Belstone Mine

 

Area :-
Parish :-
County :-
Country :-
N.G.R. :-
Type :-
Alternative Names :-

 

Dartmoor.

Belstone.

Devon.

England.

SX 632-945  Main Shaft.

Copper.

Sticklepath Hill Mine, Belstone Consols, Great Copper Hill Mine & Mid-Devon Mining Company.

 

Site Visit     May 27th. - 29th. 2017

Belstone Mine is situated near the village of Sticklepath, North Dartmoor, ( SX 632945, main shaft). It was worked for copper from 1829 until 1891 under various names including Sticklepath Hill Mine, Belstone Consols, Great Copper Hill Mine and the Mid-Devon Mining Company.


What particularly caught my eye when researching the mine was the fact that a 70ft waterwheel was erected here around about 1878 to deal with pumping. This would make it the largest waterwheel to be erected on mainland Britain, lady Isabella wheel at Laxey Mine on the Isle of Man measures 72½ feet.

Devonshire LXXVII.NW 6" Surveyed: 1884

Figures in red refer to features mentioned in the text and portrayed in the photographs

Description

We decided to visit the site by following the waterwheel leat from its take-off point (1) on the River Taw at SX 621931, a detour was made to look for any remains of the nearby Ivy Tor mine on the South bank of the river, little was found but deserves further investigation on a future trip. Recrossing the river we relocated the leat and were able to follow this to the hamlet of Skaigh where its route continues on private land and across fields, though from here to the wheelpit very little evidence of the leat remains.

Leat take-off point on the East bank of the river Taw (1)

General view of Belstone Mine spoil heaps (2)

The site of the mine itself is identified by an overgrown ridge-like tip that marks the location of the Main shaft and Inclined shaft, apparently garnets can be found here (2). Continuing the route of the leat as best as we could, we came to a field in which could be seen the walls of a building that looked suspiciously mine-like, this is marked on the 1884 6in. map and is directly on the line of the leat (3), it is very ruinous but above ground level on the back wall can be seen the remains of a hearth, while on the outside wall on its S.E. corner can be seen a curious vertical groove. A.K. Hamilton Jenkin  notes a ‘small building which probably contained the compressor with a hearth for tempering drills’.

Remains of the small building which is sited directly on the course of the leat (3)

Ruined building Looking South East

Ruined building Looking North

The vertical groove in the South East Corner

 From this point to the wheelpit we retraced our steps to a public footpath as no sign of the leat itself remains and it is all on private land. The waterwheel pit itself is situated on the steep sided valley just below the narrow, Skaigh – Sticklepath  road (4), water would have been taken across the road to the wheel via a launder and must have looked very impressive. The drive from this wheel was transmitted to the mine via 2,000 feet of 2½ inch Swedish steel flat rods driving the pumps. It is recorded that the wheel was ‘ Painted bright red and was an object of such terror to horses that it was almost impossible to ride or drive past it’. The wheelpit is still impressive today though much forgotten, being infilled and covered in nettles, the stonework itself is in poor condition.

The Western external wall of the pit which once contained the 70 foot diameter water wheel (4)

The wheel pit looking north showing remains of the Western wall

The route back to the campsite was made following the leat which in places serves as the footpath, this can be easily followed to the outskirts of Belstone village and the Tors Hotel bar (recommended) before staggering back to camp at Cullever Steps, across the moor. The leat itself is about 1¾ miles long and roughly follows the 900ft contour, averaging 2ft wide x 1ft deep. 

Remains of the leat which is in parts now used as a footpath (5)

Jim Smart walking along the line of the leat (6)

References

Mines of Devon. North and East of Dartmoor.  Dr. A.K. Hamilton Jenkin. 1981

 

Nigel Burns & Jim Smart

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