Newsletter June 2016

Well, I can’t believe time has passed us by quite so fast that the last update was carried out in December 2015! As you can imagine we have progressed considerably, to the extent that the original dig site area within the tye has been documented, shut down and re-covered, this being in agreement with the estate and for the site’s own protection. It is no surprise though that discussion continues concerning its working methods and its construction and will no doubt continue for some time yet. In May of this year the findings were presented to the International Tin Working Conference in Tavistock and were received with great interest by members of the archaeological and mining history world, indeed all agreed that such a site had not been seen anywhere else.

So, where does that bring us concerning the actual digging? Well we have moved upstream of the tye and have been "dug in" just over the hedge, tracing the walls that lead up to the tye and once again we have uncovered old buddles that appear to be little documented in literature other than in two 18th century manuscripts, one being Mineralogia Cornubiensis by Wm Pryce and the other by a Swiss industrialist called Angerstein, alas though their drawings show a similar structure, their text detailing dimensions etc does not fit with our finds, so once again we are on a trail of discovery. As you will see by the photographs the new structures are of a much larger design and believe me, there was little pleasure derived from digging them out to their floors and walls as this required shifting several tons of soils, wet clays and slimes and occasionally avoiding the odd was most certainly a bad winter for digging!!

Over many weeks and with some help from others the first structure was revealed, its dimensions speaking volumes to aching muscles as it measured in at over 25ft long, 7ft wide and 4ft deep, its head having a well built curved wall, something we have not seen on the site before. The floor has proved a mystery in that buddle floors were generally smooth for ease of working and yet this was no more than uneven bedrock, though to some extent engineered in the sense that it had been cut to take a flow of water downstream, without leaving a trace of water behind!

We recently had a group of mining enthusiasts and historians down so that we could run water through the buddle to see how it behaved.

This gave an opportunity to discuss the movement of the water and it was agreed that the floor had been engineered to drain the waters but not to work them. The interesting point at the moment is that we have only the channels, buddles and clays to suggest that the waters coming through this system were carrying tin but from where we can’t say at this time. Indeed, at one point it was starting to look like the channel was heading for the present stream but unfortunately the Victorian residents have removed a lot of the stonework from these channels and backfilled the pits which has left us with great gaps in the walls.

We then went on to find various channels heading upstream from this buddle and then just recently found a second large buddle of similar construction that, as you can imagine, left us with the horror of more large scale digging. This is well in hand and should be completed by the end of June, hopefully earlier. We have also found a large 3 stone bridge running over the channel which appears to have been built to take heavy traffic so at this moment in time we are looking like we may well be in the heart of the industrial process and at the heart of Lanyon. It was in at least the 17th century if not earlier...unfortunately positive dating evidence is not forthcoming at this time, but the evidence we do have is pointing at the 17th/18th centuries.

We did have an interesting day when Gordon Fielder brought his mini sluice and pans to the stream. We spent a whole day panning for tin and recovered a reasonable amount but at this time the lads are struggling to separate the tin during smelting so it is very much a work in progress...can’t beat practical archaeology, something we practise on a fairly regular basis.

Now Summer has arrived we have been able to dust off the old research material and walking boots and put our two feet forward in leading some history based walks around the Madron and Gulval area. Alas the evening visit to the Lanyon dig site was as painful as it was interesting as the midges, flies and other insects had been sharpening their teeth and were in full flight and attack mode. I’ve never seen so many people so wrapped up as if for a winter’s day rather than a hot summer one!! Our second visit took to the hills to visit the Carfury stone and the ruin that was the location of Beatrice Stone and the baby down the well story, a real tragedy.

People weren’t taking any chances here as the repellent was liberally splashed all over in anticipation of a midge fest that barely came, maybe it was all the dowsing that was going on!

Our next walk is into Trevaylor Wood to look into the history of the wood and Gear stamps, we have also decided that due to the accumulation of more information over the last 3 years, the article concerning Gear stamps needs rewriting...hard to believe the group has been going now 3 years.

Finally, it was good to hand over the transcriptions of the William Veale 18th century diaries to Cornwall Records Office for their own and public use.

Stuart Emmett