Blowing houses at Week Ford
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002602
Date first listed: 23-Feb-1971
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Devon (District Authority)
Parish: Dartmoor Forest
National Park: DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference: SX 66175 72337
A blowing house and a stamping mill 80m south of Week Ford.
Reasons for Designation
Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time.
During the medieval and early post-medieval period, tin ore extracted from mines was taken to stamping mills to be crushed, using heavy iron-shod stamps attached to the lower end of vertical wooden posts called lifters, which were raised using a water-driven rotating axle. Thus raised, the stamps fell under gravity onto the ore, crushing it between the stamp's head and a hard slab of rock called the mortar stone. The original number of stamping mills on Dartmoor is unknown, but at least 60 survive.
Blowing mills (also known as blowing houses) survive as rectangular drystone buildings served by one or more leats and are characterised by the presence of granite blocks with moulds cut into them - bevelled rectangular troughs known as mould stones - and on occasion by the square or rectangular stone built base of the furnace itself. During the medieval and early post-medieval period, black tin (cassiterite) was taken to blowing mills to be smelted. This was achieved by blowing air through the furnace using water powered bellows. Once the tin had become molten, it flowed from the furnace into a float stone and was ladled into the mould stone, in which it cooled to form an ingot of white tin. The original number of blowing mills on Dartmoor is unknown, but at least 26 are believed to survive.
The juxtaposition of the blowing house and the stamping mill 80m south of Week Ford is a rare survival and provides important archaeological evidence relating to tin processing in the early British tin industry and is only found in Devon and Cornwall.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 11 November 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a blowing house and a stamping mill situated on a steep slope in the valley of the O Brook close to its junction with the River Dart. Both buildings survive as small rectangular drystone walled structures. The upper building is a stamping mill. It measures approximately 6m long by 4m wide internally and its walls measure up to 0.5m thick and 1.7m high. At the eastern end is a well defined wheel pit. To the south is a stone built raised bank to bring water to the wheel from the leat leading from the O Brook. On the southern wall of the building is a rectangular recess interpreted as a possible furnace or hearth. There is a clearly defined entrance to the building on the north side. At least six mortar stones lie immediately outside the building, one in the tailrace from the wheel pit. A leat connects the wheel pits of both mills. The lower building is a blowing house and measures up to 10m long by 4.8m wide internally with walls standing up to 1.5m high. To the south east is a small rectangular chamber divided from the building by a wall and the southern end of the building is higher than the northern end with a possible furnace recess in the south western corner. The higher surface seems to indicate the site of a further furnace. The entrance is on the eastern side. Within the building are one complete mould stone and numerous fragments of others. There are also at least six mortar stones in and around the building. The wheel pit is located on the western side. The lower building was partially cleared of tumbled stone by Burnard in the 1880’s. The mills were first documented as ‘Wikeford Mills’ in 1608, they were also known as ‘Beara Mills’ appearing in further documents from 1703 and 1737.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: DV 796
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1994)
PastScape Monument No:-443046
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing