"SOAPROCK COAST... the origins of english porcelain".
(See below)

The book is an account of  a rarely told piece of Cornish History.  A story of quarrying and mining of a Talc mineral known as Soapstone, Soaprock, or Steatite on a 5 mile stretch of the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula ,  between the 1740s and the 1820s. The area  covered stretched  from the Serpentine Cliffs of Mullion Cove southwards to Pentreath (Caerthillian) taking in Gew Graze, Kynance Cove, Lizard Downs and eastwards to trethevas and Gwavas.
Crushed Soaprock first excavated from cliff quarries at Kynance Cove, and Gew Graze ("Soapy Cove") followed by Pentreath Beach and Mullion Cliff. It was used in the manufacture of soft paste Porcelain at small factories in Bristol, London, Worcester,  A short time later Soaprock was excavated at other sites  and porcelain was produced in Liverpool, Caughley in Shropshire  and later South Wales. Up until this time  nearly every piece of existing Porcelain in this country had to be imported from China. 
Chinese porcelain, also known as Hard Paste Porcelain, had been produced  for over 800 years at that time and was known in Europe thanks to early travellers and explorers  such asMarco Polo who brought back some of the Chinese "White Gold".
 The consumption of tea and coffee rose dramatically in the early 1700s, initially among the more wealthy social classes, but was spreading nationwide, becoming the most popular drink by 1750.
 However there were no ceramic containers which could withstand  boiling water- only  expensive imported chinese  porcelain. Locally produced tin glazed ware and stoneware was unsuitable to be used with boiling water, frequently cracking.
Pewter was also expensive as was silver.    
 With the first soft paste porcelain the consumption of tea quickly  spread .
Part of the  Chinese secret for manufacturing porcelain was discovered via a French Jesuit priest called Pere Xavier D`Entrecolles who went to the porcelain producing region of China around 1698. He recorded his observations in the form of lengthy letters about the chinese methods and materials were sent back to France. The letters were translated and by the 1730s the knowledge contained within these letters was well known in England and other European countries. However , knowledge about the materials used was  less well known. 
A search was carried on  for these materials, along with  experimentation among the small factories of the early porcelain potters into the methods of manufacture.
A  material associated only with Serpentine, known by a number of different names such as Soapstone, Steatite, "Soaprock" or Soapy Clay, was identified  as early as  the 1670s . It was identified on the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula at Kynance Cove.
It was  sent to the Members of the Royal Society for elementary analysis and cataloging. It was later described in detail by such eminent  early historians and  geologists as the Cornish clergyman and Historian William Borlase.
It has, for many years been understood that it was first quarried from 1748 at Gew Graze, sometimes known as "Soapy Cove" but there is strong evidence, including documentary evidence with the existance of coastal soaprock  discovered in the cliffs at Kynance Cove that this was the first source site. By 1752 industrial activity had spread over a 5 mile stretch of the coast from Caerthillian/Pentreath to Mullion Cove, as well as inland on the Lizard Downs.
It is likely that soaprock was quarried at Kynance Cove in the 1720s to produce experimental porcelain.

The remains of this piece of industrial Cornish heritage have almost disappeared from the landscape but the story remains in the thousands of what are now  highly collectable pieces of  decorated porcelain are still in existence after more than 250 years. Early manufacturers included  Bristol (Lund), Worcester, Vauxhall and Caughley.
On the ground there are numerous quarry sites and even small underground mine workings which can  still be seen.
Many thousands of people visit the area to walk, enjoy the rare fauna, flora and scenery or just to take in the wonderful coastal views, not knowing that they are looking at a piece of lost and almost forgotten Industrial Heritage, and the story  began  on Cornwalls Lizard Peninsula .
Above; Modern day Mullion Cove, a Soapstone quarry hewn out of the Serpentine cliffs in the 18th century.
 Sites where the Soapstone was quarried under Licence from the Lizard Landowners of the time included ;
1.In 1748 Gew Graze or "Soapy Cove" took over from Kynance as the best quality source of Soaprock.
Below- entrance to one of a number of soaprock quarries at Gew Graze.
The cliffs around Gew Graze (Soapy Cove) were found to contain large amounts of white soapstone.Remains of poorer quality material can still be seen here.
2.From 1751 -Pentreath Cliffs,& Lizard Downs were sources of Soaprock, along with Mullion Cliffs. 
Above; The soapstone quarries cut into the cliff from the beach at Pentreath ( Important Note; The beach has an official Council notice warning of a dangerous path leading down to ground level, and is now closed (as at 2013)
 Above; The remains of one of the 18th Century soapstone quarries cut into the cliff from Pentreath beach. ( Important Note; The beach has an official Council notice warning of a dangerous path leading down to ground level)
3.From 1752 -Mullion Cove coastal cliffs.On the south side of the cove is the site of the Cliff Quarry.


Above; Entrance to Torchlight Cave Mine. In Victorian days  "Torchlight Cave" was then  known as a "sea cave". It is in fact only visible from the seaward side and access is only possible at the lowest of tides.
Through the entrance the cave turns south and using a large torch, a worked out "stope" can be seen which is over 50 yards in length.The remains of a  soaprock vein can still be seen near the roof. It is believed to be the only known soaprock "mine" in the country, although others were reported in the area. The soapstone would be removed up the cliff using rope winches& metal buckets or "kibbles".  It is without doubt the most impressive sight in the Cove, yet it is almost totally hidden from view. It was said that in the mid 1800s a local fisherman called Sam Hitchens lived in the cave for a time & could often be seen with his torch of  lighted furze. However the truth is more likely that he was guarding contraband and smuggled French Brandy.
Above; Sandy Vro is now only accessible by sea, yet in the mid 18th century the soapstone quarrymen were able to tunnel through the serpentine promontory adjacent to Tonkens Point into Sandy Vro producing a "Level" from which they mined upwards, removing a wide soapstone vein, using a traditional Cornish mining technique called Overhand Stoping.
Above; Looking from NE to SW, also said to be the haunts of smugglers -and they were no doubt regularly used to store contraband, the tunnels are remarkably well hidden from view
Above; Looking NE from Sandy Vro through the mining "Level". 250 years of sea action has now created smooth walls.
Also later at Penruddock Quarry, Daroose, Wheal Foss,Lizard Commons,Predannack Wartha, Predannack Woollas, Meaver (Mullion Village)
Above; Penruddock Soapstone Quarry . Later used to extract serpentine for Cornish hedges or walls.

With a lack of roads on the Lizard and n Cornwall generally, the Soaprock was transported by sea and sent to locations where the porcelain potters had their factories and was used to manufacture practical, yet exquisitely decorated soft paste Porcelain which was able to withstand the temperature of boiling water, thus allowing the products such as teapots, coffee pots,tea and coffee cups and saucers and dinner services to be used without them cracking, breaking or "flying" (as it was called in the 18th Century).
The first factory to use the Soapstone was believed to be that of Benjamin Lund at Bristol, followed by Nicholas Crisp and John Sanders of the  Vauxhall Factory in London. 
Recent researched has indicated that early Bow, & Limehouse may also have used soaprock from the Lizard
In 1751 the Worcester Porcelain Factory was founded at Warmstry House on the banks of the River Severn in Worcester and the following year in 1752 they took over the Lund porcelain factory and moved everything to Worcester. They also took over the Licence to quarry and mine for Soaprock on the Lizard.
Worcester went on to be the largest users of soapstone delivering hundreds of tons from a variety of locations for the manufacturing process, at one point almost obtaining a monopoly of the Soaprock quarrying.
Other porcelain potters including Richard Chaffers and Phillip Christian from Liverpool, Thomas Turner from Caughley in Shropshire, Baddeley and Yates from Shropshire, and the South Wales pottery all obtained Licences to quarry and mine in the Mullion area.

This is an information site only and no liability can be accepted for any injury or loss incurred by individuals visiting the sites described on the website or in the book.



Recent information 2015
The changing face of the old Mullion Cliff Soapstone Quarry

Recent updated Information 2014
In 2011the book entitled "Soaprock Coast... the origins of english porcelain" was published. At that time research had showed that the earliest known use of the mineral was from Gew Graze (Soapy Cove), 1 mile north of Kynance Cove. Recent research by myself and a colleague in New Zealand, Ross Ramsay has indicated that the likeliest and earliest source of soaprock was in fact from Kynance Cove itself. New sites, known to me in 2011 have since been visited by myself and a local experienced geologist, photographed and considered.
In addition the importance of the area known as Pentreath, south of Kynance Cove has also been reconsidered from Caerthillian to Yellow Carn, especially around the old cliff fall at Holestrow, and may well have been far more important than previously considered.
Soapstone Porcelain or "Soft Paste Porcelain"was the first Porcelain produced in Factories in this country which. By the addition of crushed soapstone, the porcelain produced was able to able to withstand boiling water. We could therefore compete with the vast quantity of Hard Paste porcelain produced and imported from China.
It was the beginning of a changing and evolving  industry which has lasted until today. RF Sept 2014

Kynance Cove was a very important site in the early extraction of Soaprock and has been ignored for too long.

July 2014
New Photographs of Mullion Cliff  "Soaprock" Quarry

I have recently paid another visit to the Soapstone Quarry situated in Mullion Cove to Photograph any changes.
There is a minimum amount of sand on the beach below the Cliff following the winter storms, and the scree debris on the west side is still a prominent feature. However the geological features which were present have been damaged by the storms and winter falls of serpentine. On the plus side it is now possible to view the 150 foot cliff from the beach and see exactly what this site was in the 1750s- a Quarry.

Below Left; Close-up of main soapstone area approx 20 foot up from beach. Below Right; Same location in May 2011, now obliterated by cliff fall.

December 2012
I have just published a new book entitled  " A history of Mullion Cove Cornwall".
For the first time the reasons why it played  an important part in the Maritime history of Cornwall is explained, the wrecks, the Lifeboat and the rescues... and the protection offered by that part of the coast called the "Mullion Roads" to Shipping which could not navigate past the Lizard in the storms of the 18th and 19th centuries.
 The Harbour at Mullion Cove is under threat and the story of its important history has never previously been told.The book uncovers the history of the pilchard fishing, as Mullion played a big part in the Mounts Bay Fishery.It became an important tourist attraction in Cornwall, one which is reflected in the number of visitors it recieves each year. In the 1750s Mullion Cove was quarried for the mineral soapstone, used to manufacture porcelain, and also had an important link to copper mining which took place only a short distance away. For more information see-  https://sites.google.com/site/historyofmullioncoveandharbour/

"Soaprock Coast... the origins of  English porcelain.
£4.99, packed full of historical information. Researched and referenced.

Christmas 2012
The winter has been warm but very wet and the rock and the soil has become saturated, increasing the risk of cliff falls.
A week before Christmas, a cliff fall occurred at  the site of the 1750s Soaprock Quarry at Mullion Cliffs in Mullion Cove. A second fall a few days later was heard by workmen working on the repair work at the South Pier in the Harbour. The fall has changed the face of the quarry and the veins of soaprock are no longer clearly visible. However it has exposed new smaller areas of soaprock. This must have been what the cliffs were like in the 1750s and 1760s.

I took a group of local archaeologists from Windy Ridge to Gew Graze on Sunday 18th November to introduce the subject and show them new sites which are going to be part of the cornwall wildlife trust walk. The weather was good for November and the choughs made an appearance. I took several to the site of the old jetty and showed them the quarries. Interesting discussions took place from all sides. Thanks to Sally for her help.
bob 28.11.12
About .......
The above organisations have agreed to begin a process of Conservation commencing with the sites at Gew Graze (Soapy Cove) around to Pengersick Point (Old Mullion) just South East of Vellan Head.
Gew Graze was the site of the original "soaprock" quarry used by Benjamin Lund from 1748/9 before it was taken over by the Worcester Porcelain Manufacturers in 1752.
This means that the sites have finally been recognised for their Geological and Historical importance to Cornwall and the hope is that other sites may follow.

I have been lucky enough to be able to speak to Henry Sandon MBE at Worcester Porcelain Museum in person about the book. Henry has been interested in the quarry sites for over 40 years and is very knowledgeable on the subject.
The National Trust has allowed partial clearance of the site at Wheal Foss exposing unrivalled history of a quarry not viewed openly for 200 years. The site has allowed new information to be  obtained from the site.
The quarry  is adjacent  to the Teneriffe Farm Campsite owned by the National Trust. 

Front Cover Gew Graze or "Soapy Cove"
                                                 ISBN  978-0-9569895-0-5
 "Soaprock Coast , the origins of English Porcelain" is a new book about the history of the Lizard                Peninsula in Cornwall. It uncovers a previously untold story. £4.99 plus P&P (UK)
For more information Contact Bob Felce - Telephone 01326 241970.
                                                 e-mail r.felce@gmail.com
All photographs on this site are the property of Robert Felce and may not be reproduced without permission