Poldark Mine, Trenear Wendron, Cornwall
To descend into the chillingly depths of the atmospheric Poldark Mine, and pick your way through its dark labyrinth of twisting tunnels, is to walk in the footsteps of generations of miners who once laboured in arduous conditions to pluck Cornwall’s precious resource - tin – from its eerie depths.
Indeed, as you shuffle along the low roofed passages that have been hacked through the jagged rock, you can almost sense their spirits watching you from every nook and crevice of this subterranean world of flickering shadows.
Although there has probably been activity on the site as far back as Pre-historic times, the mine’s heyday was between 1720 and 1780, when it was known as the Wheal Roots Mine.
At its peak, around 900 men and boys were employed here.
But, by the 20th century the mine had been abandoned and lay largely forgotten.
In 1972 a steam engine museum opened on the site and, in cutting into the hillside to site the compressor, the then owner stumbled upon the remnants of the ancient mine and the race to restore it to its former glory was on.
A few years later the name was changed to the Poldark Mine to capitalise on the success of the books and the BBC series of that name.
Given that the Poldark Mine is said to be Britain’s deepest mine, you can’t help but admire the stoicism of those long ago miners who, having entered it via shafts, would then inch their way through the pitch darkness down precariously balanced ladders, the only light coming from the dull glow of a tallow candle.
To get at the tin they would hold a bar with a chisel shaped end against the solid rock and strike it with a hammer, at the same time twisting the bar to ensure that it didn’t jam in the fissure.
That done, a fuse made of birds’ quills stuffed with gunpowder would be inserted into the hole which would then be sealed with clay. To ensure enough time to light the fuse and retire to a safe distance, they were meant to use four quills, each about three inches long and slotted together.
But, since they had to provide their own quills from their paltry wages, the miners were anxious to economise, and often made do with three.
Having lit the fuse, they had to make a frantic dash to safety before the charge exploded. Inevitably, some of them didn’t make it and one can only imagine the agonising horror they endured in their final moments.
But, even if they managed to survive the perils of the gunpowder, lung disease, brought on by the ever present dust, coupled with the fumes of the gunpowder and the tallow candles, would carry the majority of them to the grave before they reached their mid thirties.
Needless to say with such a long history, tinged with so much tragedy, several spectres are known lurk in the mine.
Strange noises have been heard echoing from its deepest depths and darkest corners.
Mysterious swirling mists have appeared on photographs taken in the tunnels, whilst a figure dressed in brown once appeared before a witness and then suddenly disappeared.
However, by far the most unfriendly revenant to roam the tunnels is that of a long dead miner who, although not seen, has most certainly been heard.
Indeed, following an investigation at the mine by the paranormal group Most ghosts, a recording of the event was played back and the team were astonished to hear a gruff voice subjecting them to a foul mouthed barrage of spectral abuse.