20 October 1919


Levant Mine, Pendeen

Known for

In 1919, 31 men died in a terrible mining disaster at Levant in Pendeen. This happened when the man engine, an early type of lift for taking miners up and down the mines, suddenly broke.

Yn 1919 31 den a verwis yn terosa bal euthyk yn Levant yn Boskaswal Wartha. Hemm a hwarva pan dorras a-dhistowgh an jynn-den, eghen a-varr a yskynnell rag kemeres tus val an bal yn-bann hag yn-nans.

Photograph of Levant Mine in Pendeen, near St Just, Cornwall
Levant Mine
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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.

I had 36 stitches in my face and neck, lost all my front teeth, a collar broke and eight ribs crushed. Survivor Willie Lawry

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.

St. Just, Pendeen and Neighbourhood, Will never forget the day, When thirty-one miners, Were suddenly called away K.A., ‘Lines on the Disaster’


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.



Levant: A Champion Cornish Mine

Corin, J, Levant: A Champion Cornish Mine (1992)

The Mine Under the Sea

Penhale, J, The Mine Under the Sea (2007)

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