The Crowns are two engine houses perched on the edge of the spectacular West Penwith cliffs. They were once part of the mighty Botallack Mine and are now one of the most recognisable mining landmarks on the Cornish coast.


Botallack, near St Just



The Crowns engine houses at Botallack near St Just
The Crowns engine houses at Botallack near St Just Image by Paul Watts
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Rich in minerals

The Crowns mine and engine houses were named after the Three Crowns: the rocks on which they were built. The area is full of many different minerals, including Botallackite, which can only be found there. Copper and tin were the main metals mined in Botallack. The tin was mainly found in granite underground and the copper in killas rock under the seabed. The underground workings at the Crowns were a mile long, with one-third of the shafts and tunnels being under the seabed.

Wonder mine of the west

The Crowns’ engine houses were built in the 1830s and 1860s and were an engineering feat. The lower one housed a pumping engine and the higher one was for a whim or winding engine. In 1842, a rich copper deposit was discovered, which made the mine profitable for the first time in decades. In 1863, a terrible accident led to the death of nine miners, including a boy of 12, when the chain of a wagon lifting them to the surface broke.

Royal visit

On 24th July 1865 the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall visited the Crowns. They were taken on an underground tour in one of the mine wagons to the bottom of a 375-metre shaft. They were led by mine captains Henry and John Boyns, and Captain Hocking. The royal couple were each given the chance to break some of their own copper ore from the rock in the shaft.

World Heritage

After decades of mixed success, including a period of mining arsenic, Botallack Mine finally closed on 14th March 1914. This was just five months before the outbreak of the First World War. The surface remains, including the Crowns engine houses, survived into the 21st century. In 2006, UNESCO made them a part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. Today the Crowns attract thousands of visitors walking along the South West Coast Path.

What do you imagine conditions were like deep underground in the shafts and tunnels under the Crowns? What was the copper and tin used for?

Did you know?

Botallack also produced many rare and precious minerals including silver, amethyst, garnet and tourmaline.

The Crowns were a tourist attraction even while the mine was still working. After the Royal visit in 1865 underground tours of the tunnels under the sea became even more popular. 




Noall, C, Botallack (1999)

Mining Accidents in the St Just District 1831-1914

Joseph, P, Mining Accidents in the St Just District 1831-1914 (1999)

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