Hennock & Teign Village Chronicle

Published by the Hennock Village Hall Committee

300° view of Hennock from
the top of the Church Tower

© 2014 D Baker

Mining and Quarrying History in Hennock and the Teign Valley

Mining activity in the Teign Valley extended along the Western flank from Dunsford to Hennock, a distance of some 6 miles (10 kilometers).
There seems to have been little if any mining activity in the area prior to 1800. Between 1800 and 1835 there was some small scale mining, in 1836 the first larger scale mine was opened near Hennock, but was a short lived affair closing soon after 1840. The height of mining activity in the area came after 1850 with the reopening of the 1836 Hennock Mine by the Hennock Silver-Lead Company.
At the peak of the mining activity in the 1860s the population of Hennock rose to just over 1000 from ca 560 in 1801. With the decline in mining activity the population slowly fell to under 700 by 1891.
The Great Rock Mine in Hennock was the last working mine in the area produced micaceous haematite used as an ingredient in Rust Proof paint used to paint battleships, tanks, railway bridges etc. supposedly including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The mine closed in the late 19th century and reopened in 1902, it finally closed in 1969. The mine is located on private property the entrance is barred and locked but visits are permitted through prior arrangement with the Devon and Cornwall Underground Council.

The Kelly mine (above ground area only) is open to the public on some days in the year. For more details visit the Kelly Mine website.

 

The Teign Valley Mines from north to south down the valley were:

  1. Wheal Anna Maria and Lawrence Mines south of Dunsford - the northern most mines in the Teign Valley.  Supposedly contained copper lodes in Wheal Lawrence but it only ever produced some lead in 1851.  The lodes also contained quartz with some patches of barytes, zinc-blende and galena.  In Wheal Anna Maria the lodes contained quartz and iron pyrite, but no lead.
  2. Birch Ellers Mine north east of Bridford. Produced calcite, blende, fluorspar, barytes and small amounts of lead. 
  3. Bridford Consols Mine, known as the Bridford Barytes Mine from 1875-1958) east of Bridford. Produced large quantities of barytes, small amounts of blende, tetrahedrite, iron pyrite, galena and quartz and small quantities of lead before 1871. 
  4. Bennah Mine south of Christow. Produced quartz and barytes with minute particles of galena and iron pyrites.
  5. Aller Mine south of Christow. Produced quartz and barytes containing lead and zinc.
  6. Wheal Adams Mine between Christow and Hennock. Produced argentiferous galena and blende.  The western lode carried less silver-lead but considerably more blende. There was also a reported copper lode, said to lie to the west of West lode, although its exact position is not certain.  Wheal Adams appears to have made some small sales of copper ore between 1845 and 1855.
  7. Wheal Adams Mine North Shaft Workings between Christow and Hennock. Produced quartz, zinc blende, pure white barytes and some galena crystals.
  8. Wheal Exmouth Mine north of Hennock. Produced calcite, barytes, fluorspar, argentiferous galena and blende and small amounts of cerussite, malachite, chalcopyrite and tetrahedrite.  A branch lode, underlying parallel to the main lodes produced large quantities of quartz and barytes.
  9. Shuttamoor Mine north west of Hennock. Produced Iron ore for a very short period in the 1890s.
  10. Frankmills Mine north of Hennock. Produced argentiferous galena, blende, barytes, calcite, quartz, fluorspar, cerussite, siderite and limonite and small amounts of stibnite (antimony ore).
  11. Great Rock Mine north west of Hennock. Produced micaceous haematite.
  12. Hennock Mine north east of Hennock. Produced large quantities of quartz and some argentiferous galena, cerussite and siderite
  13. South Exmouth Lead and Silver Mine (Wheal Hennock) just to the east of Hennock on the way to Teign Village. (Site is from the road near the War Memorial). Produced barytic lead, quartz, argentiferous galena, some zinc blende (usually of the blood red variety), iron pyrite, chalcopyrite and barytes.
  14. Riley Mine south east of Hennock. Produced manganese.
  15. Kelly Mine west of Hennock. Produced micaceous iron oxide and micaceous haematite. Once located in the Parish it is now just outside of the present Hennock Parish boundary.

Most above ground signs of the mines have long since disappeared but the remains of the mines can still be found, with difficulty. The Frank Mills and Wheal Exmouth are visible, mainly due to their size.  Others, Hennock and South Exmouth are much harder to find. Old buildings and engine-houses have been demolished to reuse the building stone, some have simply fallen down, the old tips and shafts have largely been levelled and filled. The area has been allowed to revert to the agricultural or woodland it was before 1800.

 


Mining and Quarrying

from the book Hennock - A Village History
by Iain Fraser, pub 2004
ISBN 0-9545121-1-1
Reproduced here by kind permission of the Author.
Copies of the book are usually available at The Palk Arms
or from the Author at e-mail: palkhistory@yahoo.co.uk or Tel: 01626 439489

Further extracts from this fascinating guide to bygone Hennock can be found in the Palk Arms and Village History (Bygone Days) sections of this web site.

 

Mining

The exposed eastern flanks of Dartmoor which lead down to the Teign Valley floor hold a unique geological make-up. Many metals and minerals were once found in abundance here.

Lead, silver, copper, tin, zinc, manganese, barytes and iron ore were all worked in this area, but now the mines are all closed.

Along the Teign Valley on a barytic-lead lode from Dunsford to Hennock were, Wheal Anna Maria, Wheal Lawrence, Birch Ellers, Bridford, Bennah, Aller, Wheal Adams, North Exmouth, Wheal Exmouth, Frank Mills, Hennock and South Exmouth mines.

In the 1800's lead was very much in demand. It was priced at about £20 per ton, with silver reaching around 5 shillings per ounce. The silver was obtained as a by-product of lead mining.

Along this lode line, lead and silver were the most lucrative. Other metals, especially iron, were not cost effective to process so were generally left underground.

Ladywell, (which until recently used to be a mushroom farm) seen below Hennock just before Teign Village, was the site of the South Exmouth Lead & Silver Mine, also known as Wheal Hennock for a time. It was operating from about 1836 until 1855, re-opening in 1861 until 1867 when deposits were by then almost exhausted.

Great Rock
Great Rock Mine. From left to right; Charlie Tucker Snr., Milburn Gillam, Charlie Tucker, Jnr., unknown gentleman with the trolley and Bill Hine.

Hennock Mine was situated further north towards Franklands Farm. This was operating from at least 1805. Around this time it was referred to as 'Wheal Prosperous' which might have been a bit optimistic!

The main shaft down, sunk in 1854 was named 'Palk's Shaft', after the Mineral Lord of the Hennock estate, Sir Lawrence Palk. The landowner would usually grant leases to mine on his land in return for an annual fee (which could be as low as £6 per year) plus anything from one tenth to one fifteenth of the output value.

With Palk owning so much land in the Teign Valley, you can see why he was so keen to bring a railway line here, which would greatly alleviate the high road transportation costs from the mines to the docks, therefore increasing overall profits. But at the end of the day, only Wheal Exmouth and Frank Mills mines returned high profits. Lord Exmouth did very well from these two mines on his land, with very little investment, but alas our very own Sir Lawrence Palk did not fare so well for all his efforts.

The Frank Mills mine (1856 - 80) had an airshaft that went down 600 ft and the mine itself extended to some 1000 ft below ground. Production figures were, in tons, lead 14,806, barytes 873, fluo-rospar 179, haematite 240, iron ore 182 and silver 240,520 ounces.

Mines that were worked for micaceous haematite (iron ore) included Great Rock, Kelly, Bowden, Shaptor, Hawkmoor, Shuttamoor, Shaptor and Plumley. These were all located on the granite mass.

The very productive and well-known Great Rock Mine in Hennock was active from about 1822 and finally closed down in 1969. It was the last working mine on Dartmoor. In 1902 the Ferrubron Manufacturing Company took over a lot of the local iron ore mines, only keeping Great Rock and Kelly mines open.

Great Rock, being in the granite belt, was known for its micaceous haematite, a shiny almost powdery substance obtained from iron ore, which was used in the manufacture of rust-resisting paint. It was also used in the past as a powder sprinkled onto wet ink, before the advent of blotting paper and was known then as 'Pounce' and also 'Devonshire Sand'.

Underground
Working inside the mine for the shiny ore, micaceous haematite, Charlie Tucker Jnr. and Bill Hine.

Hennock supplied the powdery ore which was used in the painting of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the painting of battleships, tanks, railway bridges, etc. Jim Hine who lived at Great Rock, left school in 1948 and went to work for the paint company in London - Griffiths Bros of Bermondsey.

At church on a Sunday, you could always tell who worked at the iron ore mines. No matter how smartly they dressed up, the men would always have a revealing sheen on their faces or clothes from the shiny ore, micaceous haematite.

Because of labour shortages during World War II, women went to work in the mine at Great Rock. Nesta Burton from Hennock was the first woman to be employed there by Ferrubron.

Up until the 1920's waterwheels provided the power for the mines. Electricity was first used as late as 1950. Ron Tucker remembers buying some old fairground machinery before electric power had reached the mine and hooking it up to the waterwheels at Great Rock, which then provided enough power to run a few light bulbs in the premises down at the mine.

Kelly Mine, not far away from Great Rock was also a very productive mine. A Preservation Society keeps the mine open for the public to visit on the first Sunday of every month. It is a fantastic opportunity to see how the mines operated. It can be found just before reaching the Lustleigh turnoff on the Bovey-Moretonhampstead road.

 

 

Quarries

The Teign Valley had many quarries, namely at Crockham, Whetcombe & Tinkley, Ryecroft, Bridford, Scatter Rock and Trusham.

The quarries proved to be the saviour of the Teign Valley Railway, which in turn helped boost the fortunes of the quarries themselves, as production at the local mines had dwindled rapidly. Also, the quarries were generally closer than the mines to the railway line making it easier to install sidings. The demand for stone in the road-building boom of the early 1900's created a lot of local employment.

Crockham quarry started about 1895 and went on to supply the aggregate for the production of pre-cast concrete starting in 1908/9. It was owned at one time by ARC (Amey Roadstone Corporation).

When the stone chippings were mixed with tar, it was known as Targranix, an ideal road surfacing material. The local stone was of an exceptional quality; Scatter Rock was recognised as having the toughest stone in the country.

Production at the Teign Valley Granite Co. reached 500 tons per day by 1900. The entire output was dispatched by rail.

Nowadays, Crockham is mainly involved in the production of tarmac. Most of the ingredients are brought in from around the country. There is only occasional blasting for shale and top-rock.