Work in Lelant

© Maxwell Adams 2004-2020

Version 2 January 2020

The most significant work historically in Lelant parish was in mining and on the land. Most of the mines were in the rural parts of the parish although numerous villagers were involved in mining.


There are several references to clay in Lelant. Daniel and Samuel Lysons, writing in 1814, said: "A yellow sandy clay, which, from its standing intense heat, is called fire-clay, found on an estate of Mr Pread [sic], near Lelant town, is exported to Wales in large quantities for the purpose of laying [sic] the bottoms of copper furnaces; it is sold at 10s 6d per ton" (Lysons 1814). William Penaluna similarly said, "In this parish is a yellow clay, much in request for building furnaces and ovens, large quantities of which are exported to Bristol and Wales, and other places every year. Bricks composed of this clay, at first vitrify in the fire, and run into one solid body; but after this they undergo the most intense heat without any further alterations" (Penaluna 1819, 152-153). Similar general comments are in Samuel Lewis (1831, 578) and James Bell (1836, 93).

About the same time the reference book of the 1838 map drawn by Rutger (a copy of one made by Moody in 1820) identifies at the present Ann's Wood in the Saltings "Yellow clay-pits and waste, lately planted with trees" (RIC HJ 5/4a,b, page 46). At the back of the reference book there is a note: "Near Lelant Village in this manor, large quantities of yellow-clay have been yearly dug, much used for building furnaces, this clay has been always and is now shipped off from North Quay to Bristol and Wales". Noall noted moulding sand and clay worked in this vicinity in the early nineteenth century (Noall 1982, i 17). He says 350 tons of clay were exported each year by sea to Swansea.

Clay was clearly a noticeable export of Lelant at this time. Local men would have been employed extracting the clay from the ground and getting it to the waterside. The 1841 census records George Gregory living at Old Clay Quay, Quay Lane, Lelant. However, he is apparently not concerned with any clay industry as he has no occupation recorded. Quay Lane is now called Station Hill.

There are further references to Clay Quay. In 1852 there was a proposal for a branch railway, including a spur to Clay Quay (CRO QS/PDR 14/5). The plans were deposited 29 November 1852. W.Brunton, engineer. Similar proposals involving Clay Quay are at CRO QS/PDR 14/6-9.

It is difficult to know when Lelant clay ceased to be worked. Joseph Polsue in the late nineteenth century said that much clay was exported to Wales to line the bottoms of copper smelting furnaces: he unhelpfully identifies the sources only as "one of the Trevethow estates" and gives no dating (Polsue 1870, iii 104). I think this is a reference to an industry that had disappeared by then.


Information about some tin smelting works in Lelant is given by Justin Brooke (1997). The exact site appears unknown but was on the River Hayle or a tributary about half a mile from Lelant. Brooke considers a possible site to be "on or near the stream running down from Trencrom and flowing past Trevethoe" (Brooke 1997, ii 221), a beck which flows into Lelant Water near Griggs. Brooke adds that the land belonged to Humphrey Mackworth of Trevethoe and he let it to four smelters for ten guineas a year. The initials used were WV, RP, TH, and GH, perhaps those of the smelters. There is a reference to it in 1739 (Barton 1967).

There is a reference to premises "heretofore a tin smelting house and commonly called and known by the name of Lelant Melting House...adjoining with Lelant Town and Hayle River" in a lease dated 1 January 1794 (CRO X/473/100). This indicates that the smelting house was no longer in use for smelting.

In the 1881 census two villagers are described as tin smelters.

Market gardening

In the near past market gardening, the commercial growing of fruit and vegetables and flowers, was a thriving industry in Lelant. A report at the beginning of the twentieth century said: "Large numbers are employed in picking, bunching, and sending off violets, lilies, and daffodils" (St Ives Weekly Summary 14 February 1903). The same newspaper on 28 February had carried an article from the Pall Mall Gazette about a violet farm between Lelant and Carbis Bay: it was run by 'Paddy,' in a field of half an acre on the right hand side leaving Lelant, a field which went to a point. This sounds like Tree Nook.

Violets were grown commercially well into the twentieth century. Kathleen Jenkins recalls picking them at William Toms's Elm Farm during her time in the Land Army in World War II (private communication to Maxwell Adams, 30 October 1996).

There was a nursery running down Brewery Hill from Church Road to Riverside and behind the school. This was owned by Charles Shaw BAKER and called Shaw Baker's Violet Nurseries. It grew shrubs, plants, flowers, and salad produce, especially tomatoes (Wills 1995 ). He sold flowers by post too and sent out hundreds of anemones at Christmas at a cost of 7½ d a parcel (Tonks 1996). He lived at what is now called April Cottage, Church Road and died 1976. He played first class cricket for Warwickshire 1905-1920 and was then a cartoonist for the Daily Express.

Flower growing was probably a Lelant cottage industry too. Sam Richards recalls that his father grew enough flowers in their garden in Tyringham Place to send them to commercial markets. These included violets which he found small and difficult to pick. The work was not arduous but "in winter our hands were wet and frozen" (Richards 1997).

Today at the start of the year people pick daffodils at Trenoweth, their cars lining the road to Longstone.


This has long been an activity in the village as well as the rural parish. Farmers appear in all the censuses and today there are farms around the village though some have gone. The St Ives Weekly Summary 14 February 1903 reported not only on flower growing but also farming, mentioning potatoes, broccoli, wheat, winter oats, cattle, and sheep; although wheat and sheep are not characteristic of the wet west of England.

Today you find cattle at Towans Farm in the fields on the road to Longstone. When the daffodil pickers are busy in the fields across the road, the cattle stand at the hedge gazing at them.


There are some noticeable differences in work between the 1841 and 1881 censuses for Lelant village. The figures and comments below refer only to the working males in these years.

In 1841 about a third of the working males were engaged in mining, virtually all as miners with identified tin miners much outnumbering copper miners. In 1881 miners had shrunk to only about 6 percent of working males and all engaged in mining in any way (for example, including dressers and smelters) to only 10 percent.

People working on the land as labourers or farmers in 1841 made up about 13 percent of working males. In 1881 this rose to 16 percent, but this included villagers engaged in market gardening. Some villagers in both censuses, excluded from the figures above, are in gardening and I assume this means not market gardening but, as in Lelant in the pre-1939 twentieth century, men working as gardeners for private houses.

The censuses show very clearly the decline of mining. The large increase between the censuses in the proportion of men working as general "labourers" perhaps reflects this decline.

Artisans like carpenters, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and wheelwrights are found in both censuses, along with shopkeepers and shoemakers and tailors: the people that a fairly self-sufficient Victorian village needed and work which, apart from shopkeeping, has disappeared from the Lelant of today.

However, in 1881 there is new employment. Men working for the railway appear and also men working in a foundry, mostly as iron moulders, and presumably in Hayle. Three men work in the postal service. These reflect new developments in Lelant and the area.

An article by Maxwell Adams on the occupations in Lelant recorded by the 1881 census was published in the St Ives Times and Echo in 1995.


Although most mines and mining were in the rural parish, there was some mining in the village and it on this that I focus. These village mines do not appear to have been very successful. I look at this under three aspects: streaming, Hawks Point, and the towans. Much of the information in the last two is based on Jenkin 1978, i 38-41.

Tin Streaming

Tin was washed down the River Hayle and was recovered by alluvial mining in the 1870s and 1880s in the Mill stream which runs into Lelant water at Griggs (Noall 1982, i 16-17). Noall also says that there were tin stream works near the present branch railway line using the Saltings beck which enters the village at the Old Court House and the former Methodist chapel in Trendreath (Noall 1982, i 17, Noall 1965). This beck comes from the adit of Wheal Cubit on Gyes Moor.

In 1889 streaming was temporarily revived. The Cornish Telegraph reported that the high price of tin had led Mr Stevens to take a lease, set up the equipment, and restart tin streaming at Lower Lelant which had been given up several years previously (24 March 1889). The location sounds like the Saltings beck.

Hawks Point

In August 1806 a copper and tin sett was granted at Hawks Point where Lelant and Carbis Bay now meet at the western end of Porthkidney sands.

There was a copper mine at Hawks Point. Its history is volatile. It was abandoned about 1854, reopened before 1868 as Wheal Fanny Adela, and closed again in 1871 and different mine in the cliffs here, called by the same name Hawks Point Mine, opened in 1883 and was closed in about 1902.


As long ago as 1683/84 it was noted that there was a lode "in the cliff by north the old church" in Lelant (CRO ME 2509). The nineteenth-century history of mining here is also volatile, a story of repeated opening and closing.

In the north of the village there are eight copper lodes lying east-north-east (CRO AD 72/10, a plan of Lelant Wheal Towan 1855). The most southerly is called Brewery lode and is about 270 metres south of St Uny's church. Thereafter the lodes, in order going north, are called Cooper's, Berryman's, Penaluna's, Mitchell's, Penberthy's, Champion's, and Chapel Rock. Penaluna lode runs under St Uny's church. Chapel Rock is at the high point in Lelant where the river runs into the sea, what is often called Ainger Point, a reference to a chapel of Anta which was here in the sixteenth century.

These lodes are the basis of the mine called West Wheal Towan or Lelant Wheal Towan and later West Wheal Lucy. This mine was abandoned around 1824. In 1850 it reopened as West Wheal Towan but closed in 1867. Around 1872 the mine was reopened as West Wheal Lucy but was very soon abandoned. Chapel Rock lode had shafts a short distance inland from the cliff; two adits in the beach cliff to the north of the ferry and humps on the golf course are the only remnants to be seen today (Jenkin; Noall 1982, i 18). This history clearly suggests that the lodes were not easy or sufficiently productive to work.

Jenkin says that in June 1747 a sett was granted under the name of Wheal Fortune to drive an adit from Hayle "to the old copper work near Trevethoe in Mrs Christian Pawley's garden in Lelant town, thence eastwards..." This probably includes Brewery lode (Jenkin 1978, i 40). I cannot decode this location.

Miscellany of the past

The quays at Lelant provided constant occupation. Looking after them, loading and unloading boats, and transporting goods through the village kept men at work (see The quays of Lelant). The brewery and associated cellars and malt house provided work too. In the past fishing was also an occupation here: Leland in the sixteenth century writes of fishing boats, drawn up on land, sailing from the "sundry crekes" in good weather (Leland 1538, 87) and that would certainly include Lelant. The hard, between the railway station and Dynamite Quay, was certainly used for the wintering of mackerel boats from St Ives in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, hence its other name, the Mackerel Boats. In St Uny's baptism register for May 1838 a toll gate keeper is recorded. In the past there was work for a ferryman too.


ADAMS Maxwell (1995) 'The gentleman and the rag collector: Lelant in the 1881 census' in St Ives Times and Echo 4 August 1995

BARTON DB (1967) Mining and smelting Note 12, 19 (Cited in Brooke 1997)

BELL James (1836) A new and comprehensive gazetteer of England and Wales

BROOKE Justin (1997) Henric Kalmeter's account of mining and smelting in the southwest 1724-1725, volume 2, page 221. The information from the thesis was given to Maxwell Adams in a letter from Justin Brooke, November 1997.

Cornwall Record Office (CRO) As cited in the text

JENKIN AKH (1961, 1978 ed) Mines and miners of Cornwall (Volume 1): Around St Ives Forge Books, Bracknell

LELAND John (1538) Itinerary [A copy is at the back of volume 4 of POLSUE Joseph (1872) Parochial history of the county of Cornwall, Lake, Truro]

LEWIS Samuel (1831) A topographical dictionary of EnglaND

LYSONS Daniel and Samuel (1814)Magna Britannia Volume 3

PENALUNA William (1819) The circle, or historical survey of sixty parishes and towns in Cornwall Printed and published at Helston by William Penaluna [A copy of the book is at the RIC]

POLSUE Joseph (1870) Lake's parochial history of the county of Cornwall ( Volume 3) Lake, Truro. Reprinted 1974 by EP Publishing, Wakefield

NOALL Cyril (1965) 'Building the St Ives branch railway' in the St Ives Times and Echo 15 October 1965

NOALL Cyril (1982) The St Ives mining district (Volume 1) Dyllansow Truran, Cornwall

RICHARDS Sam (1997) Reminiscences

TONKS Peter (1996) former Lelant postmaster, in a talk to Lelant History Society 6 February 1996. Charles Shaw-Baker was born 5 January 1883 at Moss Side, Manchester and died 16 December 1976 at Lelant.

WILLS Mary (1995) Reminiscences of Lelant: 1930s onwards (CRO AD 1102/1)