Ding Dong is an old and extensive mining area situated in the heart of the Lands End granite mass about 2 miles south of the St Just to Penzance road. A visit to this mining region is best in clear conditions `as the views are fantastic especially to the south west looking out across Mounts Bay and St Michaels Mount.
The name Ding Dong has led to speculation as to its meaning. One suggestion by Cannon Jennings in his book on the history of Madron, Morvah and Penzance is that name refers to ‘head of the lode’ or the outcrop of tin on the hill. In Madron church there is a ‘Ding Dong Bell’ that was rung to mark the end of the last shift of the miners.
Near the mine ruins can be found the Bronze Age ‘Nine Maidens Stone Circle, the Men-an-Tol and Lanyon Quoit and the Ding Dong mines themselves. These are reported to be the oldest in the West of England. Brown and Acton in their book “Exploring Cornish Mines, Volume 2” say that the mines probably operated in pre-historic time and there is even a legend that Joseph of Arimathea visited the area.
By 1782 sixteen working mines were to be found in the area and the present sett include Ding Dong in the middle, Providence, Tredinneck and Ishmael’s to the east and Wheal Malkin and Wheal Boys to the West.
Ding Dong obtained notoriety during the 18th century because of an infringement lawsuit. A 28 inch cylinder inverted engine designed by Edward Bull was put into Ding Dong in 1796 the problem occurred in as much that Bull had been chief designer for Boulton and Watt. James Watt considered the engine to be an infringement of his ‘condenser patent’.
Richard Trevithick the Cornish inventor, engineer and pioneer of the locomotive was at one time an engineer for Ding Dong mine. When working at the mine he developed a high pressure engine to raise ore and waste from the mine.
The mine had a particular pattern with 22 lodes in the mine that were continually throwing out branches none of the lodes came to the surface and by the time the mine closed it had reached a depth of 138 fathoms from the surface. Production from the mine has been quoted by Dines as 1814-78: 3,475 tons of black tin and in the late 1850s there were 206 men and boys employed. Ding Dong finally stopped working in 1879 although several attempts were subsequently made to reopen as a working venture. Lack of public support has been attributed to the failure to restart the mine.