The Count House and Mine Captain's House, Buller Downs, Redruth, Cornwall
An illustrated account of its history and preservation
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The Count House

Wheal Buller's prosperity was evidenced by the grand Count House (the accounting house) where every quarter day the adventurers (shareholders) came to hear the Company's accounts for the previous months. This was followed by the main business of the day, a spectacular banquet for all the adventurers where huge quantities of food and drink were consumed. Many of Wheal Buller's adventurers invested just to participate in these splendid feasts which were held in the magnificent upstairs banqueting hall with its oak panelled walls and fine ceilings - the plaster cornices decorated with fruit and flowers.

When Old Wheal Buller closed, the property was turned into dwellings and in 1935 was purchased by a Mr Martin who was a local builder and landlord from Lanner. His daughter told me at one time he owned 28 rental properties and always carried about 200 around with him (a large sum in those days) so if he was ever offered a property at a "good price" he'd pay cash there and then.

Photograph and sketch by Michael Tangye in 1965

He built extra washhouses, privvies and converted Wheal Buller into seven rental properties. His daughter recalls collecting rent, the friendliness of most of her father's tenants and how happy they were in Wheal Buller. Of course there was no running water or electricity but there was a large water tank in the front of the Mine Captain's House with a pipe which collected rainwater from the roof launders. In the adjoining land of 2 acres some tenants kept stock and fowls, and life had a quality which many people feel is lacking today.

Everything went on as before until the 1960s when enlightened councils began to demolish property which had no facilities, deciding that people should be homed in boxes on "new estates". On 8 June 1961 Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council served closing orders on each property at Wheal Buller Count House and forced the tenants out, so by 1963 all but one, an elderly lady who refused to go, had been moved out. However the "compassion" of the bureaucrats knew no bounds and they finally evicted her in 1965.

This enlightened council then served a demolition order on Wheal Buller Count House and Mine Captain's House in a thankfully vain endeavour to expurgate this blot on the landscape. However, the determination of Mr Martin who fought this order by every means at his disposal until his death in the early 1970s, meant that while the building remained, it was never used again and time, vandalism and theft took its dramatic toll. By 1977 the buildings were in severe decline as shown by the photos below. A planning application by the then owner to turn them into four flats was refused and squatters moved onto the land.

And so the steady decline of this once great and historic building continued until 1992 when its ruin was offered for sale at an auction in Redruth which is when my involvement in this story begins.