- Tregargus Valley
The Tregargus Valley just outside of St. Austell, in the heart of the Clay Country in Cornwall is an industrial archeologist's dream!
The Tregargus Valley as a whole contains the finest assemblage of china stone mills in Cornwall and therefore the Country!China Stone mills as a class are confined to Cornwall (due to the unique geology) and Staffordshire (due to the potteries industry). However, the Staffordshire sites were also used to grind flint as well as imported china stone. The activity was only made possible due to a very unusual geology; heavily kaolinised clays, and the geography; a valley providing sufficient height and length to utilise the power from the water. William Cookworthy, a chemist from the Plymouth area, heard about this interesting white material and initially investigated a site further south, beyond Camborne, at Tregonning Hill in 1746. He also developed the processes required to make it usable by the pottery industry and thus the commercial viability was born. The Tregonning Clay had specs of mica in though and a better, unusually pure clay; sufficiently kaolinised and fit for purpose, was found at Tregargus. The commercial-scale production is thought to have started on this site circa 1870; although it is noted that the quarries were already opened and worked for local use of the pure, soft material. There are quarries and leats and rails and plant still scattered around the site. There were several waterwheels, their skeletons remaining in their custom-built pits. There are grinding pans run off big wheels, drying houses, quarries, leats, tramways, adits and more! The Tregargus Valley Mills consists of the Wheal Arthur Complex to the north, the Tregargus Group in the centre of the valley (which includes Big Wheel China Mill) Trevear Mill and Lower Tregargus to the south. The Tregargus Trust are knowledgeably caring for the remains and have commissioned pdp Green Consulting to undertake the sympathetic restoration and consolidation works. Read the 2011 Conservation Management Plan by Cornwall County Council – HERE!