Burrow Farm iron mine and section of mineral railway trackbed, 350m north east of Burrow Farm


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


Ordnance survey map of Burrow Farm iron mine and section of mineral railway trackbed, 350m north east of Burrow Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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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 00963 34490

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 the 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. Burrow Farm mine includes the remains of the only Cornish type beam engine house surviving on Exmoor. This building, along with the remains of the mine shaft and the cutting for the West Somerset Mineral Railway alongside it, provides graphic visible evidence of the impact of the mining industry upon the landscape. The engine house is open to public view with access provided by permitted path along the trackbed of the WSMR; information boards explain the working of the mine. The remains of the mine are a 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 world-wide. 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 Burrow Farm iron mine together with a section of the mineral railway trackbed adjacent to it. 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 workable westwards from Raleigh's Cross mine to Gupworthy and beyond. The shaft was sunk through extensive earlier surface workings in 1860 and the extension of the West Somerset Mineral Railway (WSMR) reached it in 1863. The ore that had been stockpiled was loaded on to the railway for transport to Watchet and ultimately for transhipment to the South Wales smelting furnaces. The lode was found to be fickle and the mine closed in 1868 only to be reopened again in 1879 when a new engine house was constructed using materials from the engine house at Langham Hill, some 3km to the east, after operations had ceased there in 1874. Surviving at Burrow Farm mine is the standing beam engine house constructed as part of the 1879 initiative. It is a Listed Building Grade II. The engine house is of `Cornish' type and is the last remaining example on Exmoor. It is roofless but all four walls, built of local stone and the re-used material from Langham, stand to a height of about 10m. The circular chimney of the engine house, which is attached to the north wall, stands to its full height and is constructed of stone for the lower 10.5m and is then finished in brick for the upper 4m. The building received some conservation and restoration work in 1990. Documentary investigations by the Exmoor Mines Research Group have shown that the engine was also brought over from Langham Hill. It comprised a 66cm diameter cylinder with a 2.74m stroke. Two winding drums were set in the space between the stone `loading' (which supported the flywheel, crank, clutch and gearing to the south of the engine house) and the massive stone wall to the west. None of this machinery survives but the stone wall which supported one end of the drum axles, stands to a height of 4m; it was later incorporated into a miners' dry which with dimensions of 9m by 5m which was yet later adapted as a farm building. A horizontal duct through the south west corner of the engine house allowed a pipe to return condensation to the reservoir which survives as a sunken earthwork about 30m to the north west of the engine house. About 30m to the south of the engine house are the earthwork remains of a spoil heap which surrounded the now infilled main shaft. Two other shafts, the North Lode shaft which lies 30m north west of the reservoir, and Gundry's shaft which was sunk in 1866 and lies 230m ESW of the engine house, are both included in the scheduling, together with some openwork trenches of unknown date. The scheduling also includes a 330m long section of the cutting for the West Somerset Mineral Railway which passed immediately to the north of the mine. Sidings constructed in 1880 reached the main shaft by the engine house and allowed the ore to be trucked out to the main line for onward transport to Watchet. The cutting has an average width throughout its length of 16m. The mine closed in 1883 but the mineral railway continued in use for a further 15 years until 1898, providing a mine salvage, light goods and passenger service between Watchet and Gupworthy to the west. All gates, fencing, fence posts, fixed information boards, 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
Jones, M , Burrow Farm Engine House, (1997)
Sellick, R , The WSM Railway and the story of the Brendon Hills Iron Mines, (1970)
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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