History

Although they're looking decidedly rundown and unloved these days, these twin towns would once have sat slap bang in the centre of Cornwall's mining heartland – and by extension one of the richest areas in Britain. Vast fortunes were both made and lost here in pursuit of the mineral seams that run alongside the granite underground. Tin and copper were the mainstays, but other minerals such as arsenic and tungsten were mined here, too.

Many of the county’s most prosperous and profitable mines can be found nearby, with names that hint at their mineral riches: Wheal Prosper, Wheal Fortune, Wheal Bounty and so on. Local mine owners grew fabulously rich on the proceeds, and built many smart town houses in the area – a number of these can still be seen along the main streets of both towns, albeit they are now sadly much dilapidated. Tragically, Cornwall's industry all but disappeared overnight in the mid-1850s when global mineral prices collapsed. Scores of mines folded, and many miners were forced to emigrate overseas in search of work.

The long tradition of mining continued in Camborne until as recently as 1998, when the county’s last remaining mine at South Crofty, near Pool, closed down for good, sounding the death knell for an industry that had endured here for at least five centuries.

Since South Crofty’s closure, there have been various attempts to restart the industry, fuelled by the fluctuating rise in mineral prices over the last decade or so. But the prohibitive cost of draining the now-flooded shafts, coupled with increasing competition from the developing world, have so far meant that plans have got little further than the drawing board.