West Country Tin Mines Become UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Nicola Tann | 14 July 2006
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A tall stone chimney stands by another building covered in snow

Botallack arsenic works in the snow. Photo by Adam Sharpe and by courtsey of the National Trust

The mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon has become a World Heritage Site, following a decision by the World Heritage Committee.

The announcement, which was made by Tessa Jowell on July 13 2006, means the historic area is now rubbing shoulders with sites such as Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and Kew Gardens.

An aerial view of a beautiful coastline

Aerial view of Geevor and Lavant. Photo by John Such and by courtesy of the National Trust

Ten sites across the region, largely from the ‘boom years’ in the late 18th and 19th century, have been identified as best representing this era of tin and copper mining.

“To many, World Heritage status calls to mind such famous monuments as Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China," said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

"But it is important to realise that sites like the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape are as deserving of recognition and protection as their more well-known companions on the World Heritage list.”

A tall stone chimney stands next to another building

Godolphin Great Work Mine. These tall chimneys of the old engine houses were known as ‘Cornish Castles’. Photo courtesy of the National Trust

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, only grants World Heritage status to sites of either cultural or natural heritage that are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity - and the tin industry in Devon and Cornwall boasts a long history of human toil and endeavour.

Mines in the area have supplied much of the western world's tin and copper for over the last 4,000 years and, for a time during the 18th and 19th centuries, the area was the world's greatest producer of these metals.

Visitors look at stone structures set into the ground

Botallack arsenic labyrinth with visitors. Photo by Barry Gamble and by courtesy of the National Trust

As such, it contributed substantially to Britain's Industrial Revolution and influenced mining technology and industrialisation throughout the world.

The Cornish Mining Industry was included in the UK's Tentative List of sites likely to be nominated in the future as a World Heritage Sites in June 1999. Inclusion on the Tentative List is a prerequisite for formal nomination.

Two brick structures stand on scenic rocks edging into the sea

Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack. Photo courtesy of South West Coast Path

The addition of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape to the World Heritage List extends the UK's representation to 27 sites and heralds the UK's support for UNESCO's aim of widening the range and type of sites on the World Heritage List to include, among other categories, industrial heritage.

The list of ten areas identified as best representing the many diffrent assets of mining in the area:

St Just
Hayle
Tregonning
Wendron
Camborne-Redruth
Gwennap
St Agnes
Luxulan-Charlestown
Caradon
Tamar-Tavistock

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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