On this Day 28th February 1587

Mines Royal Evicted at Botallack by Trevanion

"On Tuesday last sennight the last day of February Mr Trevannion of Carhease and Mr Kenipt, Sir Robert Carey's man, Mr Slader with 7 or 8 men came in the copper mines at St Just and took all the tools from the workmen by inventory and said they should work no more unless they would work for them and not for Mr Denham. They offered to four of our men more what then they had of before and I can see none as yet will take it but doth hope of Mr Denham's coming. Also all the ore at St Just is arrested. Said whosoever will enter or take any ore away they will bring action against any whatever. They have appointed one of account to set 4 men awork, two in the one mine and two in the other to keep possession."

"The same day that they were at St Just I was at St Ives about business we had there. When I cam to St Just I went to our smith and there found the same man that Mr Trevannion had appointed to set the mines on work had with him of our tools 40 gedges and 2 picks, which I took away from him and would, if I had seen with him, all the rest. For I think one may take that which is none of theirs...........…"

This is an extract from a letter written by John Oats to William Carnsew in early March 1587. Oats was the local manager of mines in Botallack being worked by the Company of Mines Royal (CMR) and Carnsew was his superior officer in the Mines Royal, the agent for Cornwall. The CMR were working two mines at Botallack, one is thought to have been in the location now known as Wheal Cock while the other has recently been identified as Wheal Hazard. It was Wheal Hazard which was the subject of the drama described in the letter.

De Narrow Zawn at Botallack, location of Wheal Hazard and the Crown (visible at seaward end)

Recent research has shown that Trevanion took the action described by Oats because the CMR had trespassed on his property. The Wheal Hazard mine ran under the property boundary between Roscommon Cliff and Botallack Cliff and while the CMR's lease gave them access to 100% of Roscommon they had access to only 7/16ths of Botallack. The resulting dispute saw Trevanion receive a threatening letter from William Cecil, the Queen's private secretary (and a shareholder in the CMR) demanding that he attend court at Greenwich and explain himself.

"you yourself come presently …. to make repair unto us at her Highness' court, there to say what you can.......Fail ye not thus to be lest your stay or lingering, may give a greater suspicion unto the misdemeanour, and increase the blame thereof unto you."

Trevanion clearly wasn't impressed and the mine, known as Codnareath, remained in his hands.

A few years later the case came before the Privy Council but by now the urgency had passed out of copper mining, the Spanish Armada had failed and the arms race was over. By 1600 naval canon were being made from cast iron instead of bronze.

As far as the Company of Mines Royal is concerned that is the end of the story and they did not work Botallack again. The lease lapsed and the rights reverted to the local owners but in the early 18th century there was another dispute involving the mine at Wheal Hazard. Roscommon Cliff belonged to the Usticke family while Botallack Cliff was 7/16ths theirs with the other 9/16ths owned by a Mr Henshaw of London. The Ustickes mined under the property boundary and found themselves being pursued by Henshaw for his share of the profits. Again the mine closed and remained so until 1753 when letters from Henry Usticke to his brother William reveal that Codnareath is again being worked, though not profitably.

Ultimately Codnareath became part of Botallack mine, the Codnareath lode being part of the same lode structure which was worked by the famous Crowns section of Botallack in the 19th century.

Sources

 

Elizabethan Copper: The history of the Company of Mines Royal 1568-1605, M.B. Donald, Pergamon, 1955

 

Letter from William Cecil to Hugh Trevanion, March 1587, Cornwall Record Office, ME 2485

 

Summary of the matters in controversy between Charles Henshaw and John and Stephen Usticke, 4 October 1723, Cornwall Record Office, AD733

 

Usticke letters, Cornwall Record Office, X1424

 





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