You may remember that we shared the story of a very special memorial sculpture being created at Treseren, in commemoration of the worst mining disaster in Cornish history. It was very exciting this week to see the sculpture be unveiled in its final resting place at Lappa Valley, at the site of the tragedy; East Wheel Rose Mine.
The Treseren team attended the blessing and setting ceremony along with the team at Lappa Valley, members of the local community and parishioners from St Newlyn East Church. We all enjoyed our scenic journey on the steam train! It was very poignant to see the striking piece of art that we first saw as a blank piece of Cornish slate be manoeuvred into place. The story was shared by BBC News, The Voice and ITV, featuring on the local news broadcasts of the day. It was wonderful to see so many people had come to witness this important event and take part in the memorial ceremony which started with a minutes silence to remember the lives of the miners who had been lost.
It made sense from the beginning of this project that the vast sculpture be created at Treseren, as in the early 1800’s Captain Middleton called Treseren Home. Middleton was a key figure in the rescue efforts that saved 161 lives on that fateful day in 1846. During renovations, Paul was excited to discover a series of copperplate signatures under the stair treads dated in the 1800s, including the signature of John Middleton. You can learn more about our real-life Poldark here.
The account of the mining disaster in The Royal Cornwall Gazette newspaper of 1846 read:
‘Between 1 and 2pm on Thursday 9th July, one of the most awful thunderstorms ever known had broken near the mine. Dense, heavy purple-black clouds… poured down floods of rain. The surface of the mine was awash within minutes and the water rushed northwards, the land sloping that way. As it did so it broke the shafts and ‘rushing down into the levels … loosened and broke the timbers beneath, the consequence of which was the falling in of some other parts of the mine northwards.’
38 men and boys lost their lives at East Wheal Rose Mine that day, whilst one more life was lost at nearby North Wheal Rose Mine. Heroic rescue efforts saved 161 lives.
The project was originated by Cornish researcher and historian Barry West, who undertook in-depth research of the disaster and organised three days of events to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the tragedy in 2021. The sculpture commission was sponsored by Trewithen Estate, Treseren and Barry West.
Sculptor Benjamin Dearnley won the commission for the sculpture with his design ‘Hold on to Hope’ which features a central striking image capturing a rescue effort of one man pulling another from the waters that flooded the mine on that fateful day.
The inscription reads ‘Hold on to hope; though waters rise, he will not leave you.’
‘It has been a great honour and privilege to work in this amazing open air studio in the grounds of Captain Middleton’s house. I feel a sense of place has become imbedded into the sculpture, which conveys both a message of hope for us all in today’s world as well as commemorates the sad loss of life of the 39 men and boys in that mining disaster.’ – Ben Dearnley
Measuring 7ft by 5ft and weighing over a tonne, the slate carving was carefully manoeuvred into place by local company MacSalvors who have supported this community project from the start. They originally moved the stone to the open-air studio for carving, donating their equipment and time, but this time were moving a piece of art which had been months in the creation. Sculptor Ben Dearnley was there to oversee the delicate operation and there were some nervous moments when it was craned into position swinging over the mine-shaft at the site of the disaster that claimed so many lives.
‘Watching the sculpture being craned from the place it was carved at Treseren and sent on its journey to East Wheal Rose Mine gave a sense of completion to this epic project. It has been wonderful to be part of such an incredible community effort and work with so many brilliant people, bringing together history and art to create an important memorial that now stands in its rightful place at the scene of the disaster’. – Emma Caddis, Treseren
Viewing the Sculpture
The team at Lappa Valley were eagerly awaiting the delivery of the sculpture and it was all hands on deck to safely receive this important piece of commemorative art.
‘The striking sculpture epitomises the story of the awful mining disaster and for our young customers, the image so perfectly depicts what happened here on that day in 1846. It’s absolutely fitting for it to be in this place, and it has been great to work on this project with Emma and Paul at Treseren, Trewithen and Barry West.’
Keith Southwell – Managing Director, Lappa Valley
Visitors to Lappa Valley can now view the sculpture in place at the engine house of East Wheal Rose Mine and learn more about the dis-used mine and the disaster of 1846. Located in the countryside just minutes from Treseren, The Lappa Valley Railway runs from Benny Halt to East Wheal Rose, where there is a leisure area with two miniature railways. We wholeheartedly recommend a visit for couples and guests who have free time during their stay in Cornwall.