Carnarvon New Pit iron mine and section of mineral railway trackbed, 300m south west of Heather House


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


Ordnance survey map of Carnarvon New Pit iron mine and section of mineral railway trackbed, 300m south west 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
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
ST 02057 34260

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. Carnarvon New Pit mine was one of the closest to the head of the Incline (the steepest section of the rail system used to carry the ore to Watchet). 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. 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 Carnarvon New Pit iron mine together with a section of the mineral railway trackbed adjacent to it. The mine, which is located on the north side of the B3190 road, 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, Carnarvon New Pit and the adjacent Raleigh's Cross mine. The first Carnarvon pit was sunk in 1857 through earlier surface workings which lie to the east of the scheduling, but it was abandoned in the early 1860s as the ore was too difficult to reach. The later Carnarvon pit was started in 1866 and the ore platform at the shaft collar was connected by a narrow gauge tramroad to a loading platform over a siding from the West Somerset Mineral Railway (WSMR). From here the ore could be taken on to the railway for transport to Watchet and ultimately for transhipment to the South Wales smelting furnaces. The surviving components of Carnarvon New Pit include the remains of the winding engine house, the main shaft, two air shafts, and sections of the tramroad trackbed and the loading platform. The scheduling also includes a section of the cutting for the WSMR and some openwork trenches of unknown date which lie immediately adjacent and to either side of the main shaft. The outer walls and much of the superstructure of the engine winding house survive to a height of 2m in places. This building, which is about 12m square, lies approximately 30m north of the shaft and is constructed of local stone and brick. Archaeological recording of this building has been undertaken in the early years of the 21st century by the Exmoor Mines Research Group (EMRG) and an interpretative plan has been produced of the findings. Much closer to the shaft are the remains of a smaller and temporary winding engine base with dimensions of 8m by 4m; this has also been recorded by the EMRG. The mineshaft itself is cut vertically at its head for a depth of about 13m, thereafter the shaft angles to the south and has a maximum depth in excess of 152m with 16 levels (galleries). Two air shafts into the mine lie to the west of the main shaft in an area which is pitted with earlier surface workings of unknown date. The tramroad trackbed which carried truck loads of ore to the mineral railway survives as a cutting about 5m wide and is visible for much of its length from the shaft to the loading platform which survives as a bank about 16m long. Running to the south of the mine are the remains of the West Somerset Mineral Railway which provided the means of getting the ore to Watchet not only from Carnarvon pit, but also from Burrow Farm and Gupworthy to the west. A 62m length of the railway cutting is included in the scheduling together with the course of the trackbed as it bent around the south of the mine to incorporate the branch line for the mine trams and the branch line to the Watchet Trading Company stores which stood on the Bampton Road. The mine closed in 1879, re-opened briefly, before closing finally when the leases were surrendered in 1883. 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
Atkinson, M (ed), Exmoor's Industrial Archaeology, (1997), 151-2
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
Jones, M, Notes on some of the Brendon Hills iron mines and the WSMR, 1998, Unpublished report for ex-RCHME
M H Jones, Carnarvon Pit Excavation, 2001, Unpublished plan


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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