Thursday, 11 April 2019

Knockers, Tin Mines and Cornish Pasties

Cornish tin mine
I have mentioned Cornish tin mines in several posts so I thought that today I would write about the spirits that frequented the underground passages. 

According to Cornwall's tin miners along with them in the mines were the Knockers. These were mischievous spirits. They both helped the miners and also played tricks on them. 

To keep in the Knockers good books the miners would often leave a small portion of their Cornish Pasties for these small spirits - more about Cornish Pasties later. 

The Knockers were the equivalent of the Irish leprechaun and were described as being about 2 feet tall, rather strange looking and lived underground. This meant that the tin mines were a perfect habitat for them and sometimes they would be seen wearing smaller versions of miners clothes. 

According to Cornish folklore the Knockers were of help to the miners in two main ways. Firstly they would make a knocking sound to indicate where the tin ore veins were to be found and secondly they would knock to warn of any imminent danger. 

On the mischievous side they would steal tools and food and play jokes on the miners - but were generally good natured. Some claim that the Knockers were the spirits of tin miners who had died in the many accidents which happened in the early days of Cornish mining. 

The traditional food for Cornish miners was the Cornish Pasty made from a circle of pastry filled with steak, sliced or diced potato, swede and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper. The pastry is folded in half and then baked in an oven. 

Cornish Pasty

Note that a true Cornish pasty is crimped (joined) at the side - and never on top. There was a reason for this. The miners would take larger versions of the Cornish pasty for their meal breaks and would hold this by the crimped edge with their dirty hands. This way they could discard the soiled pastry for the Knockers to eat. 

Going back to the Knockers these spread to the USA as Cornish miners - who became knows as Cousin Jacks - joined the Gold Rush in the late 1800s. 


There is a story of how in 1956 a mine was closed and sealed. Generations of Cousin Jacks insisted that the mine be re-opened for all of the Knockers to escape and move to other mines. The mine owners agreed and the Knockers were set free. 

The tin mines of Cornwall are - or rather were - interlinked with Knockers and pasties. Cornish pasties thrive in Cornwall and, in Europe and the UK, Cornish pasties can only be made in Cornwall.


There are other rules and regulations about Cornish pasties. According to the Cornish Pasty Association the official recipe must contain 12.5% beef and 25% vegetables. Therefore you can't have such a thing as a vegan or vegetarian Cornish pasty - they would simply be 'pasties'.

It is said that at least 120 million Cornish Pasties are made each year and this is worth over 65 million to the Cornish economy.

How To Make Your Own Cornish Pasty

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