richard Thomas on the central mining district was commended and the reader's attention was drawn to Carne's map of St Just which will demonstrate the nature and importance of the undertaking as well as the time required.

Joseph Carne's Map of the Parish if St Just, presented before the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall  9th October 1821.Carne's map is not the first of its kind. William Smith's famous geological map of England and Wales (now known as the Map that Changed the World) had been published in 1815 and Richard Thomas' map of the Central Mining District of Cornwall had come out in 1819. There are also earlier maps, such as Charles Moody's plans of tin bounds which were surveyed for clients such as Samuel Borlase in the early 1780s. Moody's plans are more concerned with the property boundaries however and while they indicate the positions of lodes within the bounds they do not present a complete picture because he did not survey the whole district, just the bounds of those who paid him.

Carne's map probably has most in common with Richard Thomas' work. It was after all produced for the same purpose. It shows visually, for the first time, the general layout of the mining operations of the St Just District, the concentrations of activity on Trewellard Hill; at Botallack and Roscommon; in the lower Kenidjack Valley and Wheal Owls area; and lastly to the south of Cape Cornwall, centred on Pornanven, the Cot and the operations on Ballowal Cliff. The lodes shown are not named and are of necessity indicative of the grain of the ground.

The real value of the map lies in the fact that it comes complete with a detailed survey of the parish and is annotated to include mineralogical occurrences, locations of stamps and other processing works. It is a relatively complete survey of the mineral working of St Just in 1820.

A few points of interest: 1820 is the year that Levant restarted and the mine is shown on the map, the large black dot indicating the mine. Just above Levant is Zawn Brinney. The presence of the name on the map has been taken to indicate that this means that Zawn Brinney was a mine in its own right at this point in time. You have to be careful with maps, look carefully, there's no black dot. Zawn Brinney is just a significant geographic feature. Interestingly, the Levant area of the map makes no mention of Boscregan as either a mine or a geographic feature. When one looks at some of the other areas of the map eg Roscommon/Botallack or Trewellard Hill and sees the amount of detail and the number of mines included, the conclusion has to be that by 1820 any other mines in the Levant area had been subsumed into the Levant operation. Carne is in fact the first cartographer to put Levant on a map.

From first to last – Carne is the last cartographer to put the Pemeder and Pillianeth stream works on a map, noting that they have not been worked within living memory. They were working in William Borlase's day however, he records a visit to view spectacular examples of Cornish diamonds.

By 1820 much of the mineral coming to Penzance would have been copper, transported to the port on mule trains for shipment to south Wales for smelting. Copper precipitation is noted on the map above Portheras Cove and the text notes that some of the operations are copper mines eg Levant and Wheal Castle.

Carne is interested in history as well as present workings. His map includes a number of the archaeological sites of the parish and his text notes the remains of older forms of working, such as the numerous coffins (open cut workings) which were still discernible in 1820.

Historians of the St Just district are fortunate the have available to them a good series of maps all supplying a fair amount of detail. Individually they are interesting and informative but as a series they become much more significant. These maps include: Thomas Martyn 1747, Charles Moody 1780s, first series Ordnance Survey 1809, Carne 1821, Tithe Map 1843, Symons mineralogical map of 1857 and the two series of Ordance Survey 25” plans of 1876 and 1908. The Hatfield map of 1560 could be added to the list, it is not especially detailed and contains a number of interesting errors but it does show a number of St Just mining operations including one called Hermeno, generally recognised at Wheal Hermon, shown on the Carne map and referred to in the text as Wheal St Just.

Joseph Carne was an avid collector of mineralogical specimens, an interest he shared with his daughter Caroline who carried on building the collection after her father's death. Caroline was apparently not the only lady with an interest in rocks and mines. The Gazette's account of the 1821 RGSC meeting notes that it was as usual, honoured by a numerous company of ladies. Forty years later the Botallack Mine visitors book names numerous ladies who made the trip underground in the Boscawen Shaft gig.


Carne's presentation to the RGSC is reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette 20 October 1821.

The full text of On the Mineral Productions and geology of the Parish of St. Just can be found in the second volume of transactions of the RGSC. The volume is available on Google Books.

William Smith's geological map of England and Wales was the subject of Simon Winchester's The Map That Changed The World, Viking, 2001

William Borlase visited the Pillianeth streamworks on the 3rd April 1739 and described the excursion in a letter to William Oliver, see P.A.S. Pool, William Borlase, Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1986.

The maps: Martyn, Symons, tithe maps and the Ordnance Survey 25” plans can all be found in the Cornwall Record Office. The Moody bounds plans are available in the Courtney Library of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. The Hatfield map is a map of mineral locations in the west of England and south Wales, possibly drawn by William Cecil Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth 1, it is located in the archive at Hatfield House.

The Carne map is shown here courtesy of the Trevithick Society and was recently published in Penny Watts Russell, The Cry of Tin: Pascoe Grenfell (1636-1665), Tinner; Journal of the Trevithick Society, 42, 2015

There are several other articles about Joseph Carne on the PLHG site.


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