Kennell Vale Gunpowder Works

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BikinGlynn

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We dont do tourist spots on here right? Well u best ban me now cos heres one I bloody loved!

I was down South for a holiday & noticed this place so thought Id have a quick look & it was one of the most idyllic places Iv visited.
Helped partly by the mid week explore which meant I had the place to myself & some relatively decent weather left me not wanting to leave.
If it makes it slightly more plausible the trail round the back of the water mills was fenced off "under repair" but with a complete disregarded for any rules I risked all & walked this anyway!

Kennell vale is a nature reserve. I didnt see any nature tbh, (but did get to photograph a dipper a mile upstream) & contains the remains of what was originally nearly 50 buildings!
The history I find quite interesting so have copied it in some detail below.

Whilst it might seem strange to locate a gunpowder factory in woodland in the middle of nowhere the site was quite carefully chosen. The fast flowing River Kennall provided a source of power as it cascades down the valley. This was diverted into leats which in turn powered waterwheels. Obviously steam power, with its need to burn coal would not have been a good idea in a gunpowder mill.

There were other reasons the site was chosen; not only where the gunpowder mills set in woodland, but the company planted many trees. These were positioned between the various mill buildings so as to help absorb the force of a potential explosion.

The site was also ideally placed at the time, firstly for safety reasons it was quite remote, but also as it was close to many of Cornwall's most productive mines. At this time nearby Gwennap was described as the "richest square mile anywhere on Earth". As the majority of the gunpowder was destined for use in the mines this made perfect sense.

The process of making gunpowder was quite complex, partly owing to the potentially huge dangers involved. A large part of making gunpowder was taking the three key ingredients; saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur, and grinding them down to a fine powder. This would then be compressed. Simple as it sounds there were about ten steps in the process all of which were carried out in different buildings.

The buildings remaining include the Corning House, Mixing House, Packing House, Change House and most notably, several of the Incorporating Mills. These were where the mixed products of the gunpowder were further ground and mixed. This stage was so potentially dangerous that less than 20Kg (50lbs) of powder was allowed in the same house at any one time.

Further safety features of the mills were incredibly thick walls but very light roofs, the idea being an explosion would be forced upwards rather than all around. The bearings of the machinery were made of copper, not steel, so as to reduce the amount of heat produced. The workers even wore special woollen suits.

But even with all these safety precautions in place accidents did happen. One such accident happened in May 1838 when five mills blew up one after another. Reports from the time say that part of one roof was found a mile away. Amazingly only one person was killed, although it apparently he left a wife and ten children.

In another explosion a few years later a worker by the name of John Martin was literally blown apart. His head was found around a quarter of a mile away and his other body parts were strewn across the site.

Oh did I mention I liked it here? for that reason there is quite a few pics, I hope u like it as much as I did & it inspires some of you to pay it a visit.

One of the 4 remaining water wheel mills that remain

48882140586_edac491d98_b.jpg9O5A3632 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The "main" building area on the South side

48882140981_0c58b1e884_b.jpg9O5A3611 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882329637_621516f0a9_b.jpg9O5A3609 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882329502_3dbed755bd_b.jpg9O5A3618 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48881612618_dbc7407b47_b.jpg9O5A3628 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


Some sort of generator house?

48882329432_173c62ef33_b.jpg9O5A3624 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882140176_4c4ec51052_b.jpg9O5A3652 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48881612123_9924368fdd_b.jpg9O5A3642 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882140401_b2060aebd7_b.jpg9O5A3640 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


The old quarry supplying the works

48882329402_c4daa334cf_b.jpg9O5A3627 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


The minimal but enchanting remains of the watermills

48882139841_8f87a730ef_b.jpg9O5A3663 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882328627_3909436911_b.jpg9O5A3658 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882328567_b3ae097c7a_b.jpg9O5A3661 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48881611598_34d9a59104_b.jpg9O5A3669 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48881611313_1c40043734_b.jpg9O5A3684 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882139376_088207d778_b.jpg9O5A3685 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882327902_0e02c9010c_b.jpg9O5A3688 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The Pentrough still directing water to where the wheels were

48882139641_af954b64d7_b.jpg9O5A3677 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


48882139531_3189b81f26_b.jpg9O5A3680 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr


Go on then just one more unnecessary water shot!

48881611938_61a971bb18_b.jpg9O5A3657 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

Thanks For Looking
 

Curious Craig

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Some stunning shots mate, but unfortunately you missed most of this places best hidden features, off the track. Mines, tunnels, caves, more buildings in better states. Put this on your list again and spend more time there ;)
 

BikinGlynn

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Some stunning shots mate, but unfortunately you missed most of this places best hidden features, off the track. Mines, tunnels, caves, more buildings in better states. Put this on your list again and spend more time there ;)

oh wow ill do some research if i go down there again ;-)
 

Dirus_Strictus

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Very nice set of images. Nature has beautified the site nicely, it was very stark when I first saw this place in the '60's. Just one point; trees are a very poor absorber of explosive force, when compared with the upward dissipation of the force by the strong masonry structures. Their main use would be in the provision of good quality charcoal, of which vast amounts would have been harvested from the surrounding woodlands. The job of 'Charcoal Burner' was a skilled job and it took experience to get the heat and depth of the burn just right, so that maximum yield of charcoal was produced.
 

Darklldo

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Lovely photos. I particularly like the first one. Yes, maybe the water sets it off?
It sounds like a place you could spend hours wandering around and photographing.
More photos one day please?
 
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