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1841 | Having been offered for sale at Angarrack Smelting House the Goth of a refiner put it at once into a ladle and melted



Notice of an Ancient Smelting place of Tin generally called a Jews House lately discovered on the estate of Trereife near Penzance Communicated by The Rev CV Le GRICE to Joseph Came Esq Why these ancient smelting places were called Jews Houses it is not easy to conjecture unless it was because the tin mines and tin trade at the earliest period of their authentic history were in the hands of the Jews and it was therefore supposed that they were the principal parties concerned in still earlier times The remains of several of these places have been from time to time discovered in Cornwall generally very near ancient stream works or the remains of the earliest mines of which the works were all open to the sun All that is usually seen is a narrow shallow pit with a small quantity of charcoal ashes at the bottom and frequently a piece of the smelted tin which although very pure in itself is generally mixed with earth or sand often vitrified Tradition describes the earliest mode of smelting tin as of the simplest kind possible a small excavation was made in the earth or sand and small sticks were piled crosswise on each other as high as they would easily stand and the crevices being filled with tin ore the pile was set on fire and the tin being smelted ran to the bottom where it became mixed with the loose earth or sand It is remarkable that Humboldt gives a similar traditionary account of the ancient mode practised by the Indians of South America in smelting their silver ores It is evident that only the purest and most fusible tin ore could have been smelted in this way Masses of tin supposed to have been so smelted are not uncommon They are generally called Jews Bowls
The largest I have heard of weighed thirty four pounds   it was found in a hedge in the parish of Gwinear and having been offered for sale at the Angarrack Smelting House the Goth of a refiner put it at once into a ladle and melted it down
There is on the table one which was found in a stream work in St Just weighing about six pounds It is largely mixed with a sandy substance and the outside is decomposing as is frequently the case with the Jews Bowls The late Rev Mr Gregor analysed the decomposed part and found it was muriate of tin it is difficult to conjecture where the muriatic acid could have come from Mr Henwood has conjectured that dried sea weed might have been used for fuel in the smelting Even now this article forms a large portion of the fuel of the Scilly Islanders There is another on the table which was found only a few months ago in Bossuliack Croft near Lanyon in Madron in the centre of a barrow The tin is of the purest kind but mixed with vitrified matter It is quite free from decomposition but there is a crystalline substance connected with it which is a combination of tin with chloric acid This under the old nomenclature would be called muriate of tin This piece of tin had doubtless been removed from the spot where it was smelted as about two feet below where it was found there were flat stones covering a small cavity containing ashes &c evidently a place of sepulture In describing this earliest mode of smelting tin I well know that I have related little that is not already known to most of those who have heard it and it has been introduced only to show its connexion with the mode which appears to have been adopted at a later period to which the spot which forms the principal subject of this communication seems to belong The smelting place discovered at Trereife is or I should rather say was of quite a different character from those which have been already alluded to As the workmen during the absence of the proprietor of the estate had removed the whole from the spot where they discovered it the form dimensions and other particulars could only be known by very particular enquiry 44 NOTICES 

Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, Volume 6


Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, Volume 6

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Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, 1841


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