Ding Dong mines

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Greenburrow pumping engine house

The Ding Dong mines lie in an old and extensive mining area situated in the parish of Madron, in Land's End, Cornwall, England. They are about two miles south of the St Just to Penzance road. They look out over Mount's Bay and St Michael's Mount to the south west.


The name may refer to the 'head of the lode' or the outcrop of tin on the hill.[clarification needed] In Madron church there is a 'Ding Dong Bell' that was rung to mark the end of the last shift of the miners.[1]


Near the mine ruins can be found the Bronze Age Nine Maidens Stone Circle, the Men-an-Tol and Lanyon Quoit and the Ding Dong mines themselves. These are reported to be the oldest in the West of England, dating back to prehistoric times.[2]

The earliest record of Ding Dong is given by John Norden at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1714 three separate mines were operating: Good Fortune, Wheal Malkin and Hard Shafts Bounds. By the middle of the 18th century at least seven small concerns had sprung up although the name Ding Dong did not become the usual name until after the turn of the 19th century. By 1782 sixteen working mines were to be found in the area and the present sett include Ding Dong in the middle, Providence, Tredinneck and Ishmael’s to the east and Wheal Malkin and Wheal Boys to the West.

Ding Dong obtained notoriety during the 18th century because of an infringement lawsuit. A 28 inch cylinder inverted engine designed by Edward Bull, chief designer for Boulton and Watt, was put into Ding Dong in 1796; James Watt saw this as an infringement of his 'condenser patent'. One of these engines was erected at Ding Dong in 1797, when a conventional Boulton and Watt engine was inverted by Richard Trevithick and William West. Trevithick worked with his father at Wheal Treasury mine and, after making improvements which increased the operating pressure of the Bull Steam Engine, Trevithick was promoted to engineer of the Ding Dong mine in 1796. Today the ruined Count (Account) House is the only remaining structure from Richard Trevithick's time at Dong Dong.

In 1814 it was reopened and worked until 1878. But during the 1870s the price of tin dropped due to the opening of tin deposits in Queensland and other parts of the British Empire. Due to this, and exhaustion of the local deposits, Ding Dong finally ceased production in 1879. Attempts were made in 1912 and 1928 to reopen it but these failed.[3]


There is a legend that Joseph of Arimathea visited the area, and that he brought the young Jesus to address the miners, although there is no evidence to support this.[4] An old miner told A. K. Hamilton Jenkin "Why, they do say there's only one mine in Cornwall older than Dolcoath, and that's Ding Dong, which was worked before the time of Jesus Christ."[5]

A folk song called "Ding Dong Mine" was written in 1986 by West-country singer Jerry Johnson. One verse tells of a disaster at the mine, although no official records or documents confirm that such a disaster happened. Johnson may have been using poetic license to describe such similar occurrences in the area.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jennings, Henry R. (1936) Notes on the History of Madron, Morvah & Penzance
  2. ^ Brown, Kenneth & Acton, Bob (1995) Exploring Cornish Mines, Volume 2
  3. ^ Barton, Denys Bradford (1963) A Guide to the Mines of West Cornwall. Truro: D. Bradford Barton ISBN 0-85153-032-X; pp. 9-10
  4. ^ Matthews, John (ed.) (1991) A Glastonbury Reader: Selections From the Myths, Legends and Stories of Ancient Avalon. London: HarperCollins (reissued by The Aquarian Press)
  5. ^ Hamilton Jenkin, A. K. (1945) Cornwall and its People. London: J. M. Dent; p. 347

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°09′15″N 5°35′34″W / 50.15425°N 5.59288°W / 50.15425; -5.59288