Isaac Rogers’ “Obnoxious Smelting House”, Porthtowan

A Museum Steward has made a fascinating donation to the Museum, having found discarded in undergrowth on a hedge in Porthtowan what seems to be a Georgian stamp for tin ingots from a tin smelting works owned by Isaac Rogers. It is small, but quite heavy, the back is hollow and had been affixed with two now rusty screws/nails.

Isaac Rogers, an investor in Wheal Lushington, was a London adventurer and principal shareholder in a tin smelting works that began operations in the Porthtowan valley early in 1811. During this time, smelters were expected to stockpile a certain amount of their tin at a lower price to satisfy a long standing commitment to the East India Company who, in the latter part of the 18th century, had established a very useful market in China at a time when Cornish tin mining needed all the help it could get. However, when the price of tin was high, there was more money to be made in the home market, so Rogers initially refused to join in with the tin stocking arrangement. The consternation that Rogers’ decision caused evidently led to a fall in the price of tin and distress among the working tinners. J. G. Thomas writes: “Such was the feeling against him that ‘above a thousand working tinners assembled and destroyed some ladders and other materials’ belonging to the works and a resolution was adopted to send no more tin to ‘the obnoxious smelting house’[RCG 15.2.1812].”  (J. G. Thomas, 1974, Journal of the Trevithick Society, No.2, p71). Under considerable pressure, Rogers was eventually persuaded to tow the line but the operation at Porthtowan was in any event short lived and stopped smelting early in 1814. 

We hope to do some more research on our tin stamp and have it on display when we are able to reopen.