Eylesbarrow Tin Mine and associated remains


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021055

Date first listed: 08-Sep-2003


Ordnance survey map of Eylesbarrow Tin Mine and associated remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Dartmoor Forest

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Sheepstor

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 59733 68119


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Tin has been exploited on Dartmoor since the prehistoric period and surviving remains are numerous, well-preserved and diverse, with the two main types of tinwork being streamworks and mines. The three different forms of tinwork used to mine lode tin were lode-back pits, openworks and shafts. Lode-back pits survive as shallow shafts which were sunk onto the lode outcrop to extract cassiterite. These pits generally occur in linear groups following the line of the lode, with associated spoil dumps. Many tin lodes have been worked at the surface by digging pits onto the backs or surface exposures of the lode to remove the mineral that lay above the water table. Openworks are also known as beams and they were formed by opencast quarrying along the length of the lode. The term openwork refers to the field evidence for opencast quarrying of the lode, which produced relatively narrow and elongated gulleys. Shaft mining is synonymous with underground extraction, with access to the lode being through near vertical or horizontal tunnels known as shafts and adits. Underground workings are often complex in character, with considerable layout variations reflecting developing extraction techniques. Within the vicinity of most mines are found the remains of prospecting activity. This generally takes the form of small pits and gulleys. Some mines have associated surface buildings which provided a variety of services for the working miners. The ore quarried from all three forms of mine was taken for processing to nearby stamping mills. A national survey of the tin industry in England was completed in 1999. This demonstrated the number and diversity of surviving remains and the significance of some areas for understanding the origins and development of the industry. Dartmoor is one such area and here a representative selection of sites with significant surviving remains has been identified as nationally important.

Eylesbarrow Tin Mine contains a broad range of different forms of evidence relating to prospecting, exploitation and processing of both tin deposits and lodes. In particular, the 19th century mining remains represent an important source of information concerning the character of a large scale water powered tin mine, where all the original elements survive in an excellent condition. The survival of so many stamping mills together with a smelting house and full range of mining remains and associated buildings is indeed unique in the South West of England.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the core part of Eylesbarrow Tin Mine, together with adjacent tin streamworks, earlier mining remains, archaeological remains of prehistoric and historic date including a stone hut circle settlement, pillow mounds and field systems situated on the southern slopes of Eylesbarrow overlooking the valley of the River Plym. Tin extraction within the area later to become known as Eylesbarrow Tin Mine probably dates back to at least the 12th century, although it is not until the 16th century that specific documentation is known. Some of the earthworks visible within the monument will certainly be the result of mining activity before the better documented phases of the 19th century. The 19th century mine opened in 1814 and continued until 1852. During this time several companies were formed to run the mine and most failed to make a profit.

A large number of different types of earthworks and structures relating to tin extraction and processing survive within the monument. Amongst the earliest are two areas of streamworking, both of which have been damaged by later mining activity. The streamworks were formed during the extraction of tin deposits using water to separate the heavy tin from the lighter silts, sands and gravels. Once the streamworks were abandoned, the tinners turned their attentions to the lode tin within the area. The first stage was extensive prospecting using both pits and trenches. Large numbers of these features survive within the vicinity of the tin work. The pits were excavated solely by hand but the trenches were formed by using both shovels and running water. The water was brought to the area in leats and stored in reservoirs. Once the lodes had been identified they were extracted using different mining techniques. Foremost among these was the use of opencast quarries known as openworks to extract the lode tin and these survive as deep, steep sided gullys trending approximately east to west. The second form of evidence relating to mining survives as series of deep pits and these are known as areas of lode back tin working. This form of exploitation consists of deep pits being cut onto the back of the lode with the tin ore encountered being raised to the surface. When extraction became difficult the pit was abandoned and a new one opened elsewhere on the lode. The resulting archaeological remains include linear series of deep pits each associated with a spoil dump.

While the earlier mining remains are of considerable significance, Eylesbarrow's importance stems from its unrivalled array of 19th century mining remains making it the largest and most informative example of a large scale water powered tin mine in Britain. At least 27 shafts and five adits were cut to reach the tin lodes, seven whim platforms and two water powered engine wheels were built to power the lifting and pumping machinery, a series of tramways were made to carry the ore to six separate stamping mills and, to complete the picture, a smelting house was constructed to smelt the processed tin from the stamping mills. The size of the operation is further emphasised by the large number of ancillary buildings constructed to serve the mine. Amongst these are a count house, dormitory accommodation, blacksmith's shop, powder houses, sample house and various storage buildings.

The smelting house is of particularly significance because it is the only surviving example on Dartmoor and black tin from other mines was brought here during its nine year life. It survives as a substantial rectangular building containing a blast and reverberatory furnace. The house shares a wheelpit with an adjacent stamping mill and the remnants of a flue lead away upslope towards the remains of a chimney stack. During the nine years that the smelting furnace produced tin metal a total of 276 tons (280 tonnes) were smelted. All the black tin produced at Eylesbarrow before 1822 and after 1831 was probably sent to Cornwall for smelting.

Peripheral archaeological remains associated with the mine include five pillow mounds which were probably built by the miners to provide an additional food source and two field systems in which tinners may have grown crops or kept livestock. The only archaeological remains within the monument which are in no way connected with tin working at Eylesbarrow is a prehistoric settlement at SX59296823 which survives as an oval enclosure containing five stone hut circles.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 34467

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1994), 69
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
English Heritage, NMR Monument Report - SX 56 NE 146, (2002)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2002)

End of official listing