On this Day 22nd March 1883

The End of an Era: Treloweth Smelter Closes

On the 6 April 1883 the Royal Cornwall Gazette carried an advertisement dated 22 March 1883. The advertisement was for The Lamb and Flag Smelting Works, otherwise known as Treloweth.

The advertisement is another way-mark in the slow death of of the tin industry in west Cornwall. Treloweth had probably been smelting tin for over 200 years, it is reputed to have been the first reverberatory smelter in Cornwall (though there are other claimants for this honour). By 1724 it was one of six smelting houses in the Penzance area which were described by Henric Kalmeter when he visited Penwith. Kalmeter recorded; Chyandour with four reverberatory furnaces owned by John Rogers; Ludgvan with two reverberatory furnaces owned by William Cock & Co.; Rose an Grous (Treloweth) with three reverberatory furnaces owned by Richard Oliver; Trereife with four reverberatory furnaces owned by Thomas Coster; Lelant with three reverberatory furnaces; and Angarrark with six reverberatory furnaces and also owned by Thomas Coster.

These reverberatory furnaces, all erected over the previous 25 years or so, represent a revolution in the tin industry which until then had relied upon blowing houses using charcoal and water powered bellows to smelt tin. Both Chyandour and Ludgvan had been blowing houses before their furnaces were built, both are recorded as blowing houses in 1680 (Treasury Warrants May 1702). The sudden technology switch from blowing houses to furnaces indicates that by 1725 tin streaming had all but died out and tin was now being mined almost exclusively underground direct from the lode. Until the early 18th century there had been an additional smelting site near Penzance at Polgoon and known as the St Just House, It was a blowing house and seems to have been closed by 1719 when Philip Rashleigh granted a lease on “the old blowing house” at Polgoon to Sackwell Colensoe.

Late in the 18th century, possibly in 1791 when it was advertised for sale in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, Treloweth passed into the hands of the Daubuz family, tin smelters, mining entrepreneurs and bankers from Truro. The smelter stayed in the Daubuz business until smelting ceased there in 1883 but by then then Daubuz was a spent force having gone into decline with the death of Louis Charles Daubus senior in 1839 closely followed by the death of his eldest son and heir in 1840.

Lamb and Flag Inn, Canonstown

The property next appears in the press on the 10 May 1888 when the Royal Cornwall Gazette, in an article entitled “Another Cornish Butter factory Opened”, reported that a group of wealthy local landlords including: Lord St Levan; T.B. Bolitho M.P; W. Bolitho; T.R. Bolitho; Edward St Aubyn; and C. Davies Gilbert; had established the new butter factory on the site of the old smelting works near St Erth Station. Later when the creamery moved to the premises adjacent to the station, the site of the smelting works became the diary's transport depot.

Today the site of the Treloweth smelter is marked by the Lamb and Flag public house, a hostelry which must have witnessed many deals, treats and arguments in its time and may, if we are to believe William Borlase, have been witness to the first smelted tin, as opposed to blown tin, ever produced in Cornwall.

Sources

Calendar of Treasury Books vol 17, 1702, Treasury Warrants May 1702, 1-10

Polgoon, lease for 99 years by Philip Rahleigh to Sackwell Colensoe, CRO R/1221

Royal Cornwall Gazette 6 April 1883

Royal Cornwall gazette 10 May 1888

The Kalmeter Journal, translated and edited by Justin Brooke, Twelveheads, 2001

D.B. Barton, A History of Tin Mining and Smelting in Cornwall, Cornwall Books, rev. ed 1989.

There is a good introduction to blowing and smelting tin on the Geevor website




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