September 1st Francis Oats (Death)

The Fowey – born Francis Oats (1848 – 1918) was a Cornish miner who became chairman of the South African De Beers diamond company.  

On his return to Cornwall he made many  significant  investments in the tin mining industry including the Levant Mine which became famous after the mining disaster (October 20th) and which closed a few years after he died. He is also remembered for the construction of Porthledden (left), a 21-bedroom mansion with 200 window panes, at Cape Cornwall in 1909.

The son of a poor farmer, the Oats family moved to St. Just as his father went to work in the mines. He walked to Penzance once a week for evening classes to train as a mining engineer and, after free tuition at the London School of Mines, he returned to Botallack Mine as Mining Captain.  He spent a lot of time in South Africa, working with other Cornish immigrant miners, and was appointed to the Victoria Diamond Mine and became a director of De Beers in 1890, becoming Chairman in 1908.

He spent only a short time at Porthledden and died in South Africa in 1918.  One of his sons turned the mansion into a hotel but sold it on his own retirement in the 1950s.


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