Wheal Jane was one of the greatest mines of the huge complex of workings in the Chacewater
area in West Cornwall. Worked from the mid eighteenth century principally for tin – arsenic,
copper, silver and zinc were also extracted.
As with many of Cornwall’s mines, Wheal Jane
suffered the vagaries of the rise and fall in world commodity prices, closing and re-opening at
various times. But throughout the centuries it had witnessed the Cornish hard rock miner at
work, forging their place in what has become a cornerstone of Cornwall’s historic legacy:
A re-opening of Wheal Jane in 1969 coincided with the arrival in the area of photographer
John Peck who was asked to take photographs of the mine for an exhibition to include images
taken of both underground and surface workings. While on this assignment an accident occurred
at the mine and John was asked to record the site for evidence.
From this time on he became
the ‘official’ photographer to Wheal Jane, recording all aspects of the work there. It is these
unique photographs that appear in this book.
Taking photographs in such extreme conditions requires patience, skill and a breadth of
experience born only of actually working underground.
Equally important is gaining the trust of the miners themselves, not only in their co-operation
in effecting the best images, but in their confidence that the photographer will record, with
honesty, the exceptional challenges of their work.
That John Peck fulfilled all these requirements
is witnessed in the superb photographs appearing in this book. The high regard in which he was
held by the miners is evidenced by his photographs of their meetings and demonstrations,
angrily protesting the proposed closure of the mine;
events at which photographers from the media were
In 1992 pumps at Wheal Jane were switched off
once again and all that remains are the memories of
those who once worked there and these remarkable
photographs, vital documents recording its last years
and its mining legacy.
John Peck is a professional photographer (now retired)
based near Chacewater in Cornwall.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 095 4, hardback, 214x230mm, 144 pages. Published July 2012.