World Heritage Status for Cornwall

"Much of the landscape of Cornwall and West Devon was transformed in the 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of the rapid and pioneering growth of deep lode copper and tin mining. Its underground mines, engine houses, foundries, new towns, smallholdings, ports, harbours, and ancillary industries together reflect prolific innovation which, in the early 19th century, enabled the region to produce two-thirds of the world's supply of copper. During the late 1800s, arsenic production came into ascendancy with mines in the East of Cornwall and West Devon supplying half the world's demand.

The substantial relict landscape created during this explosive period of industrialisation is a testimony to the contribution Cornwall and West Devon made to the industrial revolution in the rest of Britain and to the fundamental influence the region had on the mining world at large. Cornish technology embodied in engines, engine houses and mining techniques and equipment, was exported around the world; Cornwall and West Devon lay at the heartland of a global mining economy.

Commencing in the early 1800s, significant numbers of mine workers migrated to live and work in mining communities based on Cornish traditions, this flow reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th century. Numerous migrant-descended Cornish communities flourish around the world and distinctive Cornish-design engine houses can be seen in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, the British Virgin Islands, Spain, and in the mining fields of Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man."

The above is an adaptation by the World Heritage Site Office, Cornwall Council, of the description in explaining why World Heritage status was bestowed on Cornwall. But quite what is it?

What is a World Heritage Site?

The World Heritage Convention, adopted by UNESCO in 1972, provides for the identification, protection and conservation of natural and cultural sites of outstanding universal value. In 2009, 890 such sites can be found across the world. Cultural examples on the list include the Taj Mahal, the Tower of London and the Great Wall of China. The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was added in 2006. This site covers ten locations or areas:

  • St Just Mining District
  • Port of Hayle
  • Tregonning and Trewavas Mining District
  • Wendron Mining District
  • Camborne & Redruth Mining District
  • Gwennap Mining District, Kennall Vale and Perran Foundry
  • St Agnes Mining District
  • Luxulyan Valley & Charlestown
  • Caradon Mining District
  • Tamar Valley & Tavistock

World Heritage status gives recognition to "Cornish Mining's" excellence as a world class cultural and heritage site and recognises the importance of "Cornish Mining's" historic landscapes and outstanding buildings in addition to its important role in technological innovation and scientific research.

In its turn, the MMI has designated one of its new rooms as the Heritage Room and is cooperating with the World Heritage Site Office and the St Agnes Museum Trust in the creation of a series of exhibits that will serve tourist and local alike. The WHSO site team have described the project as "an outstanding example of what a suitably committed community group can achieve when working with enthusiastic partners".