PORKELLIS. Helton, Cornwall. 24th. August, 1858. (AKA Basset and Grylls Mine)

The mine was in the parish of Wendron, three miles from Helton. It worked the north lodes where there was a flat rod shaft which was used as a sump. Seven men lost their lives in an accident caused by the inrush of slime. There had been former workings on the south lode and there was an old shaft which was sollared to a depth of three or four fathoms with the wastes formed from the tin dressing floors.

The old shaft had been sunk forty or fifty years before and at the surface for about half an acre, the tins streamers had worked and the while of the space was covered with slime and refuse from the stamps. Some men had been working in the back of the 12 Fathom Level on the south lode and it is supposed that they worked too close to the sollar in the shaft and weakened it. The sollar gave way and the slime and water above the sollar, poured down the shaft. The run was about 30 fathoms long, 20 fathoms wide and three fathoms deep around the shaft fell in. It was estimated that about 2,000 square fathoms fell in carrying with it ten or twelve dressing frames.

The slime poured down the shaft and rushed through a 24 Fathom crosscut and from there found its way into the deeper parts of the mine on the north lodges where 50 men were working. They had to run for their lives. It was said that they came up the shaft “like a swarm of bees.”  The inrush caused a rush of air in the levels and the men’s lights were extinguished. The roaring was heard at the surface.

The sump of the shaft was 65 fathoms deep and the slime rose to the 24 Fathom Level so filling the mine to a depth of 41 fathoms. All the miners escaped with the exception of seven.

Those who lost their lives were:

  • Sineoak,
  • Ching,
  • Penlerrick,
  • Andrew,
  • Commbellic,
  • two named Dunstan.

Three were shaftsmen and the others were working in the deeper levels in the western part of the mine. Their bodies were buried under a mass of slime. Three of them were married and one left a family of five children.

There were fears that two other men and the sinking a shaft to rescue them was considered but it was discovered that they were safe. Upwards of 2,000 people surrounded the mine. It was thought that digging for the bodies would be too dangerous and would be attended by further loss of life. Even the slightest disturbance of the ground sent tons of rubbish down the gaping chasm. All the men in the mine refused to work and it appeared that the mine would soon have to be abandoned.


West Britain and Cornwall Advertiser.
Cyril Noall – “Cornish Mine Disasters”

Information supplied by Ian Winstanley and the Coal Mining History Resource Centre.

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