Archive for September, 2010

Were Davy Lamps used in Cornish mines?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2010 by geevor


Hi, It’s Jo B. I am back and pondering over the unfixable nature of historical facts. I have just got a new item for our outreach box. It is a Humphry Davy lamp.  

Why?” said everyone. “Cornish miners did not use Humphry Davy lamps; they were invented and used to stop the explosion of naturally occurring explosive gases in coal mines. These types of gasses do not occur in tin mines.”

Exactly,” I said.  “But is a very common misconception that they were used, especially as they were invented by the local man Humphry Davy. I want to take it to schools to dispel any misconceptions.”

However, the story behind this lamp seems to have opened up a bit of a can of worms.

According the gentleman called John that I bought it from; the lamp belonged to a Cornish miner called Mr Mathew Watters (Mathey) who lived across the road.  On his deathbed (He died in 1948 aged 84) he got John’s mother to promise to look after his wife who was thought to be near death herself. She and the lamp then moved in with them and she continued to live for another 9 years.

 Mathey lived in Burnt Downs Cottage in Leedstown and walked everyday to work in Dolcoath and East Pool Mines (about 8 miles each way). Then he got a donkey shay to travel to work.

The lamp is very rusty and well used looking. I shall post a photo when the camera bateries have charged.

 What was he doing with a miner’s lamp if it was not to use in his profession as a miner?

I have had a number of suggestions from experts on the site but wanted to throw this question out to our virtual visitors to see what ideas are out there!

Please post any ideas as why Mathey had this lamp.

Also invited are any comments or interesting facts about Davy lamps.