For smartphones and tablets
Please click here.

Tin Workings around Chagford

head image

JOIN US

Membership
from just £12!

Article: author Stephen Holley

CHAGFORD

Chagford has long been associated with the tin-mining industry of Dartmoor, being one of the three original 1305 Stannary Towns. Chagford served the north east of Dartmoor and as a Stannary Town acted as a centre for the taxing and marketing of tin in this district of Dartmoor. During the Medieval period most of the tin was being extracted from stream-workings and Chagford was well situated to serve the workings of the River Teign and its various tributaries and possibly also the River Bovey. By the late Medieval period alluvial deposits were becoming depleted and the tin miners had started to work lodes in situ, by trenches, gullies and openworks. Known as beamworks, the most significant in the Chagford stannary are those at Vitifer around the area of the Warren House Inn and Bradford Pool near Drewsteignton. Nearer to Chagford itself, there were other beamworks active in the fifteenth and sixteenth century which were recorded in the parish records. The various entries date from 1480 until 1597, but there is a general belief that work carried on into the seventeenth century (Broughton)

BOWRIE BEAM

Bowrie is thought to be the area now known as Biera and is situated about 100 yards to the east of St Michael's Church (Broughton). The works cross the Chagford-Westcott road. The northern section now forms part of the Biera council estate. During the excavation of a trench across these workings in 1961 a depth of over 16ft was attained without reaching the base of alluvial deposits (Broughton). The lower part of these workings terminate on the Broomhill estate, the probable site of the 'Broomhill Works' also mentioned in the records (Broughton). The southern section is more extensive, with some cliff-like openworks, within the grounds of Chagford House.

LINER'S BEAM

In the area of Westcott there were three openworks to the north of the road of which most have been in-filled. The most southerly extended into a field south of the road (Broughton). In the vicinity of Mines Lane there is a working on a north-south lode and a number of east-west lodes that have been worked to a depth of about 20ft (Broughton).

GREAT WEEK

Great Week is a large and impressive openwork that is 40 ft-50 ft deep and over 900 ft in length. The working courses north-west for about 600 ft, where it is intersected by a north-south lode. It then turns due west for another 360 ft. The remains of a leat can be traced around the hillside, adjacent to the working and may be associated with it, although it also may have served the farm or possibly a stamping mill, as one of the barns at Great Weeke Farm has an old mortar stone incorporated into its wall. The likely location for this stamping mill was the site of the later nineteenth century dressing floors, as during the construction of the later, old tailing were discovered.

Great Weeke Farm owns the land on which the openwork is situated and in June 1886 the then owner, William Ellis encouraged some initial investigations to be undertaken to determine the quantity of tin. Charles Henry Maunder, then agent of the East Vitifer Tin Mining Company, undertook the work, which included a number of trial pits and the sinking of a shallow shaft. In November of that same year Ellis offered Maunder a lease on the property. On the 1st March 1887 the Great Week Consols Tin Mining Company was registered with a share capital of £30,000 in £1 shares. The new company set to work in deepening the trial shaft (Lydia's Shaft) erecting dressing floors, waterwheel, hoists and pump. Within the first year the shaft was sunk to depth of 28 fathoms (168 ft) and levels taken off east and west. The 40 ft waterwheel situated at the dressing floor operated the pumps by a series of flat rods, as well as 12 head of stamps. The dressing floor included two round buddles, three 'working buddles' and finishing floors with a spare buddle. The mine employed thirty eight men, fourteen underground and twenty four on the surface.

Also at this time a trial shaft was sunk on a lode that crossed the site of the dressing floor and some exploratory work was undertaken on a number of other nearby lodes, unfortunately without success. Shortly after, it was decided to concentrate efforts on Wheel Pit Shaft, rather than continue sinking Lydia's Shaft, as it was hoped a 12 fathom level from the shaft would open up the eastern ground at depth. It would also cut the labour cost involved in the cartage of ore to the dressing floor. Unfortunately the Wheel Pit Shaft proved to be very costly, with water ingress causing partial collapse of the shaft. After a considerable amount of expenditure the shaft was abandoned somewhat short of the 12 fathom level. Work continued at Lydia's Shaft which reached a depth of 36 fathoms (24 fathoms below adit); drives being made east and west on the 12 and 24 fathom levels. Some good ground was being encountered, although the eastern end of the 24 fathom level was poor, the lode being shattered by the influence of a cross course. Around this time the adit level passed the junction formed by the intersecting north lode. This unfortunately proved to be worthless, dashing the high hopes of an enriched area of tin bearing rock.

In 1889 the company was reconstructed with an increased capital of 6000 shares(Broughton). The sett was increased from the original 210 acres to 700 acres. Shortly after, a further 6000 shares were made available to enable the company to reconstruct the dressing floors with the installation of steam-operated machinery. A 25" cylinder steam engine was also sited at Lydia's Shaft to effect winding and a tramway was constructed from the shaft to a loading bay at Kenslade Lane (Broughton). Despite such developments, tin production began to fall and by the end of 1890 the labour force was down to seven men. By now the lower levels were flooded and the four men underground were working out old stopes in the adit level. The mine was eventually abandoned in 1892, having produced a recorded total of 56 tons of tin concentrate, realising £3367.

In March 1896 the Teign Valley Mining Company was formed with a capital of £20,000 in the form of 80,000 shares. Of these 79,800 shares were issued to the vendors. Another 79, 800 shares were issued for the purchase of the mine, the purchase consideration being £13,965, with 3s 6d per share as paid (Broughton). The mine was drained, timber work and machinery repaired and for the next two years the adit and 12 fathom level were driven further west. The amount of ore raised if any, is unknown, however in 1901 the company was reconstructed as the New Teign Valley Mining Company with a capital of £15000. This scheme of reconstruction provided for the issue of four new 5s shares, each credited with 4s paid, in exchange for each old fully paid 5s share (Broughton). However little work was undertaken in the next two years and in 1903 by order of the County Court, the plant and machinery belonging to the company was put up for auction. This included two steam engines, winding gear, pump rods and poppets, 24 heads of stamps, two waterwheels and various mine fittings (Broughton). There is some conflicting information concerning this last period of the mines history as Hamilton Jenkins states that the last working took place in 1904, when a small steam engine was erected for hoisting on Lydia's Shaft. The waterwheel and flat rods were still the means for pumping the mine, while the dressing floors consisted of 6 head of stamps, shaking tables and buddles, with the final concentration being obtained by tossing and packing in kieves. After a short trial, operations were abandoned. Interestingly Hamilton Jenkins references D B Broughton, Western Morning News, 27th February 1961.

TARR LANE

A shallow openwork exists in a field to the east of the lane. During the 19th century working of Greek Week, three lodes previously worked by the ancients were investigated. The lodes were named as Tucker's, Leach's and George's (Broughton).

References

D B Broughton 1966 - Tin Working in the Eastern District of the Parish of Chagford in Transactions of the Devonshire Association

A. K Hamilton Jenkin 1974 reissued 2005 – Mines of Devon