A 19th century engine house known as Wheal Betsy pumping house, 370m south west of Cholwell.
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. The distinctive tall rectangular engine houses for beam engines are a feature of mining areas. Steam driven beam engines were housed in these buildings usually with attached or closely associated chimneys and were used to pump water up, ventilate or lift the mined products up from underground workings. Internally the buildings often contain platforms to house the machinery known as the ‘cylinder bed’ and ‘cataract pits’ which held water clocks or ‘cataracts’ used to regulate the engine timing. Exhaust steam was removed via an ‘education pipe’ to a condenser housed outside. Usually with several floors to facilitate access to various parts of the machinery and thus enable repairs and maintenance the tall buildings also had a front gantry extending over the pit head like a balcony.
The 19th century engine house known as Wheal Betsy pumping house, 370m south west of Cholwell, lies within a well known mining area, but is the only fully standing engine house of its type on Dartmoor. It has been monumentalised and preserved in a dramatic location and is perhaps one of the most easily recognised landmarks on the moor. Representing the important technological improvements of the 19th century industrial age of invention and innovation, whilst set in an incredibly rich historic landscape it encapsulates the changes and developments in industrial activity and the social and economic conditions which could engender both success and failure.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 11 November 2015. This 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 19th century pumping house situated in a prominent position on Kingsett Down above the valley of the Cholwell Brook. The engine house survives as a roofless narrow rectangular three storied building with its high pitched gable end wall, side walls, front bob wall and an immediately adjacent circular chimney all standing to full height. Built from locally quarried and roughly dressed granite in 1868 to house a Cornish beam pumping engine, the engine house remained in use until the mine closed in 1877. All the door and window lintels were of timber and originally a timber gantry would have extended from the front wall to enable maintenance of the bob or beam. From this point upwards the supporting wall of the building would have been made from timber. The interior of the building was plastered and much of this survives. There is a wide door to the rear where the machinery would have been installed and removed and a smaller pedestrian door. The whole engine house was lit through a series of windows in the north and south walls and there are sockets for stress relieving beams at second floor level. The floor joists were supported by sockets on the east and west walls which were removed during the 1960’s when the whole building underwent repairs and was monumentalised as a ruin. At this time a tie bar was installed to ensure the leaning chimney stack did not collapse. The mine itself produced lead, copper, silver, arsenic and zinc and was known variously as Prince Arthur Consols, North Wheal Friendship and Wheal Betsy. It closed down when it became uneconomic to pump the mine at a time when lead prices were at their lowest. The engine house is surrounded by other mining remains.