Gwennap parish is a rural parish within Cornwall. It is located between the city of Truro and the towns of Falmouth and Redruth. The parish has three main centres of population – Gwennap, Crofthandy and Frogpool/Cusgarne.
The peaceful landscape in Gwennap today is very different to how it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.
A large proportion of the current agricultural land in the parish has been created in more recent times. Much of it is made of former miners’ smallholdings. In the earlier 19th century the population was dispersed across the parish, with miners being by and large small-scale farmers as well. The parish still retains much of this character, with isolated cottages and small groups of terraced cottages set in a landscapes of small fields.
“The richest square mile to be found anywhere on the earth”
Historically, Gwennap was the richest mining district in Cornwall during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was referred to by writers of the time as the ‘richest square mile to be found anywhere on the earth’. The landscape in and around Gwennap Parish clearly displays the effects of extensive copper mining. United Mines, centered around what is now the landfill, produced in excess of 350,000 tons of copper ore.
At Poldice the men are like mice,
The tin is very plenty
Captain Teague is one of Breage
And he’ll give ten for twenty
Parts of Gwennap Parish are now in a World Heritage Site, giving recognition to ‘Cornish Mining’s’ historic landscapes and world class cultural and heritage sites.
Women and girls worked above ground as “bal (mine) maidens”, breaking up the ore. But below ground thousands of men worked in dangerous conditions to extract the copper and tin ore. By 1838, over 3,000 people were working in the mines.
By the 1860s, the copper industry was in decline and metals were being mined in decreasing quantities. By the 1910s most of the activity was over, but some small-scale mining continued into the 1920s.
With the mines now closed, the main business focus in the parish is farming, although many small businesses are based in the parish and United Downs Industrial Estate is expanding.
Gwennap is surrounded by a number of other parishes. These are: