Report - - Kennell Vale Gunpowder Works - Sept 19 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Kennell Vale Gunpowder Works - Sept 19

Bikin Glynn

28DL Regular User
Regular User
We dont do tourist spots on here right? Well u best ban me now cos heres one I bloody loved!

I was down South for a holiday & noticed this place so thought Id have a quick look & it was one of the most idyllic places Iv visited.
Helped partly by the mid week explore which meant I had the place to myself & some relatively decent weather left me not wanting to leave.
If it makes it slightly more plausible the trail round the back of the water mills was fenced off "under repair" but with a complete disregarded for any rules I risked all & walked this anyway!

Kennell vale is a nature reserve. I didnt see any nature tbh, (but did get to photograph a dipper a mile upstream) & contains the remains of what was originally nearly 50 buildings!
The history I find quite interesting so have copied it in some detail below.

Whilst it might seem strange to locate a gunpowder factory in woodland in the middle of nowhere the site was quite carefully chosen. The fast flowing River Kennall provided a source of power as it cascades down the valley. This was diverted into leats which in turn powered waterwheels. Obviously steam power, with its need to burn coal would not have been a good idea in a gunpowder mill.

There were other reasons the site was chosen; not only where the gunpowder mills set in woodland, but the company planted many trees. These were positioned between the various mill buildings so as to help absorb the force of a potential explosion.

The site was also ideally placed at the time, firstly for safety reasons it was quite remote, but also as it was close to many of Cornwall's most productive mines. At this time nearby Gwennap was described as the "richest square mile anywhere on Earth". As the majority of the gunpowder was destined for use in the mines this made perfect sense.

The process of making gunpowder was quite complex, partly owing to the potentially huge dangers involved. A large part of making gunpowder was taking the three key ingredients; saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur, and grinding them down to a fine powder. This would then be compressed. Simple as it sounds there were about ten steps in the process all of which were carried out in different buildings.

The buildings remaining include the Corning House, Mixing House, Packing House, Change House and most notably, several of the Incorporating Mills. These were where the mixed products of the gunpowder were further ground and mixed. This stage was so potentially dangerous that less than 20Kg (50lbs) of powder was allowed in the same house at any one time.

Further safety features of the mills were incredibly thick walls but very light roofs, the idea being an explosion would be forced upwards rather than all around. The bearings of the machinery were made of copper, not steel, so as to reduce the amount of heat produced. The workers even wore special woollen suits.

But even with all these safety precautions in place accidents did happen. One such accident happened in May 1838 when five mills blew up one after another. Reports from the time say that part of one roof was found a mile away. Amazingly only one person was killed, although it apparently he left a wife and ten children.

In another explosion a few years later a worker by the name of John Martin was literally blown apart. His head was found around a quarter of a mile away and his other body parts were strewn across the site.

Oh did I mention I liked it here? for that reason there is quite a few pics, I hope u like it as much as I did & it inspires some of you to pay it a visit.

One of the 4 remaining water wheel mills that remain

9O5A3632 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The "main" building area on the South side

9O5A3611 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3609 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3618 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3628 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

Some sort of generator house?

9O5A3624 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3652 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3642 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3640 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The old quarry supplying the works

9O5A3627 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The minimal but enchanting remains of the watermills

9O5A3663 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3658 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3661 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3669 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3684 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3685 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3688 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

The Pentrough still directing water to where the wheels were

9O5A3677 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

9O5A3680 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

Go on then just one more unnecessary water shot!

9O5A3657 by Bikin Glynn, on Flickr

Thanks For Looking


Irresponsible & Reckless
Regular User
That’s nice. There’s a place near me that’s almost identical called Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder mills.

It’s repurposed as a regional park now and open to the public but the forests are littered with all the old overgrown buildings.


Regular User
It's a lovely area for a walk and you've captured some of the remains very nicely.
Looks to be much 'cleaner' than my only visit around 25 years ago but luckily the open footpaths don't seem to have have encouraged the twonks that want to deface old remains with spraypaint.
There are surprisingly large numbers of the old gunpowder works with good remains, presumably because of them generally being in wooded valleys away from towns. Almost all of them provide pleasant walks too!

It's probably less of a tourist spot than a lot of the places that get posted on here ;)

Similar threads