Mining in Devon
Think of mining in the South West and you automatically think of Cornwall, its tin industry and the iconic engine houses. Many people would be surprised to learn that Devon has its own fair share of mining history too. Indeed, the largest copper producer in Europe was not the legendary Dolcoath in Camborne or even South Caradon Mine on Bodmin Moor. The region's top producer was Devon Great Consols near Tavistock. The West Devon area important enough to merit its inclusion in the successful World Heritage bid of 13th July 2006. The area rightly named the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.
DEVON MINES. Use the controls to pan or zoom, or click on a marker to view further mine details.
Devon Great Consols
Devon Great Consols was formed in 1844 from the amalgamation of several smaller concerns including North Bedford Mine and Wheal Maria. Its area (sett) measured over two miles in length amongst the Blanchdown Plantation on the eastern banks of the River Tamar.
The group worked a rich sulphide of copper lode - the largest unbroken copper lode in the South West. As the lode was followed eastwards, other mines were set up along its length including Wheal's Anna Maria, Fanny, Josiah and Emma. By 1848, the group comprised six operations. The nearby mines of Wheal Frementor and Watson also worked the lode - up to 12 metres (40 feet) wide in places and extending to over 300 fathoms (almost 550 metres) in depth.
The abundance of high grade copper caused problems for all the right reasons, as it was difficult to keep a level head with shares changing hands at £800 each! The sheer amount of ore also difficult to house on the surface. The group was, like many others, not without its problems as the vast dividends contrasted sharply with the very poor wages of its workers. Strikes broke out on occasions in an effort to gain better pay and conditions - the mine owners simply drafted in skilled workers from West Cornwall. The mine closed in 1903 and despite brief reworkings in 1915, the mine closed for good in 1925. Today the area is covered by a large conifer plantation.
The Rest of Devon
West Devon and the Tamar Valley are not the only areas of mining activity in Devon. There were a number of mines set up on Dartmoor and in the Teign Valley as well as some operations around Combe Martin and North Molton in North Devon. The mines extracting lead, silver-lead, iron, wolfram (tungsten), manganese, zinc, antimony, arsenic, umber and even gold. We have researched the main mining ventures in Devon and our Devon Mining Database now lists 170 of the larger operations.