Haytor Area, Dartmoor
Nigel Burns & Jim Smart
Date of visit 30th. June – 2nd. July 2017.
The main point of interest for the weekend was the Haytor Granite Tramroad, however on reading an article in the NMRS British Mining Vol. 44 on mines near Ilsington it was decided to visit here first to see if anything remained of a unique building at the site of Albion Mine, called the Burning House.
Burning house looking North
Burning house looking South
In the article, Mr Richardson describes the building as being almost intact due to it’s use as a hay barn in recent times, however as this was written in 1992 I was half expecting to find an overgrown ruin. We were in for a pleasant surprise. The building is on private land at approx. SX 781766, approaching along a farm track we noticed a car parked roughly on the site, as pure luck would have it the building was being stripped of overgrown ivy and given a general clean up by three girls doing casual work for the farmer.
Jim Smart at entrance to or store, wooden steps made by the girls doing the site clearance.
The filled in hopper in the ore store
The building itself is in amazing condition, it dates from around 1860 and consists of a calciner, approx. 55ft. long x 15ft. wide x 15ft. high, with twin reverberatory type furnaces at either end and a 25ft. high chimney. There is a central doorway on the South side and access to ore stores and charging hoppers via stone steps at each end (see photos below). Tin ore would have been roasted in the ovens prior to further processing. A more detailed description of the building with plans can be found in British Mining 44 Chapter 6.
The following day was spent exploring and photographing the Haytor Granite Tramway. Constructed in 1820, this is another fairly unique feature, Granite from the quarries at Haytor was taken over 8.5 miles with a descent of 1,300 ft. to Stover canal at Ventiford and then by barge to Teignmouth on the South Devon coast. ‘Rails’ for the tramroad were made from individual granite blocks 3-8ft. long and flanged on the inside which were bedded into the ground to form a track of 4.25ft. gauge. Points and crossovers were also made by chiselling grooves directly into the setts.
M.C.Ewans states that the tramway vehicles were probably adapted flat-topped road wagons in trains of twelve each about 13ft. long with a 10ft. wheelbase and pulled by 18 horses.
Looking towards Haytor Rocks
Tramway running through Yarner Wood
The upper section of the tramroad leading from the quarries (SX 760774) of which there are 5 is easy to follow and on the open moorland sections it is very well preserved with nearly all of the setts still in place as can be seen in the accompanying photos. A section which runs through Yarner Wood Nature Reserve (SX 784783) is also quite spectacular. From this point South much of it is either lost or on private ground until reaching Chapple Bridge (SX 803775) where the tramroad crosses the Bovey Pottery leat. This was the extent of our exploration of the tramroad, apparently another section of trackbed has recently been uncovered during roadworks at Ventiford and will be looked at on my next visit.
Tramway junction near to the quarries
Trackbed section through the only cutting on its course
Mention should also be made of the excellent Rugglestone Inn just outside the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor and about 1.5 miles walk from our campsite at Cockingford Farm. A rare traditional Dartmoor pub with local ales and ciders straight from the barrel. The Old Inn in the village is best left to the tourists. The Rock Inn at Haytor Vale is also worth a visit but a bit posh.
References and further reading:-
Mines of Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley after 1913, P.H.G.Richardson. British Mining Vol.44. 1992. N.M.R.S.
Walking the Dartmoor Railroads, Eric Hemery, 1983. David and Charles.
The Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover Canal, M.C.Ewans, 1964. David and Charles.
The Haytor Granite Tramway and Stover canal, Helen Harris, 2002, Peninsula Press.