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Please note, as our exhibitions change regularly, the boats, objects and pictures featured in this section may not now be on display in the museum. Please contact us on 01326 313388 for further information.

SS Cheerful Tin Ingot

SS Cheerful Tin Ingot

On the 20 July 1885, the SS Cheerful left Falmouth in a very dense fog and met a less than cheerful end. On her journey to Liverpool, 15 miles from the Longships Lighthouse off Land’s End, due to the extremely poor visibility, she was struck amidships by the torpedo depot ship HMS Hecla, and sank within four minutes. Thirty-six of the passengers aboard the Cheerful were rescued by the Hecla and were taken to Plymouth, but nine went down with the ship, and three more perished shortly after being picked up. The Liverpool-registered vessel, and all two tonnes of its cargo of tin were lost.

The Cheerful was a steamship built by Osbourne Graham & Co. of Chylton in 1874. Formerly known as the Ethel Caine, she was owned by Mr J. Ellis at the time she went down. Her journey was to have taken her from London to Liverpool, and listed in Lloyd’s Register 1885, as carrying ‘general cargo’.

However, following salvage in 1994, the cargo of the SS Cheerful has been once more illuminated, and a small piece has found a home in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. According to the stamp on this tin ingot, it is known that it came from the Carvedras smelting-house of Truro, which was owned by L.C. Daubuz. Every tin ingot by this time was stamped with a lamb-and-flag image, designed by Henry Davies in 1715, to represent his family crest. It is also a play on words as, ‘Davas’ is the Cornish term for a sheep. Due to the deeply religious symbolism of the image, the lamb-and-flag had been adopted by tin smelting houses and became symbolic of the purity of their product. The Carvedras smelting-house was the last to operate in Truro, and closed its doors in 1898. The last ingot of tin was smelted in Cornwall on the 10th of August, 1931.

Cornwall has been synonymous with tin production for centuries, with Cornish tin mining dating back to the Bronze Age. Tin was so important that the much-increased taxes placed upon it in 1497 by Henry VII, led to the famed ‘Cornish Rebellion’ in which 15,000 Cornishmen marched into Devon on their way to London to confront the King himself. By 1870, Cornwall had over 2,000 tin mines operating at one time. Unfortunately, the bottom eventually fell out of the European tin market and the last mine, South Crofty, closed in 1998.

This tin ingot is on display in the Cornwall and the Sea gallery.

Please note, as our exhibitions change regularly, the boats, objects and pictures featured in this section may not now be on display in the museum. Please contact us on 01326 313388 for further information.