Wheal Katherine, 235m west of Plym Ford, forming an outlying part of Eylesbarrow Tin Mine


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021056

Date first listed: 08-Sep-2003


Ordnance survey map of Wheal Katherine, 235m west of Plym Ford, forming an outlying part of Eylesbarrow Tin Mine
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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

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 60832 68441


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.

Wheal Katherine, 250m WSW of Plym Ford, forming an outlying part of 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, a well-preserved stamping mill complete with extensive dressing floor survives in close proximity to an informative group of openworks, lode back pits and shafts.


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


The monument includes structures and earthworks associated with Wheal Katherine situated on the lower south facing slopes of Eylesbarrow overlooking the River Plym. Tin extraction within the area later to become known as Wheal Katherine 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. Wheal Katherine was worked both independently and at times as part of its bigger neighbour, Eylesbarrow Tin Mine. In 1817, three years after work commenced at Eylesbarrow, Wheal Katherine opened, but by the 1830s it formed part of Dartmoor Consolidated Mines, whose major concerns were at Eylesbarrow. Over the following years the mine was managed by various companies before closing finally in 1856.

A 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 truncated 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. The final form of mining is represented by five particularly large pits called shafts and an adit. These would have been dug to reach the tin ore below the depth accessible by openworks and lode back pits. These features probably belong to the 19th century extraction phase. Ore extracted from these shafts and adits would have been processed in the stamping mill and associated dressing floors. The stamping machinery would have sat next to the large stone faced wheelpit and the dressing floor survives as a series of linear and rectangular hollows in the area south of the stamps. Two reck houses in which the tin was further refined survive towards the southern edge of the dressing floor. The final product from this processing area would have been black tin which would have then been transported elsewhere for smelting.

Amongst other structures surviving at Wheal Katherine is a wheelpit at SX61036849 which would have provided power for pumping and perhaps lifting at the nearby shaft, a stone revetted platform at SX60936845 and a semicircular earthwork at SX60696836 both with no obvious function, two tinners' buildings which would have provided shelter or storage, a small building associated with two small fields and several leats.

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: 34468

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
Newman, P, Eylesbarrow (Ailsborough) Tin Mine, Devon, (1999)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2002)

End of official listing