A man engine first comes to Levant
Like most Cornish mines, Levant had deep tunnels that went far below the surface. Each day, miners climbed down a shaft (a deep hole going underground) to start work. At the end of the day, they had to climb back up ladders to go home.
In 1857, a ‘man engine’ was installed at the mine. This carried the men up and down, saving them precious time and energy for their work. Even with the engine, it took around half an hour to travel from the top of the mine to the very bottom.
Part of the engine snaps
On 20th October 1919, a link connecting two parts of the man engine broke. The engine was near ground level (the top of the hole) when it suddenly crashed all the way down the shaft.
At the time of the accident, a large group of miners was coming back up to the surface after finishing their work. Some were able to step off the engine, but many were carried back down the hole with it.
Survivor Willie LawryI had 36 stitches in my face and neck, lost all my front teeth, a collar broke and eight ribs crushed.
The rescue mission
It wasn’t long before a rescue mission began. Because the ladders and platforms in the shaft were gone, the rescuers had to climb down the cliff to get into the mine. When they got underground, they found many dead and badly injured men.
Workers from Geevor Mine, just along the coast, came to help with the rescue. Another group came from East Pool near Redruth to dig out the men. It took five days to get everyone back out of the mine. News of the accident was reported all around the world.
A Disaster Fund was set up to raise money for the families of those who died.
K.A., ‘Lines on the Disaster’St. Just, Pendeen and Neighbourhood, Will never forget the day, When thirty-one miners, Were suddenly called away
The mine closes
The deep section of the mine was never worked again. In October 1930, Levant Mine closed altogether. This was mostly caused by the falling price of tin, which affected profits. However, many blamed the man engine disaster.
Today, the mine is open for the public to visit.