Mine, all mine: Inside Carnglaze Caverns

Carnglaze Caverns: the disused slate mine turned unique events venue

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When Caroline Richards first viewed Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall, more than 15 years ago, she wasn’t even aware the grounds contained an enormous abandoned mine.

“It’s a slate mine so it’s entirely man-made,” she tells Access. “It was quarried out by people over hundreds of years; that’s the thing that blows people’s minds. All that space, and not even made with machinery.”

The mine sat unused for years, ignored by its various owners, who included the record producer for Echo & The Bunnymen. Although he had the band snap the album cover for their Ocean Rain LP in the caverns, Richards thinks he could have done more with the venue. “He missed a trick by not holding events here,” she says. “He was the one with all the connections; he could’ve had a fabulous time.”

It soon occurred to Richards that the space could be more than just a tourist attraction.

“Once we realised what a huge space it was we applied for a public entertainment license. We cleaned it up, tidied it up and leveled the floor. We put electricity in, and because we’re in the middle of nowhere we installed a generator for bands who needed more reliable power.”

Carnglaze Caverns is comprised of three spaces: the Rum Store, the Enchanted Dell and the Underground Lake. During the venue’s refurbishment, waste slate in the Rum Store was compacted down, and then 120 tonnes of sand was laid to make the floor smooth in preparation for the musical acts, which soon became a mainstay.

“It has a wonderful acoustic quality,” says Richards. “Classical performers have said it’s the best acoustics they’ve ever played in.”

The caverns, which play host to a range of weddings, concerts and private events throughout the year, have also seen some big names grace the stage, according to Richards.

“We’ve had all sorts here; we’ve had Rick Wakeman, Suzi Quatro and Midge Ure. Sometimes we splash out on a huge performer like Suzi Quatro, knowing that we’ll make a loss, just because we’d love to have her.”

As Carnglaze Caverns is a family business Richards fills a number of roles at the venue.

“It’s very labour intensive,” she admits, “but it’s a fantastic space and we love to use it. It’s warm on a winter’s day and cool and refreshing on a summer’s day. It was an amazing discovery.”

 

This feature originally appeared in the September issue of Access All Areas, out now.