STANNARIES (Lat. stannum, Cornish, stean, tin), tin mines. Stannary courts exercised a jurisdiction peculiar to Cornwall and Devon. So 'far as regards Cornwall the jurisdiction is an immemorial one. By ancient charters, the tinners of Cornwall were exempt from all other jurisdiction than that of the stannary courts, except in cases affecting land, life and limb.
The tin-mining industry of Cornwall, dating, as it does, from the very earliest times, was always prosecuted in accordance with a particular code of customs; the earliest charter which embodies them is that of Edmund, earl of Cornwall, but the freedom then assured was rather confirmed than given for the first time, and it is impossible to say how far these customs of the stannaries courts go back. Twenty-four stannators were returned for the whole of Cornwall. Their meeting was termed a parliament, and when they assembled they chose a speaker. In earlier times, the combined tinners of Devon and Cornwall assembled on Kingston Down, a tract of highland on the Cornish side of the Tamar. After the charter of Earl Edmund, the Cornish stannators met (apparently) at Truro; those of Devonshire at Crockern Tor on Dartmoor. An officer was appointed by the duke of Cornwall or the Crown, who was lord warden of the stannaries, and the parliaments were assembled by him from time to time, in order to revise old or to enact new laws. The last Cornish stannary parliament was held at Truro in 1752. For a long series of years little or no business was transacted in the stannary courts; but the necessity for a court of peculiar jurisdiction, embracing mines and mining transactions of every description within the county of Cornwall having become more and more apparent, a committee was appointed to report on the subject, and an act of parliament was afterwards (1836) passed, suppressing the law courts of the stewards of the different stannaries, and giving to the vice-warden their jurisdiction, besides confirming and enlarging the ancient equity jurisdiction of that office. By the Stannaries Act 1855 the respective parliaments or stannaries courts of Cornwall and Devon were consolidated. From the judgments of the vice-warden an appeal lay to the lord warden, and from him to the Supreme Court. By the Stannaries Courts Abolition Act 1896 the jurisdiction of the courts was transferred to the county courts. The most important customs may be briefly stated: (a) " free tinners " had the right to work upon rendering the " toll-tin," usually one-fifteenth of the produce, to the owner or lord of the soil; (b) the right of " tin-bounding," that is, the right of bounding any unappropriated waste lands, or any several or enclosed lands which had once been waste land, subject to the custom and to the delivery of tin-toll. The bound was marked by turf or stone, and was about an acre in extent. The estate of a bounder in Devonshire is real property, but in Cornwall is personal property.
For many centuries a tax on the tin, after smelting, was paid to the earls and dukes of Cornwall. The smelted blocks were carried to certain towns (Liskeard, Lostwithiel, Penzance, Truro) to be coined, that is, a corner of the block was cut off, and the block was then stamped with the duchy seal as a guarantee of the quality. By an act of 1838 the dues payable on the coinage of tin were abolished, and a compensation was awarded to the duchy instead of them.
See T. Pearce, Laws and Customs of the Stannaries in the Counties of Cornwall and Devon (1725); Bainbridge, Law of Mines and Minerals ; C. R. Lewis, The Stanneries: a Study of the English Tin Mines (" Harvard Economic Studies," 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)