logo

Devon Underground

  • UK

    Devon Underground

A Copper Mine

This adit is part of an larger abandoned mining complex, consisting of three mines, on the edge of Dartmoor. The mines were originally worked for copper and arsenic and the combined mines were the largest copper producers in this part of Devon between 1856 and 1885, when production ceased. However, in the 1970s an attempt was made to re-work the dumps for fluorspar but this was not pursued due to the contamination of the fluorspar by copper ore. Initially, the mines were worked entirely by water-power and in 1866 returned 1440 tons of copper or which realised £6567. In 1868  it was decided to buy a 50 inch steam engine, which, however, was only used on a limited scale due to the continued use of water-power.  The mine was worked to about 151 fathoms (276m). Extensive remains of this mine exist including burrows, several large wheel pits and the remains of two east-facing engine houses.  Of the boiler house which adjoins the pumping engine house to the north, only the front wall remains. An addition to this wall that is marked by a sharp change in the stonework, suggests the engine was originally equipped with a single boiler to which a second was later added.

I visited this copper mine with two members of the Devon & Cornwall Mine Explorers, who very kindly had agreed to take me with them. Their full report entitled "Unexpected 36 Miles" can be found on the group's Facebook page. I have to admit the trip was not quite what I had expected. Because of my previous "underground" experiences (of which there are not that many) I had assumed that the mine was going to be dry-ish, maybe a little bit damp or muddy - but not under water. This adit was completely flooded. By the time I reached the entrance I was already knee-deep in water, and slightly further in, the water reached my waist. Luckily it stopped there. Unfortunately, my DSLR camera was not of much use under these damp conditions and I dumped my rucksack in the only dry spot I could find, before proceeding any further. The pictures below were taken by on the Devon & Cornwall Mine Explorers who had taken a little water-proof camera with them. Along the adit were several winzes (minor connections between different levels in a mine) with pipework sticking out. The winzes were very helpfully covered by wooden planks but nevertheless made for an interesting crossing.

Although I got pretty wet, I had a brilliant time and I am looking forward to any further trips. Would be great if I was able to explore the other two adits that make up this mine.

Copper Mine on Dartmoor
Copper Mine on Dartmoor
Copper Mine on Dartmoor
Copper Mine on Dartrmoor

A Canal Tunnel

The canal, including an aqueduct and this tunnel where designed by the civil engineer John Taylor. Construction started in 1803 and by 1816 the first, specially designed, 200 ton barges were used to ship copper ore from Dartmoor to Plymouth. In addition to copper ore, the barges were also used to transport slate, limestone and other goods downstream.  The largest engineering feature of this canal, was actually the construction of the 2.5km long tunnel. The tunnel, of small bore, was cut through rock, and at it deepest point is more than 100m below the surface. Taylor used towo types of pumps during the construction, one to keep the tunnel drained and the second to provide clean air to the workforce. Both of these were powered by water wheels, driven by the canal water.  When cutting of the tunnel began, copper ore was discovered close to the upper end, and this became the a copper mine, which was managed as a separate project. It had its own entrance, by the tunnel entrance, and used water-powered machinery, driven by water flowing along the canal.

I have seen quite a bit of Devon above ground but never had such a hike, or should a say wade, covering such a long distance below Devon. Although the views are not quite as nice down below, this was nevertheless an exciting explore, courtesy of the Devon & Cornwall Mine Explorers (who let me tag along a second time). I am eternally grateful to them for lending me a caving suit as well, otherwise this could well have been a miserable trip. I slowly start to think that there a no dry mines in Devon. Apart from wading through the tunnel, we crawled along several adits that branch of the main canal and crossed a flooded winze on two metal pipes. I guess this is what constitutes a bridge down here. Unlike the previous time I actually managed to use my DSLR camera this time having stuffed it into a dry-bag. However, I definitely need to figure out how to use the camera properly withouth drowning them into the murky water. Having used my a powerful torch I managed to get some hand-held shots...

Canal Tunnel in Devon
Canal Tunnel in Devon
Canal Tunnel in Devon
Canal Tunnel in Devon

Related Posts