Raleigh's Cross iron mine, 310m south east of Heather House


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Raleigh's Cross iron mine, 310m south east of Heather House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Somerset (District Authority)
Brompton Regis
West Somerset (District Authority)
Huish Champflower
National Grid Reference:
ST 02526 34212

Reasons for Designation

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques, including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and features at extraction sites. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small, relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge, but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to more sophisticated types of furnaces. A comprehensive survey of the iron and steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of sites of national importance that represent the industry's chronological range, technological breadth and regional diversity.

The 19th century iron mines on the Brendon Hills are closely related to the iron industry of South Wales. By 1830 supplies of locally mined ore in South Wales were becoming exhausted at the very time when demand for wrought iron rails was increasing as a result of the spread of railways. It became economically profitable, at least for a period in the mid- to late 19th century, to mine the ore in the Brendon Hills and tranship it to South Wales for smelting. Raleigh's Cross mine, 310m south east of Heather House, one of the closest to the head of The Incline (the steepest section of the rail system used to carry the ore to Watchet) was one of the first mines to be opened and was the last to close. Despite the above ground destruction of its buildings in 1907, the remains of the mine provide a visible reminder of the importance of the iron mining industry of the late 19th century at a time when the British Empire was exercising great influence worldwide; a contemporary photograhic record of the mine buildings also exists. The monument will retain archaeological evidence providing technological information about the mining processes of the period and about the community which grew up around the mines.


The monument includes the greater part of the ruins, earthworks and other remains of Raleigh's Cross iron mine located on the south side of the B3190 road. The mine was one of a number opened on the Brendon Hills in the mid-19th century to exploit the high quality iron ore lode which, on the Brendons, was most productive at two mines, Raleigh's Cross and the adjacent Carnarvon Pit. The Raleigh's Cross mine, which was opened in the 1850s, survives as an infilled shaft together with a group of earth and rubble mounds many of which indicate the position of demolished buildings including the winding engine house, pump house, furnace stacks, miners' dry, locomotive shed, blacksmith's shop and a row of cottages. The foundations of these buildings are thought to survive as buried features, confirmed in some cases by archaeological investigation. Cartographic and archaeological evidence has established the layout of the mine and the locations of all the main components have been identified. The mine was the only one on the Brendon Hills to have separate winding and pumping engines. The mine closed in 1883 and the standing buildings were demolished in 1907 to be used as ballast for the re-opening of the West Somerset Mineral Railway. The foundations however survive and excavations have revealed the plans of both the pump house and winding house whilst the remainder of the general plan is known from recorded sources. The majority of the foundations were covered over following excavation, although some wall footings remain exposed. Raleigh's Cross had been one of the first iron mines to be opened on the Brendon Hills and was considered to be one of the most important during the 30 year period of working until 1883. In May 1858 the mine had been connected by a short branch of railway to the top of the incline which took the ore onto Watchet for transhipment to South Wales for smelting. In 1865 a beam pumping engine was installed and by 1867 the mine was over 116m deep with 17 levels cut east and west. Information for this scheduling has been provided by Mike Jones of the Exmoor Mines Research Group. All gates, fencing, fence posts and telegraph poles are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 145
Jones, M, Notes on some of the Brendon Hills iron mines and the WSMR, 1998, Unpublished report for ex-RCHME


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

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