Morwellham Copper Mine Sign
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Morwellham Manganese Mill Sign

Transcription Morwellham

Manganese Mill

Manganese, a new industrial metal 'discovered' in 1774, was mined in West Devon from around 1815. The ' Tavistock Manganese Mines' mines ranked foremost in Britain and were located 10 miles (16km) north of Morwellham in the parishes of Milton Abbot, Marystow, Coryton, and Brentor. Much of their output was sent by horse and cart to Morwellham to be milled and dispatched by river to various industrial users elsewhere in Britain: glass-manufacturers (for colourising and de-colourising), cotton mills (for bleach- making) and steel makers (for hardening iron).

At Morwellham ( and nearby at Shillamill), hand picked ore from the mines was ground in water-powdered mills. here the mill was an edge-running mill where two upright stones ran on a vertical shaft. Isambard Kingdom Brunel visited during the 1850s and sketched the machinery.

Mill wheel
Upright Grindstone

The construction of the leat to power the waterwheel is likely to have occurred following the opening of the Tavistock Canal in 1817, As early as 1819, 1335 tons of powdered ore was despatched down river to Plymouth. Morwellham's mill became a constant factor in the life of the quay for a least half a century.

The original waterwheel was removed for re-use at Devon Great Consols arsenic refinery in the 1920s. In 1973 an abandoned 32 ft. wheel was salvaged by the Trust from china clay workings at Headon Down, Cornwood, and installed in the original wheelpit..

Manganese Ore occurred close to the surface and was often discovered when ploughing and draining farmland. Some deposits were on the Duke of Bedford's Estate.

Mines' ' Adventurers' included John Williams of Scorrier, the Sims brothers of Calstock, and from Tavistock the Reverend Bray, the Prout family and John Gill.

Chillaton and Hogstor Mine surpassed all others in depth and productiveness.

The population of villages such as Lifton, Coryton, Lewtrenchard and Stowford doubled during the first half of the 19th century.

Milled ore was packed in 4-hundredweight (192kg) casks.

The was a special manganese dock and quay at Morwellham.

The major breakthrough in the use of manganese occurred in 1860 when Sir Henry Bessemer developed the steel making (Bessemer) process which paved the way for the modern steel industry.


Morwellham Garlandstone Ketch detailsTranscription


Pride of the Goss Yard 1909

Garlandstone was the last wooden merchant sailing vessel, except one, to be built in southern England. launched in January 1909, she was the pride of Devon shipwright James Goss and the largest ship built at the small, family-owned, shipyard, a mile or so down the river from Morwellham.

Gifted to the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust by the National Museum of Wales on 20th June 2000, she is the pride of Morwellham Quay a century later.

The Garlandstone ketch rigged and ready for launching, 1908 ketch, two masted: a foremast carrying the mainsail and a mizzen mast carrying the mizzen sail.

Garlandstone was built on speculation and took five or six years to build. She is considered to be a masterpiece of subtle design, elegant yet strong and serviceable, and a rare survivor of James Goss (1848 - 1942). James was short and very strong, said to be able to bend a 6" nail with his bare hands. he could not read or write, he used half-models instead of plans, and accurately marked up timber with his thumbnail. he was an excellent sailor and a brilliant shipwright.

Garlandstone was named by her first owner, Captain Russan of Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, after a conical rock of the Island of Skomer, near to his home. She has led a varied life including surviving two world wars. As a cargo vessel she traded mostly between Britain and continental ports and between Wales, the Bristol Channel and Irish ports. She was also a frequent visitor, in her early years to Cotehele Quay.

James Goss and his men, 1899. Goss leased the former Brooming Shipyard from the fourth Earl of Mount Edgecumbe in 1878, until closure in 1922.

Conservation and Restoration

In the 1960s Garlandstone lay beached and neglected at Barmouth. She was rescued by Robin Kyffin and Colin Lansdown of Portmadog, Wales whom began the long process of restoration. the vessel became part of the newly established Gwynedd Maritime Museum and was subsequently purchased by the national Museum of Wales. in 1987 she was brought to Morwellham and leased by the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust. On the 24th June 2000 she was gifted to the Trust and has since undergone extensive restoration.

2007 - 2008

recent years have taken their toll and during the winter of 2007-08, whilst work was proceeding on the Great Dock, Garlandstone was moved to the graving beach (slipway). Her hull has been caulked and painted, sections of the bulwark have been refurbished, and her spars have been taken down for sanding, painting and varnishing. the Duke of Bedford's Boathouse was transformed into a workshop and local shipwrights and volunteers have been working hard on the maintenance and restoration of hatches, helm and rigging.


The next, major, undertaking is to replace her oak frames and planking below the waterline. this is also a necessary step toward the Garlandstone sailing again and getting a taste of true salt water necessary for preserving her woodwork. it will cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds but will eventually see the ship being sailed to events in Plymouth and other south west ports.

Morwellham The Great Dock and Quays


Morwellham The Great Dock and Quay  - Image

The Marketplace of the Devonshire Great Consolidated Copper Mines
The Great Dock and Quay were constructed in 1857-1858 as a terminus for the sale and export of ore from Devon Great Consols, once the richest copper mine in Europe.

'Doles' (Piles) of Devon Great Consols copper ore awaiting shipment to Swansea, 1868.

150 years ago the scene would be one of a bustling marketplace where some 2,000 tons of ore, per month, was sampled, sold and shipped. Four sizable schooners could be accommodated in the dock and these same ships, which took the ore away for smelting in Swansea, would bring back Welsh coal for the mine's steam engines and foundries.

A typical scene on 'sampling day' at a copper mine. - Join a talk at the Assayer's laboratory (Next to the Copper Ore Cottage) to find out more. Courtesy Royal Institution of Cornwall.

Morwellham was owned by the Duke of Bedford. Its strategic location near to the mines and the top of tidewater, combined with the flat-lying land with enough length and width for quays and docks, was very valuable during the copper boom.

The dock and quay were created on former water meadows, the Great and Lower Meadows, themselves built up from marshlands during the eighteenth century. Construction was undertaken by the mining company under contract to the Duke who was also 'mineral lord' of the mine. The Duke received revenue on every ton of copper ore no less than three times: 'dues' on ore raised in the mine; tolls for carriage on the railway, which was wholly on his land, and whose sidings fanned out on trestles above the quay; and tolls for every ton lying on the quays...

Bedford Estate Plan of Morwellham, 1867. the purple coloured area shows the land lease to Devon Great Consols.

The peak output of copper ore in Devon was 41,513 tons in 1863; Devon Great Consols accounted for 26,693 tons. In the same year, mines on the Duke of Bedford's Tavistock accounted for 19% of the combined output of copper ore from Devon and Cornwall!

The Swansea Connection

Welsh coal combined with copper ore from Cornwall and Devon launched Swansea as the pre-eminent centre of international copper smelting throughout the nineteenth century. Virtually all copper ore from these quays was shipped by predominantly Westcountry-owned schooners, collectively know as the 'Welsh Fleet' to many smelters located in what became titled ' Copperopolis'

Swansea Harbour - White Rocks and Hafod Smelters, Swansea c1830. By Gastineau Hafod, in common with other major copper smelters in Swansea was owned  by a Cornish family, in this case the Vivians(?).

Conservation and Restoration

By the 1930s the Great Dock was so badly silted that it had disappeared from view. by 1970 when the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust was formed, tree grew on the fertile silt.


Archaeological surveys of the docks and quays were commissioned and restoration work began. As much as possible of the original structure was preserved and new round pilings were used to differentiate between the old square timbers still to be seen if one looks carefully. Some areas were re-tiled  and the former raised railway sidings were reconstructed, using evidence from archaeology and contemporary photographs and plans


By the 1990s the timber side walls of the dock had collapsed. During the winter of 2007-08, extensive structural conservation works were carried out, funded by the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project. Most of these works are buried and unseen and involved laying three reinforced concrete ground beams, anchored to vertical and diagonal piles, holding a series of tensioned tie rods to iron loops around the dock piles. New tiles, made specially to resemble the old, were laid in 2008, 150 years after the opening of the Great Dock.

Structural work was carried out successfully during the winter of 2007-08 under appalling conditions of wet weather and two floods.

Cornish Mining, Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Beauty, ERIN, The National Lottery, Heritage Lottery Fund, Devon County Council and others.

Morwellham Devon Great Consols Quays and Great Docks


Morwellham Devon Great Consols Quays and Great Docks - Image

Morwellham at its peak in 1868

This area of the quay space and the Great Dock were created between 1856 and 1858 on water meadows. the meadows in turn had been built up from marshland over many years by placing brushwood to stabilize river silt. Built to accommodate four to six sizeable vessels, the sides of the dock were supported by large squared bulks of timber held in place by iron collars attached to ground anchors. the quays were tiled to prevent loss or contamination of the orestones stored here awaiting shipment.

An inclined Plane railway with sidings raised on trestles delivered the ore.

Morwellham in decline c. 1904; The quays are deserted: The ships are taking away dismantled railways as scrap iron.

The Bessie Belle, and the Matilda in the Great Dock c. 1904.

A sophisticated system of water channels kept the docks of the port free from silt, but as Morwellham declined the system broke down and the docks silted up. By the 1930s the Great Dock was almost obliterated. the timbers of the raised railway sidings, and large sections of the tiles were lifted by the owners of the Port for elsewhere.

Conservation and Restoration

In the late 1970's, after the Port was acquired by the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust, the Trust commissioned archaeological surveys and studies to record the remaining features of the site. it was decided to restore the Dock so as to conserve and retain what remained of the original structure. Round timbers were used throughout to differentiate the 1970's restoration work from the conserved remains of the original structures. the stumps of the original square timbers are thus retained, and  may be clearly seen. New tiles, of a different colour and thickness to differentiate them, were laid to "lock in place" the few remaining sections of the original tiling, and to protect them against the ravages of flood which scour the area from time to time.

1969 Abandoned and ruined, Great Dock barely visible to the right, quay tiles removed or broken.

The raised railway sidings are carefully built replicas based on our archaeological studies and contemporary plans and photographs.

1979 Restoration of the Devon Great Consols inclined railway system.


Morwellham The Devon Great Consols Mine Railway


Morwellham The Devon Great Consols Mine Railway

Devon Great Consols was discovered in 1844 and soon became the richest copper mine in Europe. Later it also ranked as the world's largest producer of arsenic.

Morwellham was the principal Port for the export of its copper ore to smelters in Swansea and for the dispatch of arsenic. Through Morwellham the mine imported Welsh coal for its steam engines and foundries and colossal amounts of Norwegian and American Timber for use underground. In effect, Morwellham became an extension of Devon Great Consols. That extension was physically expressed, from 1858, by the opening of the Mine railway.

the Locomotive Ada


Railway facts

Length 4 miles
Standard Gauge: 4ft 8 "
Bridge rails upon longitudinal sleepers
Journey time for 8 - 10 wagons from mine to Port 20 minutes
Wagon payload 3 tons
Inclined plane gradient 1 in 3
Loco names: Hugo and Ada.

The mine was located over four miles away in Blanchdown Wood, part of the Duke of Bedford's west Devon Estate overlooking the River Tamar. Initially, its copper ore was transported by costly horse and cart to newly-enlarged quays at Morwellham, New Quay and Gawton. But cost was not the only problem: the capacity for carriage was inadequate and so too was that of the ore floors at the above quays. the mine was being forced to limit the quantity offered for sale.

The solution was a railway, built and paid for by the mine, and the construction of a new dock and ore floors at Morwellham carried out by the mine under contract to the Duke of Bedford. from the outset the line was worked by steam locomotive: the first was built in 1856 by Messrs Nicholls, William & Company's Bedford Iron Works in Tavistock. It was the first locomotive built in Devon.

Inclined Plane

the final 240ft. descent to the quays was by a mile long inclined plane railway, powered at the top by a 22-in. stationary steam winding engine built at the mine foundry. Trucks were lowered two at a time down the incline by a 4 in. rope and were balanced by two ascending trucks (there was a passing "loop" half way along the incline). from the base of the incline trucks passed trough a tunnel beneath the cottages and ran out on staging over the ore floors adjacent to the docks and quays. The bottoms of the wagons were hinged so that the ore could be emptied to the floor beneath where required.


Welcome to Morwellham


Welcome to Morwellham

Riverside Mine Railway and Guided Underground Copper Mine Tour

Assayer's Laboratory

Rope-making on the Great Dock

Victorian Costume try-on

Village School

Duke's Drive Ride

The Farm

Morwellham and the 'Cornish Mining' World Heritage SiteTranscription

Morwellham and the 'Cornish Mining' World Heritage Site

Morwellham was once the greatest copper ore port in Queen Victoria's Empire. Its distinguished history and outstanding survival is recognised within the newly designated Cornwall and West Devon Landscape World Heritage Site. this global significance was awarded by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in July 2006, placing our historic mining landscapes on a par with such international treasures as Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Morwellham is owned by the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust, a registered Charity formed in 1970 to conserve, enhance and create access to its historical and environmental assets for education and recreation.

Morwellham is located in the Tamar Valley Mining District and is linked to the Tavistock area by the Tavistock Canal, itself a linear World Heritage site feature.


Morwellham Quay Centre 1972 Transcription


Morwellham Quay Centre 1972

this building was converted and equipped with financial support from: -

Carnegie United Kingdom Trust

Countryside Commission

Dartington Hall Trust

South West Areas Museums Council




Ron Rowledge Transcription


Dedicate to the memory of SRS Fisheries Inspector

Ron Rowledge

Who worked and love this River and its wildlife

Tread softly stranger and quietly walk this way for a host of natures beauties await your every pace and if you look carefully you may just see me chase a long departed poacher who's never seen my face.


In Memory of Thomas Booker Transcription


In Memory of Thomas Booker

1909- 1982

Author and journalist whose book "Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley" inspired the restoration of Morwellham.



Manganese and Arsenic Store, Sims Bros, Calstock Transcription


Manganese and Arsenic Store, Sims Bros, Calstock:

Established 1802

Built c 1820

Workshops and Cottages Morwellham


Workshops and Cottages Morwellham - Images

Constructed around 1790, this complex of buildings was used both for dwellings and as workshops or stores.

Assayer's Cottage and Workshop

the Cottage to the left was originally call Copper Ore Cottage, and for much of the 19th Century it housed the Port's Harbour Master and Assayer, James Medlen and his family.

Researches indicate that the Assay workshop was located alongside the cottage to the right, from the1850's. The usage of the rest of the building is unclear, but it is likely that the Cooperage, known by several records to have existed in this area of the Port, was sited here.


Miner's Cottage

At the rear, a tiny three roomed cottage was occupied by a miner's family for much of the 19th Century. In the 1930's according to the Port's oldest inhabitant, Mr. Hedley Higman, it was briefly used as an assay office. Mr. Higman also recalled that the Smithy was also sited in this building with the round pillars adjacent to the Manganese Mill. in the late 19th Century Copper Ore Cottage was taken over by Captain Adams, a Tamar Barge Master and his family; it later became known as Quay Cottage.

Conservation and Restoration

When the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust acquired them in the late 1970's the building were sadly neglected and the Smithy was very badly ruined. Conservation work and considerable renovation were carried out using contemporary plans and photographs. The Smithy, however, required more intensive renovation to preserve it; here only the darker patches of stone walling are original.

Morwellham Quay Centre 1981 Transcription


Morwellham Quay Centre 1981

this building was converted and equipped with financial support from: -

Carnegie United Kingdom Trust

Supported by the Countryside Commission



ERIH Morwellham

Morwellham News

April 2010 /

Morwellham Quay has been bought by Simon and Valerie Lister, who run Bicton Park Botanical Gardens near Budleigh Salterton in Devon.



George and Charlotte Copper Mine Transcription


George and Charlotte Copper Mine, Morwellham

Ride the riverside tramway

Journey underground into a Victorian Copper Mine

Explore the ancient Port

Ramble on guided trails set in beautiful countryside

Discover the farm, Lime Kilns, Waterwheels and much, much more.

Near Tavistock, West Devon A390





George and Charlotte Mine Tramway Morwellham Transcription


George and Charlotte Mine Tramway

Entrance tickets needed

For your safety

Take a seat until the Miner calls you.

No Flash photography in the mine.

Adults must accompany children under 16.


For your comfort

Mine temperature approximately 55o F this will feel cold on a warm day

Under fives may be frightened by noise and darkness.


Please note some mine trains are reserved for booked parties/ schools.

James Medlan Transcription


Assayer's laboratory

Mr. James Medlan,

Devon Consols Mine

Devonshire Great Consolidated Copper Mining Company Transcription


Devonshire Great Consolidated Copper Mining Company

Higher Copper Quay

Constructed 1849

Morwellham Quay and Copper Mine Transcription


Morwellham Quay and Copper Mine

Tamar Valley Area of outstanding beauty

Cornish Mining World Heritage


Small Limekiln Morwellham Transcription

Small Limekiln Morwellham

This Limekiln was excavated in details by Morwellham Archaeology group during 2008.

 The work showed many separate periods of construction and development, probably beginning in the early 18th century, although line burring for mortar and fertiliser is recorded at Morwellham from as early as the 1570s.

The structure will be conserved in 2009 - 2010.

This area was where the limestone and coal was tipped into the kiln's combustion chamber from carts, which was back up to it. If you look carefully, broken limestone can be seen, on the ground trodden in by horses' hooves and cart wheels.

After the kiln was abandoned in 1856, the combustion chamber was filled in with domestic rubbish and rubble. We found many pieces of broken china, glass and ginger beer bottles there during the excavation, probably used in the Ship Inn.. the kiln top then became a vegetable garden.

The Area around Morwellham

Links: Background of Morwellham, Bere Ferrers Project, Books, Burrator Reservoir, Copper Mining History, Cornish Mining, Dartmoor Paintings, Diary, Dousland, ERIN, Friends of Morwellham, Garden House, Google, Families, Family HistoryHistory, History Society, Hotels, Local News, Map, Mining, Nature Reserve Nature Reserve leaflet, Official web-site, Opening  Times, Rope Making, Sheepstor, Shops, Tamar Valley, Tavistock, Tavistock History, Transport, TravelWikiYelverton


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