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Westdown and Anderton mines

Westdown Mine

West Down is situated north of the River Walkham and attempts to realise paying lodes between Lower Grenofen and the River Tavy were made around the 1840’s and 1850’s.

The earliest documentation relating to this area dates to 1847 when some mining was being undertaken on the easterly extension of one of the Walkham and Poldice lodes. According to an anonymous report the ‘Poldice lode was 2 to 3 ft. wide and had been worked from surface, but was poor’. These workings are still visible running up the hillside. The report also mentions ‘an adit driven over 100 fathoms on a cross-course….there was a lode in the end about a foot wide which intersected the Poldice lode, but which was also poor’. This adit is also still visible. According to the report ‘there were one or two other lodes in the sett on which little or nothing was done, and…the lodes generally are poor and not very encouraging for extended operations’. (Brooke Index).

Despite this in June 1847 a mining company (West Downs Consolidated Mining Company) was formed to work the sett which covered an area 2 by 1 mile square. The company which lasted 4 years, was worked on the cost book system with dues held at 1 – 16th. Operations began that summer and in July 1847 it was suggested that more than enough tin had been broken to pay cost. Despite the occasional report of alleged rich tin lodes the reality proved very different and in 1849 a notice was published ‘warning merchants not to give any credit as the committee (Harrison, Weatherhead, Dow, Brightman and Thomas) were not accountable for any debts which had been or might be contracted in respect of the mine’ (Brooke Index). During this period a shaft had been sunk below the openworks. It was from this shaft that the tin had been worked but which lately had suffered an influx in water. It was therefore decided in 1850 to commence a new shaft that would eventually reach a depth of 20 fms (120 ft) and from which a 10 fms crosscut level would be driven to initially cut the lode 3 fathoms (18 ft) below the depth of the old shaft (MJ 10th Aug 1850)

By August 1850 the new shaft had been sunk 4 fms below adit (a depth of about 30 ft). Unfortunately this new shaft also had problems with water and it was decided a small steam-engine would be required for pumping purposes, the purchase of which necessitating a call on the shareholders. It would appear that the company had spent considerable capital on the infrastructure of the mine as in 1850 it is recorded that a burning house was damaged when much of the company’s property was forcibly removed to East Crowndale Mine at Rix Hill. The ensuing court case would suggest that the landowner had instigated the removal of property in compensation for unpaid mineral dues (Brooke Index).

Despite these issues it would appear that the construction of the engine went ahead and around January 1851 a Nicholls horizontal condensing steam engine was installed (Brooke Index). Interestingly the company were still struggling financially as the purser was instructed around this time to put the affairs of the company in the hands of a Master in Chancery unless arrears of calls were paid within fourteen days. Percival Norton Johnson was among those who had paid no calls (on his 64 shares) since October 1848 and defaulters totalled 340 shares. The shares of the company continued to be listed until February 1852, so presumably the company was wound up in the early part of that year (Brooke Index). By the time of the closure the new shaft had been sunk to its intended depth of 20 fms. However, the company had found problems with the engine which had to be upgraded and in 1853 the adventurers tried to recover costs from the manufacturers. The adventurers lost the ensuing court case as the manufacturers (Nicholls of Tavistock) had recommended a 10″cylinder steam engine costing £140 (suitable for pumping and stamping), but the company had decided to purchase a smaller engine costing £130 (EFP 18th July 1853). So ended the first mining operations.

In February 1853 a new company East Wheal Bedford Mining Company was formed to work the sett. This cost book company had initial capital of 2048 shares at £1 15s. In March 1853 the manager reported that ‘all possible progress was being made in driving the 20 fm cross-cut towards the lode, despite a labour shortage’. Whether this crosscut was completed is unknown but in April the company turned its attention to other parts of the sett, having agreed water rights from the Maristow estate. A new shaft was commenced which was to be pumped by a 30ft waterwheel via flat rods (this is the shaft high up on West Down). Work at the old shaft was soon suspended and in July the 10″ engine was put up for auction. Work continued through the summer, but in February 1854 it was resolved to suspend operations and discontinue all work excepting an occasional inspection of the property by Captain Treweeke. ‘The new water-wheel and machinery were in perfect working order and excellent tinstuff was being raised, but before extending operations the committee determined to obtain outside advice’ (Brooke Index). The outcome of that advise is not known but in October 1854 a new company was formed under the name of Sortridge and Bedford Mine. The new cost-book company was a reorganisation of East Wheal Bedford, whose capital had been reduced by forfeitures to 2,000 shares. Two out of the six committee members remained with the new company (W B Winter and B Seward). The Sortridge and Bedford Mine held a 21 year lease from William Courtenay at 1 – 15th dues.

The new company continued where East Wheal Bedford had left off, concentrating its operation to the east of West Down. By July 1857 the West Down shaft had reached a depth of 50 fms (300 ft) with a cost to the company of £7000 and the shareholders a number of calls. The company also seems to be responsible for a number of other trial adits. Although an earlier decision to abandon the mine was overturned in September 1857, the mine was eventually put up for sale in May 1858. The sale details included a 30 x 6 ft. waterwheel, rods, pumps, tools and launders (Brooke Index)

There are no records of any production.


Brooke Index – this index is a synopsis of several Mining Journal reports from June 1847 to May 1858.


EFP – Exeter Flying Post

Anderton Mine

The mine is situated south of Tavistock in the parish of Whitchurch. In 1844 the Wheal Anderton Mining Company was formed by interests in Plymouth to rework an old mine. There are agreements relating to water courses for this mine dated 1842, although the mine may be 18th century in origin (Newman). By April of 1844 work was in progress in the 40 fm level (240 ft) in Old Anderton Mine situated close to the Tiddy Brook. In May the company were constructing a new waterwheel (26 ft by 2.5 ft) to replace the existing wheel that was in a poor state of repair. By July the mine had two waterwheels, but neither were working due to a lack of water (MJ 6th July 1844). The second waterwheel was 36 ft by 3.5 ft and in February 1845 was driving the stamps (probably also used for pumping). A month later the company advertised for a steam engine, which was bought and in use by mid-October.

By March 1846, Engine Shaft had been sunk to 50 fms and as the shaft was deepened the lode was reported to be improving with a width of 6 ft. At around this time the sett adjacent to Wheal Anderton, known as Wheal Ash was also being tried (I believe this to be New Anderton by Anderton Farm) (MJ 7th Feb 1846). By December 1847 Wheal Anderton was producing enough tin to keep 20 head of stamps at work, being powered by a new drawing and stamping engine (PDWJ 9th Dec 1847). By March 1848 the shaft was below the 70 fm level. By December 1848 the shaft was approaching a depth of 90 fms. The 90 fm level proved to be rich in tin and the mine was now a successful paying mine (DJ 29th March 1849). By March of the following year fortunes had changed and a call was made on the shareholders. The adventurers determined to continue the mine for a further 3 months with a prospect of working the mine in conjunction with Tavistock Consols (previously Wheal Ash), thus holding out sufficient inducement for the united companies to drive cross-cuts from the engine to intersect the four large lodes seen in the Tavistock Consols sett at a depth of upwards of 100 fms from surface (DJ 7th March 1850)

In June 1850 the mine was offered for sale by private contract, as a going concern. The offer included the lease, with 20 of 21 years unexpired, one 30-inch and one 22-inch rotary steam-engines with pit work from surface to the 90-fathom level, and a variety of other items. The offer stated that nearly £3,000 worth of tin and copper ore had been raised during the preceding three years and a local source increased this amount to £7,000 worth “within a short time” (MJ June 1850). Another source states that since 1844 returns of tin totalled 169 tons 16 cwts. 2 qrs. 10 lbs., which realised £6,642.10s.3d.

In July a special general meeting was held to receive the report of a committee appointed at the end of May to consider the propriety of abandoning, selling or prosecuting the mine. The outcome was that a new company was formed to acquire Wheal Anderton and Tavistock Consols which were to be worked as Tavistock United Mines. From the Anderton shaft a cross-cut drive at the 80-fathom level was to be made to cut the Rix Hill lode and a cross-cut south, to cut another strong lode in the same level. The 80-fathom level would also be extended east through the cross-course, to cut the two lodes in the Tavistock Consols sett (MJ 13th July 1850). During this period correspondence concerning the mine ceases altogether although it was possibly still working in 1861. There are no records of production so one can presume the mine was unsuccessful. Everything remains quiet until 1870 when there were proposals to work the old setts of Tavistock United Mine and Rix Hill Mine. Rix Hill was an adjacent mine to the west of Anderton, that between 1852 and 1855 produced 153 tons of black tin.

The vendors for this new concern were James Murray and Jacob Legassick under the company name of Walreddon Mining Company Limited. The shares were offered for sale in November 1871 but the flotation was unsuccessful (MJ 18th Nov 1871). In 1873 another attempt to reopen the mines under the name of Crowndale Consols (Tin & Copper) Mining Company Limited was also unsuccessful, as was the flotation in 1874 under the name of New Crowndale Mining Company (MJ 1871, 1873, 1875)

In November 1880 the mine was again the subject of interest when the East Crowndale Mining Company Limited was formed to acquire and work tin and copper mines in Whitchurch Parish. The offer stated that the property it was intended to work comprised Anderton and Rix Hill which together measured about three quarters of a mile on the course of the lodes and half a mile from north to south. Favourable reports on the property included those from A. Andrewartha, mineral surveyor to Sir Massey Lopes, Bt., while the directors Messrs. Duncan, Gibson and Crassweller were said to have a large experience in mine working, and Captain Henry Treganowan, a confidential mining agent of large repute, had long worked under the direction of Captain Josiah Thomas of Dolcoath Mine. The vendors, James Murray and Jacob Legassick, under a contract dated October 1870, transferred the property to William Henry Charlton as trustee for the company for a consideration of £3,000 cash and 2,000 shares credited as fully paid. The company was registered in Truro a week after the shares had been offered for sale. No operations appear to have been undertaken, and the property was floated as Tavistock Great Consols Limited in July 1881 (MJ 30th Oct 1880).

In January 1882 a new company Anderton Tin Mining Company was formed with capital consisting of 12,000 shares (initial price unknown). Work started privately in the spring of 1882, and the first batch of black tin was sold in May of that year (MJ 3rd June 1882). In October 1882 it was resolved to buy an engine. In September 1883 the new engine, supplied and erected by W. Bennetts of the Roskear Fuse Works, Camborne, was started, and was christened the Murray by Mrs. Murray, wife of James Murray, the purser and largest shareholder. The 34-inch steam-engine had a 10 ft. stroke and developed about 80 h.p. There were two fly-wheels on the east side of the house, each of 13 tons, from which one set of rods went to the stamps and another to the pumps in Murray’s Shaft which was being sunk close to Anderton Farm. The 16 heads of stamps operated by the engine were to be erected to the south of the house as soon as the water had been got low enough, and a 25-inch hauling-engine was to be erected to the west of the pumping-engine. The 16 heads of stamps to be erected were in addition to the twelve that were fixed (operated by a waterwheel at the lower old Anderton site), and four auxiliary heads, making in all 32 heads of stamps. Prior to the starting of the pumping-engine operations were restricted to the adit. To date £10,000 had been spent on the mine with no cost to the shareholders (MJ 15th Sept 1883). However, this soon changed and between 1884 and 1886 there were 6 calls on shareholders with total calls increasing from 2 s 6d paid to 11 s paid.

In September 1886 James Murray, auctioneer and house agent, Torquay, was adjudicated bankrupt owing £2,111. – The debtor stated that his failure arose from losses in mining shares. The Official Receiver expressed his opinion that the debtor had committed a breach of trust with regard to other financial transactions, and he must report adversely on them (TG 10th Sept 1886).

In spite of Murray’s bankruptcy the mine continued operating and in 1887 employed 58 people – 36 underground; 16 at surface and 6 boys. By June 1887 Murray’s Shaft had been sunk to the 80 fm level and a cross-cut was being driven south to cut the lode (TG 24th June 1887). Between February 1887 to May 1888 there were a further 4 calls on the shareholders with the total paid being 18 s 6 d.

In July 1888 a special meeting was held to consider changing the company from the cost book system to that of limited liability. By December 1888 the old company had been reconstructed as a limited company. The Capital was to be £20,000 in 80,000 shares of 5-shillings each, of which 24,000 were to be taken by the vendors in payment for the mine, 24,000 to be offered for subscription, and 32,000 to be reserved for future use, if required (TG 7th Dec 1888). However, the Anderton United Tin Mining Company Limited was short-lived as by February 1889 the general body of shareholders voted for the mine to be closed down and offered for sale. Later that month arrangements were made to offer the mine for sale by auction in one lot, as a going concern (TG 15th Feb 1889). The mine was again put up for auction in October, the materials including a 36-inch rotary steam-engine (presumably the 34-inch previously mentioned), boiler, pit work, a 35 x 4 ft. waterwheel, two bells “suitable for a gentleman’s mansion or large factory”, a 14½-inch portable steam-engine, 16 heads of stamps, a 6 h.p. portable engine, 100 fathoms of ladders, tools, timber, &c.

Between 1882 and 1889 the mine produced 202 tons of black tin (Collins).


Mining in the Tavy Valley, West Devon: An Assessment of Archaeological Potential.
Phil Newman 2011

Observations of the West of England Mining Region
J H Collins 1912


MJ – Mining Journal
PDWJ – Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal
DJ – Devonport Journal
TG – Tavistock Gazette

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