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                                                           Quarries and mines

'Mining speculation is very brisk in this vicinity....'
Exeter Flying Post 30 May 1850 p8 col4

                                            Tin and Copper Mining

                                                         Ashburton as a stannary town

See also Local administration, under Gathering together.

A stannary town is a town where refined tin was checked for quality, weighed, stamped and assessed for the payment of duty.    

'Ashburton finds mention in the very earliest of our mining records - a letter in the Black Book of the Exchequer, concerning the proceedings of William de Wrotham, appointed Custos or Keeper of the Stannaries in the place of.  Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Justiciary of England, in 1197. Two months afterwards, on the 19th of January, 1198, Wrotham took the Stannaries of Devon in hand; and on that day, with the sheriff and various men of note, made enquiry, on the oaths of twenty-six wide and discreet jurors, concerning the weights by which the tin was accustomed to be weighed, and the custom to the king paid. One of these jurors was Osbert Prigge, of Ashburton. There was likewise a John Prigge, who may or may not have been related.
In this document* elaborate regulations for the management of the Stannaries were laid down...

...In the 33rd of his reign (1305) Edward I granted charters to the tinners of Cornwall and Devon, which for the first time recognized them as distinct bodies. Lydford was appointed as the Stannary prison in Devon; and it was decreed that all tin, whether white or black (metal or ore), wheresoever found or worked in the county, should be weighed by the king's weights, and coined at "Tavystok, Asperton, vel Chaggeford."...

...It is abundantly evident that this charter merely confirmed in many respects that which was already practised, as the charter of John had rather reaffirmed old conditions than created new ones. One fact will make this clear. There is now in the Public Record Office a tin coinage roll of two years' earlier date than this charter, in which Chagford, Ashburton and Tavistock are named as the coinage towns.'
R N Worth, The Ancient Stannary of Ashburton, Tranactions of the Devonshire Association, 1876 vol 8, p312ff
*Worth says that a translation is given in the Appendix to De la Beche's Report on Cornwall and Devon

According to Worth Plympton was made a Stannary town in 1328, initially instead of Tavistock (although Tavistock was later re-instated). ' "Because the town of Tavistock is far distant from the sea, and the tin there weighed and coined cannot without great expense be brought to the sea, for which reason merchants and others rarely come to the aforesaid town of Tavistock to buy tin" to the loss of the Crown and the injury of the said Stannaries; therefore coinage was to take place at Ashburton, Chagford, and Plympton, "which are near the sea, and not at Tavistock" '
Patent roll, 2nd Edward III, quoted in Worth (above), p314

Circa 1310* the tin-miners,(stannary men) of Devon petitioned the King for a Tuesday market and a twice-yearly fair at Chagford. They said that the late king had granted them 'many liberties' in Devon, and that they were 'assigned to live in three vills, namely Tavistock, Ashburton and Chagford.' The Chagford men complained that although they still held their courts and pleas in the town there was no market or fair where food, drink and other necessities could be purchased.

The council considered that the request should not be granted because of the damage to neighbouring markets and fairs of the Bishop of Exeter and Hugh de Courtenay.

*A note says that the dating of this petition is unsatisfactory, and may be from considerably later.

National Archives ref SC 8/42/2098 See below for more on references to records

Available to view for free from - Accessed 4-1-2014


By the Ordinance of Kenilworth, 1 May 1326, King Edward II appointed certain towns as staples - ie that merchants within those towns had the exclusive rights to purchase certains good for export. The goods concerned were wools, hides, woolfells* and tin, and the towns included Newcastle upon Tyne, York, Norwich, Exeter, Winchester and Cardiff. Ashburton was specifically mentioned as the only place for Devonshire tin:

'And for the tin in Cornwall, at Lostwithiel and Truro. And for the tin of Devonshire, at Ashburton, and not elsewhere in England, Ireland and Wales...
...And that all alien people there...may freely buy and seek wools, hides and fells and other merchandise, and tin in Ashburton, Lostwithiel and Truro, and not elsewhere, and when they have bought their merchandise at the said places...and paid their customs, and have thereon letters sealed with the seal of the cocket**, they may carry [the merchandise] into what land soever they will...'
*Skin of eg a sheep with the fleece still attached
**Customs officers
Patent Roll 19 Edward II, Part 2, m8, translated by Bland, Brown and Tawney, English Economic History, select documents, pp181ff

Document E 179/95/28 in the National Archives is a certificate of exemption connected with the Ashburton Stannary, recording the names* of individuals exempted from some sort of tax. It is dated 1373. - Accessed 5-1-2014
*Much of it is apparently illegible


Document SC 6/827/13 in the National Archives includes the accounts of the Bailiffs of the Stannaries of Chagford, Ashburton, Tavistock and Plympton. It is dated between 1388 and 1390. - Accessed 5-1-2014

Circa 1481/82 a dispute involving 'a tinwork called Higher Schutelak within the jurisdiction of the prince's court of Ashburton according to the custom of the stannary,' resulted in 'a great number of armed men' entering the court of Ashburton.
National Archives SC 8/344/E1287 - Accessed 5-1-2014


At about the same date Roger Shyre (Shire) tenant and tinner, together with John Elys (Ellis) and Joan Elys (Ellis), widow, petitioned the Prince of Wales. They were 'seised of a tinwork called Devlecombe lying in the moor in the jurisdiction of the court of Ashburton', but others seized tin belonging to them. They could not get justice in the Ashburton court, they claimed, because one of the perpetrators was the Bailiff there.
National Archives SC 8/344/E1288 - Accessed 5-1-2014
This document can be downloaded for free.


In 1482 Simon Aysshe (Ash) tinner, John Sowdon, tinner, John Shavener, tinner, John Lambsed, tinner and John Ley, tinner had a dispute with Revell and Edward over the ownership of Gryball Parke, also called
Holeclyff, a tinwork or mine within the jurisdiction of the prince's tin court of Ashburton. They claimed that some of the old customs were being broken, and that this would 'be to the destruction of the tincourt.'
National Archives SC 8/344/E1284 Accessed 5-1-2014   This document can be downloaded for free.                                                                                   


Circa 1533 - 1538 John Wynter took Thomas Revell to court over the forgery of a grant of land and pasture called Tynwork in Ashburton, Devon.
National Archives C 1/923/73-76 - Accessed 7-1-2014 


Circa 1538-44 brothers Christopher and Thomas Denbowe were in dispute over a tenement in London, bequeathed to them by their father Christopher. The price of the tenement was partly determined by the sale of goods and a tinwork in Ashburton  

National Archives C 1/980/34     - Accessed 7-1-2014 

All records coded SC come from various departments, and were formerly entitled Special Collection

All records coded C are records created, acquired and inherited by Chancery, or are of the Wardrobe, Royal Household, Exchequer and various commissions.


1547-48 George Wyndeate was paid 2s for riding to Exeter for 'le tynn wyghtes.'

Churchwardens' Accounts of Ashburton 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, printed Devonshire Press 1970, p121


1563 A letter of attorney kept in the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office involves Richard Luscombe of Ashburton, a groom, and Richard Harell. It concerns a tinwork in Lemmenforde Combe, Ashburton stannery., ref 372/3/1/4


Left: A triple mortar stone at Venford Reservoir, near Holne. A plaque above says, 'This Mortar stone dates to about AD 1600 and was used as a base on which tin ore was crushed; the cup shaped hollows were formed by the mechanical action of stamps powered by a water wheel early this century. The stone was removed from a site to be flooded by the reservoir and placed here in 1984'.
My own photograph 2018

At one of the meetings of the Field Club, the group observed ancient tin workings at Waterleaf* Bridge.

Western Times 26 May 1922 p10 col1

* This surely must be Waterleat Bridge

A dispute between Teague and Clarges (?) at sometime between 1809 and 1813 involved copper and tin mines in Ashburton and Hennock, Devon and Calstock, Cornwall
National Archives C 114/115
Chancery, the Wardrobe, Royal Household, Exchequer and various commissions - Accessed 13-1-2014

'The average quantity of tin raised in Devon for six years, ending at Michaelmas 1820, was 1171 blocks, weighing 586 cwt and 9lbs, and yielding a duty of 45l.17s.9d......Wheal Union in Ashburton, and Bottlehill in Plympton St Mary, are, or were lately, working for tin and copper.
Magna Britannia, Rev. Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons, Vol 6, London 1822, p cclxxxi

'Tin was formerly smelted and coined in the county, but since the produce raised has been so much diminished, it has been taken into Cornwall to be smelted.'
ibid, cclxxxii

1828. When Lower Whiddon Farm was sold, the advertisement mentioned that a 'valuable tin mine...but little worked' was on the 92 acre estate.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 June 1828 p1 col1


'At the present time (1831) the state of mining in this county is at a low ebb. Various copper lodes have been tried since the period to which the preceding accounts relate; and though ore has been found in many, the quantity has not often been sufficient to pay for the working of them.'
The history of Devonshire, the Rev. Thomas Moore, undated, p529

Peter Coade of Kay, Cornwall, who had lived in Ashburton for about 30 years, died at Rose Cottage, Ashburton in February 1845. He had been Captain of various tin and copper mines in the district, and those who worked for him found him to be 'a kind master and a benevolent friend.' A Wesleyan and supporter of Reform, he was well respected. Mr Coade was 69.
Western Times 8 February 1845, p3 col1

The only quarrying or mining activities specifically labelled on the 1840 tithe map of Ashburton are tin mines near Owlicombe. The Rev. Thomas Moore, above, says that the Owlacombe mines were abandoned circa 1815; however, as the items below show, there was obviously activity there later on.

Capt Kernick had a remarkable escape at the Owlacombe Mine in 1848. He fell 42 feet when a rope broke whilst he was descending a shaft. He was unharmed, and later walked the two miles to Ashburton.

Western Times 9 November 1848 p5 col2

7 years earlier Philip Nicholls had not been so lucky. A memorial in St Andrew's churchyard records that Philip was killed in Owlacombe mine on June 19th 1841. He was 33 years old.
The 1841 census, taken in the same month that Phillip was killed, shows Philip and his wife Mary living at Rewlea. Philip was a tin miner.
1841 census HO107, piece no 253, folio 5, p4

The Western Times reported on the inquest. Philip had been working on the side of a shaft when the board he was standing on broke: he fell 216 feet and died immediately. A verdict of 'Accidental death' was recorded. He left a wife and two children.
Western Times 26 June 1841, p3 col2

Right: A memorial to Phillip Nicholls, and to three of his children - William, Charlotte and Charles
My own photograph 2020

'Valuable mining leases' of the Ashburton United Tin and Copper Mines, with about 20 years to run, were up for auction in the autumn of 1850. Mr H C Creagh was to conduct the auction, which was being held at the counting house at the mine, near Ashburton. Machinery, dressing floors and calcining ovens were included in the sale - viewers had to contact Capt. Kernick at the mines.
Exeter Flying Post 15 August 1850 p1 col2

In 1851 steam machinery was being installed at the West Beam and Owlacombe tin mines.

There was optimism of returns from Old Brimpts Tin Mine and South Plain Wood. A shaft was still being sunk at South Plain, but some 'fine specimens' of copper had been found. 

Western Times 24 May 1851 p7 col2

Left: Advertisement for shares in The Owlacombe Beam and Union Tin and Copper Mining Company.
The Mining Manual and Almanack for 1851, compiled by Henry English, London, 1851
Freely available through Google books - Accessed 6-12-2015

A year later the Owlacombe Beam and Union Mines are up for sale. Described as occupying an area of one square mile three miles north of Ashburton, the mines were formerly known as the Ashburton United mines.

The machinery included four water wheels, the largest 40 foot in diameter.
Exeter Flying Post 18 March 1852 p1 col2

A verdict of accidental death was returned at the inquest of John Henry Campion, a miner from Bickington, in August 1906. He was killed by an explosion at the Owlacombe Tin Mine on July 26th. Seven holes had been bored in a new shaft that was being sunk, and it was thought at the time that six of them had exploded properly. It now appeared that one of the six charges only partially exploded, and when the deceased struck it the remaining portion exploded and killed him.
Norman Grose of Ilsington had bored the hole, and his brother Sidney charged it. The holes were under water after the explosion, and so could not be examined. There was no reason to think that the six holes had not exploded properly, and the condition of the seventh was explained to the afternoon shift.
One of the miners was asked how they fired the fuse, and he said that they cut a slit in the end and put a piece of dynamite in it. Asked where they got it from, he said that they cut a bit off. 'Do you mean that you take the gelignite out of the packet and cut a bit off?' 'Yes'. the miners used about four foot of fuse for the first hole, and four foot two inches for the second. Asked how they lit it, the miner replied that they used a candle. Sometimes they put a piece of candle under the fuse to burn through the covering. Asked whether they had ever heard that this was dangerous, the miner replied, 'No'.
The inquest later heard that dynamite was kept in a box at the adit level, and brought down as required. All the men were supplied with tins, which they were supposed to use to bring the dynamite down. Asked what became of these tins, the witness said that they had disappeared - the miners used them as watering cans.
Various theories could be advanced as to what had happened on this occasion. In summing up the Coroner spoke of the risks in mining, and said that the utmost care must be taken to examine holes after an explosion. He also said that regulations concerning carrying dynamite in tin cans had not been observed, and this must be rectified.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 4 August 1906, p5 col7

A new steam engine was installed in the Silver Brook Mine in 1852, made by Messrs Nichols, Williams and Co. of Tavistock. Mr Matthews, the engineer, demonstrated how efficiently the machine cleared the water, much to the shareholders' satisfaction. A dinner was held at the Golden Lion Hotel afterwards, with Henry Caunter giving speaking about the 'underground appearances of the mine'. The Ashburton Harmonic Society added to the enjoyment of the evening.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 20 November 1852, p3 col6

In 1856 the Silver Brook Lead and Zinc mine was 'looking better'. Captain Hampton had been appointed appointed to inspect the mine once a fortnight.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25 October 1856, p8 col5


A lode of tin was allegedly discovered on the Druid Estate in 1851.
Western Times 24 May 1851 p7 col2

In 1852 John Sparke Amery of Druid, Ashburton, James Whitton Arundell of 11 Chancery Lane, Middlesex, William Williams of Buckfastleigh, (mining agent ) and Edward Preston Walker of Arlington Street, Middlesex,  entered into a 7 year lease 'To search for ores, metals and minerals in Druid and Rew Down'
The documents, ref 2180/7  1852, are held at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. 

May 1852 The Wheal Arundel Mine was opened on the Druid Estate, belonging to John Sparke Amery. Capt Williams was the superintendent.
Western Times 8 May 1852 p7 col3

A prospectus for the Arundel Copper mine (sold privately, not in my possession) stated that there were three separate mining setts, held from the freeholder John Sparke Amery, for a period of 24 years. 10,000 shares of £1 each were offered. The prospectus, date unknown, included six reports by committee members: Joseph John William Watson, William Williams, Captain James Carpenter, and Captain Michael Stephens.

A statement in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette duplicates many of the above details. The 'richness of the ores' and 'abundance of the lodes' meant that expensive machinery would not be necessary to extract the minerals.

Johnson and Matthey, 29, Hatton Garden, London, allegedly assayed a sample and found 8½% pure copper.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 10 July 1852 p2 col4

The lode at the Wheal Arundel Mine, 'on the Druid Estate' was said to be 'most promising.'
Western Times 2 October 1852 p7 col5

Later that month the proprietors of the Wheal Arundel mines established a fund to provide for workers who were ill or who had been involved in accidents. The Western Times believed it to be the first in the country. And in 1853 the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette praised the same company for distributing wood and coal to its workforce.

Western Times 30 October 1852 p7 col3 

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 March 1853 p4 col2 

In May of the same year Mr. Josiah Hitchens had prepared a very favourable report on the mine. Confident that it would be profitable, he encouraged the installation of a steam engine and the sinking of a substantial shaft. Having become a shareholder, Mr. Hitchens asked for the remuneration for his services to take the form of 'an interest in the dividend development'. Although there had been considerable expenditure in the mine, the company was still £3754 8s 5d in credit. The miners had been provided with a library.

London Daily News 27 May 1853, p6 cols3,4

Mine no. 38, Devon Great Elizabeth, Copper, Ashburton, suspended 

Mine no. 39, Devon Great Huel Ellen, Copper and tin, Ashburton, purser or secretary Thos. Showell, suspended.                                                                  Mine no. 42, Devon New Copper, P., Copper, Ashburton, purser or secretary J Sparke Avery, suspended.                                                                                Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Brtain....Mineral Statistics for year 1864, Robert Hunt, HMSO, London, 1865, p245

A burial record entry in the Ashburton parish records shows a William Taylor, aged 54, being buried on March 5th, 1857. A note says, 'Killed at Druid Mine, Ashburton.'
Parish records

1867 An inquest was held at Husson's Globe Inn on 12 year old Edwin Langworthy. He had been killed by being struck in the chest by the capstan arm at Druid Mine.
Verdict: Accidental death. The coroner recommended that measures be taken to improve the safety around the capstan arm.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 15 February 1867, p7 col4

Edwin was with his parents, grandmother and seven siblings in the 1861 census, living in the Great Bridge area. His father Edward was a tin miner.

H Barden (Bardon in other reports, but perhaps should be Barton? See below), Managing Director of Druid Mine, was one of the guests at the 9th Devon Rifle Volunteers' dinner, held at the London Inn
Western Times 1 March 1867, p8 col5

September 1869 The old steam engine was being removed from Druid Mine. A more powerful machine was going to be installed to increase production.
                                                                                                      Western Times 24 September 1869 p7 col3

New Victoria South Devon Mining Co. (Ltd), parish and post town, Ashburton; Newton Abbot station; copper; committee; Secretary, John G Barry, London; local purcers and managers, W Skewis and Moses Bawden, Tavistock; offices 8, Old Jewry, E.C.
The Cornwall and Devon Mining Directory, compiled by J Williams, Hayle, Truro, St Austell and London, 1870, p87

Some reworking of the Druid Mine began in August 1872. Contaminated water flowed into the river Yeo (Ashburn), killing hundreds of trout and eels.
                                                                                                    Western Times 30 August 1872, p8 col2

On January 1st 1873 John Sparke Amery leased Setts nos. 1, 2 and 3 to Henry Barton Esq.
Documents in my possession

Above: Map as shown in lease

The 28 year lease was for 'All manner of mines and veins of tin, tin ore, copper, copper ore, lead, lead ore, and all other ores, metals and minerals whatsoever...that may be found out by observation digging sinking shafts or otherwise'. The area involved was the Druids Estate or the fields near the Borough Wood, excepting the Borough Wood Estate and the Lower Boadley Estate, together with Druid House and Druid Cottage. The lease did not cover the Plantation behind Druid House ('as far as the top of Kitly Park') or the field called The Paddock in front of the house, plus Lower Moor or Cottage Meadow, Higher Moor, Water Turn, or King's Close - all the areas coloured yellow on the map.

Above: The original lease to Henry Barton

The following year Henry Barton, Thomas Watson Duncan (trustee for the company) and the East Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Company entered into an agreement transferring the lease. Three thousand pounds was paid, plus 700 fully paid up shares of £100 each.
The yearly rent was £40, payable quarterly, with the first payment at Ladyday (the other quarters being Midsummer, Michaelmas and Christmas); a clause also ensured that John Sparke Amery received a twentieth share of the sales should that twentieth share match the rent of £40.
Above: The transfer of the lease to the East Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Company
Above: The agreement to lend the East Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Company £3000
Below: Detail from the mortgage agreement
On 22nd June 1874 the Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Company borrowed money from James Sym, of Lanark, coalmaster (£2000), Alexander Rae, also of Lanark, surgeon (£500), and Thomas Duncan from near Glasgow, banker (£500).
The money, plus interest, was to be repaid the following December - failure to do this incurred interest penalties, and ultimately gave the three men the right to sell the premises.

A handwritten note says that James Sym was a coal master from Dalserf, Lanarkshire; Alex Rae was a surgeon at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire; and Thomas Duncan an accountant and bank agent from Lark Hall, Lanarkshire, an agent for the City of Glasgow Bank.
Above: Seals and signatures of the three men lending the company money, plus seal (red) of the East Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Co.
 See the Virtual Museum 1870s section for the company seal in detail.

East Dartmoor Tin and Copper Mining Company (Ltd.), T Watson Duncan, secretary, 146 Buchanan Street, Glasgow
Scottish Post Office Directory 1874-75, p168

Above: Letter from solicitors Saunders, Hawksfird and Bennett.
From my own collection

There were problems by 1875. A letter from solicitors Saunders, Hawksford and Bennett (which appears to be going to a Mr Browne) says the following: 'East Dartmoor Co. We could not see Mr Barton until 4 o'clock today hence we replied to your telegram - we really must ask a few days leniency from you as illness prevents the attendence in town of the brokers who have explained to Mr Barton (through the broker's son whom he has seen today) his willingness to give assistance to Mr Barton both to make good the arrears of interest and development of the mine by means of the sale of White----- ------- - no good can come of forcing a sale of plant in these troublous times and we know that Mr Barton is doing everything in his power to put all things straight.'

Items from the London Gazette plus additional sources

Joint Stock Companies.

Under a Companies Act of 1880, certain companies were given notice that they would be dissolved after 3 months and struck off the register, unless they could prove that this should not be the case

The following companies were named in connection with this Act - they may not be connected with the town:

East Ashburton United Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd
London Gazette Issue 25040 22 November 1881, p5724

The company was struck off in the following March

East Ashburton United Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd. Registered between 1844 and 1856, and either dissolved before 1856 or re-registered by 1860
National Archives BT 41/206/1167
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 13-1-2014

Company No: 1272; East Ashburton United Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd. Incorporated in 1858. Dissolved before 1916

National Archives BT 31/350/1272
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 13-1-2014



Ashburton Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd

London Gazette Issue 25241 12 June 1883, p3040

The company was struck off in the following September

See Druid Mine, right                         

Ashburton Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd. Truro Registry Company No 203. Incorporated 1872, dissolved by 1914                 

National Archives BT  286/288
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 14-1-2014

Above and below: Druid Mine, known by a variety of names at different times, including the Ashburton Tin and Copper Mining Company Ltd.
My own photographs 2012

For a detailed description of the mine, plus drawings, see A Survey of Engine Houses on the Mines of South Devon, Richard W M Nance and R Damian Nance, The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, Vol 13, No 2, p 114ff.

Local wills. Mr. James W Chenhall of Totnes, civil engineer, left £1279 gross. He was formerly with the Old Druid Mines, Ashburton

Western Times 26 March 1914 p3 col7

See also A Vignette on Druid Mine in Devon, publ. Northern Mine Research Society, Sheffield, 1995 - Accessed 22-2-2016

South Plain Wood (Ashburton), copper; purser - J Nicholson; offices, 90, New Bond Street.                          The Mining Guide, publ. at the office of The Mining Journal, London, 1853, p54

There was concern in 1853 about the spiritual needs of the influx of miners to the Ashburton area, who were, said the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 'scattered on the hills like sheep which have no shepherd'. The owners of the Devon Tin Mines had built an iron-house at Dartmeet, which could accommodate 100 people for worship, but the Church was proving inflexible at organizing services by 'missionary' chaplains.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 17 December 1853 p4 col2                                                                   

There was almost full employment in the Ashburton area in 1855 - the industries quoted were the mines, the woollen industry, and the Penn Recca slate quarries*.
*In Staverton parish

1860. A meeting of miners and working men was called with the aim of improving their social and mental well-being. The Chairman asked, 'Where was the Mechanics' Institute? Where was the museum? Where was the free library?' None of these institutions existed.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 November 1860 p7 col3

1861  A fall of earth buried two boys, both named Cox, whilst they were working in the Ashburton United Mine. They were quickly dug out, but one died of his injuries.

Western Times 21 December 1861 p3 col3


                               'Gross swindling may be perpetrated under the form of mine speculation.'
Western Times 13 April 1861 p5 col3

When E Wadge* married Mary Ann Mortimore at the Independent Chapel in March 1861, he was described as 'clerk to the Ashburton United Mines'.   

Western Times 23 March 1861 p5 col5

*Edwin Harvey Wadge and Mary Ann Harriet Mortimore                                                                  

In April 1861 a case was heard at Exeter County Court where William Richards, captain of the West Ashburton Mine, was claiming £10 10s wages from Charles Wescomb, as one of the shareholders. The defence was that Mr Wescomb was merely acting as an agent.

The mine was started by William Richards and Capt. Philip Hawke in 1859 under the name of the East Hazel Mine, and Mr Erwin H Wadge had subsequently become involved. Mr Wadge was now articled to a solicitor in Teignmouth, but had then been living in Ashburton. A gentlemen's servant became the fourth shareholder. In March 1860 Mr Wadge had transferred all his shares to a new shareholder and resigned from the partnership. The new shareholder had the books examined, and Mr Wadge was called upon to correct errors and omissions before a meeting to be held in July 1860. Instead Mr Wadge and others, including his brother Edwin Wadge, seized the books and carried them off. The case, which was adjourned, got more complicated, not least because the name of the mine was changed from East Hazel to West Ashburton.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 12 April 1861 p10 col3

The Western Times was forthright in its analysis. Stating that 'fine copper lodes' had allegedly been indicated, it suspected 'gross swindling' (see quote above). The paper warned that people who tried to get rich quickly might keep their innocence, but not their money.

Western Times 13 April 1861 p5 col3


Cornwall Record Office holds the cost and report book, tutwork setting book, ledgers, bank book, shares register and miscellaneous papers for the East Brockwood Tin Mine, Ashburton, 1860-1880. Ref DD/STA


1865 'A brace' of miners, Johns and Kingdom, were remanded on bail. Johns, whilst drunk, had assaulted Constable Balsdon; Kingdom had then become involved, and he was charged with unlawful interference.  Western Times 5 May 1865 p7 col2


'Buried Alive.' In 1867 an abandoned mine shaft was being filled in near Ashburton. Mr Andrews, a farmer, was standing within forty feet of the shaft when the ground collapsed, completely burying him. It was several hours before men were able to dig the body out, which was 'standing erect'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 16 August 1867 p7 col2


In 1870 the returns of copper ore from the Brook Wood Mine were encouraging

Western Times 6 June 1870 p2 col5


1873 Three miners from Ashburton, James Pearce, Joshua Leaman and William Bramwell, were summoned for not paying a labourer whom they had sub-contracted to work for them at Town Wood Mine, Ilsington. They were ordered to pay the full amount of 12s wages, plus £1 5s 3d costs.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25 February 1873 p4 col1


Partnership dissolved between William W Mansell, Geo. Peverall and Wm Stansfield, working the Bowdon Hill Mine in the parish of Ashburton

London Gazette Issue 23936 10 January 1873, p92


'The population of Ashburton has declined steadily since 1861, in consequence of the decrease of mining operations'.

White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of Devon, 1878-79, p82 


'The copper and tin mines are not worked at present.'

Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1889 p24

'Only Owleycombe mine (arsenic) and Hensroost mine (tin) were working within my memory days but only sporadically. The big water wheels at Druid and Whiddon mines were still in existence.'
John Satterly, Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 84, 1952, p32

Ashburton references from Observations on the West of England Mining Region, vol 14 of The Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, J H Collins, Plymouth, 1912:
Arundel Mine. See Victoria Mine. p405
Ashburton Consols. An unimportant copper mine. Afterwards worked for tin as Ashburton United. 1858-59, sold tin ore £1465; arsenic £38. p405
Ashburton Umber Works. A small open work. p405
Ashburton East. Tin; of little importance. p405
Ashburton West. Copper and tin; never of much importance. p405
Dart United. An unimportant copper mine. p467
Devon, New Wheal. An unimportant copper mine. p468
Ellen, Great Wheal. Prospected for copper and tin. p476
Hazel, Wheal. An unimportant tin and copper mine. p507
Hazel, East Wheal. Ditto. p507
Holme Moor Mine. Sold some tin-stone in 1854-5. p510
New Victoria. A small mine, prospecting for manganese in 1870. p538
Owlacombe Mine. Has been worked at several different times in association with the Stormsdown Mine (which see) or otherwise, but so far not very successfully. p542
Roborough Mine. In 1879 was worked for umber. p568
Smith's Wood Mine. Has produced some tin ore. p581
Victoria Mine. Otherwise the Arundel Mine, and later New Victoria. Has yielded some copper ore. p608


'With regard to the trappean rocks*, the intrusion of many amid the slates and limestones after the consolidation of the latter deposits, is very evident. The example beneath, taken from Luscombe's Quarry, North Street, Ashburton, as it appeared in 1832 is as good, probably, as we can select.'
Report on the geology of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset, Henry Thomas de la Beche, printed for HMSO, London, 1839 p67
*Igneous rocks

'In the town of Ashburton, and in the street leading out to Buckland, is a large quarry in which broken beds are visible completely included in the greenstone.'
Transactions of the Geological Society of London, Second series, vol 6, part 1, London, 1841, p472
Greenstone - a name for a variety of dark coloured igneous rocks.

British Geological Survey - Accessed 10-2-2016

Above and below: Luscombe's Quarry? Area of North Street opposite no. 79.
Photographs by R Bligh, 2016

'Close to Ashburton, (in the first lane to the l [left] on the Totnes Road) is a gate called Sounding Gate, as the spot at which an echo, remarkably clear and loud, may be drawn from a quarry opposite. From this lane another branches off to the Penn Slate Quarry, an excavation about 100ft deep...'
A handbook for travellers in Devon and Cornwall, John Murray, London 1865, p115

In January 1867 Messrs John and Richard Perry held their annual lime feast for their customers, but attendance was not so good as in previous years. Although the lime produced by the quarries, at Stawells Bushes, ranked 'among the best' the opening of the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway had affected trade. The event was held at Husson's Globe Hotel.
Western Morning News 19 January 1867, p2 col7


Petition for the winding up of the Ashburton Slate Quarries Ltd

London Gazette Issue 25254 27 July 1883, p3784


Joint Stock Companies.

Ashburton Slate Quarries Ltd given notice that they would be dissolved after 3 months and struck off the register, unless they could prove that this should not be the case

London Gazette Issue 26004 20 December 1889, p7363

The company was struck off in the following March

Company No: 17452; Ashburton Slate Quarries Ltd. Incorporated in 1882. Dissolved before 1916

National Archives BT 31/3064/17452
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 13-1-2014


In 1912 it was announced that Mr James Runnalls had become the general manager of the Elvan Stone Quarries at Ashburton. Edwin Tucker was the proprietor.
The Surveyor and Municipal and County and Engineer, vol 41, London, 1912, p295

In September of that year Edwin Tucker was selling various property and land. This included Woodencliff Wood, an area of over 35 acres that contained both timber and 'the valuable Basalt or Blue Elvan Quarry.'
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 17 September 1912 p1 col1
Blue Elvan was another name for Greenstone, a term particularly used in Cornwall. British Geological Survey - Accessed 10-2-2016

Google Earth shows Woodencliff Wood as a dark patch of woodland to the left of Tower Hill, about 500 metres above where Roborough Lane crosses Rew Road.
                                                                      Ashburton Marble

In 1852 the Western Times reported that some large blocks of marble had been excavated from quarries adjoining the town. A suggested use was for chimney pieces, 'the veins and colour......are considered superior to any quarry in the South of Devon.'

Western Times 31 July 1852, p5 col5

 Above: Sample of what is believed to be unpolished Ashburton marble.

Below: Plaque outside the Information Office, made from Ashburton marble.

My own photographs 2013 and 2014

3 Brass plaques in the Tower Base of St Andrew's Church are mounted on Ashburton marble.

The steps in the Chancel, Sanctuary and Lady Chapel are all of Ashburton marble.

St Andrew's Church, Ashburton - A guide and short history, publ. St Andrew's Church 5th edition 2005/06

Right: Step in the Chancel, St. Andrew's Church.

My own photograph 2014

 Ashburton marble was quarried from the Linhay Quarry at the eastern end of the town until the late 20th century.

In fact it is not a true marble: to be called this it would have had to have undergone extremes of heat which did not occur with this limestone. But the lower temperatures and pressure did preserve many of the fossil corals, and resulted in a grey/black stone, capable of taking a high polish, with beautiful patterns of white calcite and red haematite.

Devonian limestones, David Allen - Accessed 09-02-2014

It is allegedly in the bathrooms of the London Hilton and the Post Office Tower, also in the President Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC. - Accessed 09-02-2014

Ashurst and Dimes say that in the US Ashburton marble is known as Renfrew marble.

Conservation of building and decorative stone, John Ashurst and Francis G Dimes, Routledge, Oxford and New York, 2011, p90

In Hull, the East Yorkshire RIGS Group designated the following as one of the Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites:

Williamson's Solicitors in Lowegate, which has polished slabs of Ashburton marble on its frontage. - Accessed 09-02-2014

A tablet made of local marble by T W Mann was erected in the Wesleyan Chapel in memory of Rebecca Michelmore. She left '£1000 in Consols', the interest of which was to be used for charitable purposes.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 24 December 1886 p3 col6

In 1897 Mr Fabyan Amery gave a talk entitled 'A piece of Ashburton marble.' In it he spoke of marble quarrying by Messrs Blacker at Stawell Bushes

Western Times 4 May 1897, p9 col7

A font at East Allington church was dedicated in December 1899 to the memory of the Rev. H R Fortescue. The base and approaching foot base were made of Ashburton Marble, 'richly veined and highly polished'.

Western Times 12 December 1899 p3 col5

In 1934 the King opened the new building of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Four steel stanchions at the sides of the stairwell were encased with Ashburton marble, mainly black with dull red veins. The architect, Mr George Grey Wornum, had chosen Ashburton marble because of the richness of its colour, and because he only wanted to use materials from within the Empire.

Western Morning News 9 November 1934 p8 col4



Above: Pink kerbstones.These are at the junction of Woodland Road and East Street.

My own photograph, 2013

Many of Ashburton's kerbstones were believed to be made of Ashburton marble, but Professor Gordon Walkden, who has extensively researched Devonshire marbles, says 'There is no evidence in Linhay now, or at any time, of the light-grey to pink reef rock seen along the streets of the town.' He believes Ashburton's kerbstones to come from Stoneycombe Quarry near Newton Abbot - the stone would have been easily transported by rail, Stoneycombe's favoured means of transport.

Devonshire Marbles: their geology, history and uses, Gordon Walkden, Geologists' Association Guide No.72, 2015, in 2 vols., p 299.                             

In 1930 Stawell's Bush quarry plus fields, including a marble quarry, which were part of the Firth Estate, sold for £305 to Messrs H T Jenkins and Son Ltd., Torquay.

Western Times 25 July 1930, p14 col1                                                                               

Above: Samuel Pomeroy, the grandfather of Lerida Arnold, is the tall man in this photograph. 'I don't know who the other men are or when the picture was taken, but he died in 1959 aged 85, so maybe from the 1930s?'
With many thanks to Lerida Arnold for both the photograph and the information

In the 1939 register Samuel R Pomeroy, who lived at East End Terrace, is listed as a roadstone quarrier, heavy worker.
It seems likely that this was at Linhay Quarry
1939 register, available from


True umber, a form of haematite containing manganese, is rare in Britain, but has been found in Devon and Cornwall, as well as the Isle of Man. It was used for paint, for making brown paper, and, according to John Satterly, in sheep-dipping powders.

Devon's Rocks, a Geological Guide

Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, John Satterly,Transactions of the Devonshire Association 1952 vol 84 p34 


 Above: Old umber processing works, near the railway station. John Satterly's memories of the water supply near Stone Park suggest that this may have been the Truro Company's paint works.

Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, John Satterly 1952 vol 84 Transactions of the Devonshire Association p34 

Drawing courtesy of the Wakeham family.


Left: A map (based on a map drawn in the 1950s) showing the umber works in the top right hand corner. Not to scale.

Umber working was not confined to the eastern end of the town.

Whilst sinking a shaft at the end of West Street, in search of iron, a 'fine bed of umber' was discovered.

Western Times 9 August 1872 p7 col3



Partnership dissolved between William W Mansell, Geo. Peverall and Wm Stansfield, working the Bowdon Hill Mine in the parish of Ashburton

London Gazette Issue 23936 10 January 1873, p92



John Satterly talks of umber working at both ends of the town.

Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, John Satterly, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1952 vol 84 p34 


The shape of umber pits can still be seen in a field off Bowden Hill (on private land). On the 'Britain from Above' website  the site can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of the image entitled 'The town and railway station, Ashburton, 1930'




In 1869 it was reported that the umber now being extracted at the Umber Works was of a much better quality, and that the deposit stretched over a 'great many acres to the east of the town'. In December of the following year 200 tons of umber were being carted to the railway station*, to be taken to Totnes Quay . 

Western Times 15 October 1869  p8 col4

Western Times 23 December 1870 p7 col2

*This would not have been Ashburton Station - it did not open until 1872


In 1877 Messrs' Beer and Musgrove's baking shed at the Umber Works was destroyed by fire.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 7 September 1877 p8 col3

'Associated with the clay-slates skirting the eastern flank of Dartmoor are several patches of limestone; one of these commences at the town of Ashburton, and extends some two to three miles in a north-easterly direction. The beds composing it dip to the south-east, and consist in their upper portion of a massive grey rock in places largely quarried for agricultural and building purposes. The lower beds approach dolomite in character, and close to Ashburton, where they are separated by only a very thin band of clay-slates from the greenstone hill north of the town, have by their decomposition formed large deposits of umber that has been continuously worked for the last thirteen years.

The carbonates of lime and magnesia have doubtless been removed by the solvent action of water containing carbonic acid, thus giving rise to the formation of deposits of umber from twenty to thirty feet in thickness...

The deposit is worked by removing the overburden, consisting of from three to four feet in thickness of loam, and then sinking large rectangular pits in the umber till the unchanged rock is reached. The timber supporting the sides is then removed, the pit filled up, and another commenced alongside. The umber obtained, after being stamped in the usual manner, is ground under edge runners, and the liquid mud pumped up to the tanks, where it remains until it settles sufficiently to be dug out; the drying is then completed in a manner similar to that practised in the preparation of china clay.

The umber is used for making the so-called silicate-oxide paint, as a colouring matter for the coarser kind of cloth, and in the manufacture of brown paper.

The output of umber from this deposit for last year (1883) was 2766 tons, the price of which, delivered on the railway at Ashburton, averaged about 25s per ton.

The Umber Deposits at Ashburton, R J Frecheville (one of H M's Inspectors of Mines), Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, 1887, p217ff

Freely available via Google search at - Accessed 18-04-2016


In 1882 a property called Rose Cottage, with an adjoining field called Emmett's Park, failed to sell at auction. The reserve price of £700 reflected the presence of 'valuable' umber deposits. Afterwards the Roborough Umber Company, which leased an umber sett adjoining the cottage, negotiated to buy the premises.

Western Times 16 May 1882 p6 col5

10 years later what was described as an 'extraordinary price' was paid for the same cottage, garden, orchard and adjoining field at an auction at the Golden Lion Hotel. Mr Hosking was the successful bidder, paying £2375 - general opinion was that this valued the umber deposits at £1800 to £2000.

Western Times 15 December 1892 p3 col2 


From Lerida Arnold: 'I grew up at 36 West Street - there was a tunnel under the garden which I was forbidden to enter (and never did!) which my father said was the entrance to an umber mine.'*

* It looks like this was actually an old aqueduct - see Richard Bellamy's contribution in the Water, Gas and Electricity sub-section, under Banks and businesses.

Many thanks to Lerida for the above item; also for the photograph and plan below.

Right: No 36 in the 1950s

Below: Plan of the garden

Photograph taken by John Endacott, the great great grandfather of Helen Bristol, to whom many thanks for the image. St. Andrew's Church is in the centre, the umber works tower on the right hand side, and in the bottom right-hand corner the water tower for the railway can be seen.


Thomas Squires, employed at the Devon and Cornwall Umber works, suffered serious injury to his legs during a collapse of earth. He was taken to the Cottage Hospital.
Western Times 9 December 1886 p2 col4

James Honywill suffered a severe injury to his foot when a large rock fell on it at the Devon and Cornwall Umber Company.
Western Times 4 May 1891 p2 col4

And misdemeanours:

Messrs Hosking and Pascoe, of the Ashburton Umber Works Company, were fined £1 at Ashburton Petty Sessions for having an unstamped weighbridge.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 24 April 1894 p7 col5


White's Directory of Devon 1878-79 has the following entries for umber:

Roborough Umber Co., Nicholas Pascoe, Captain, Balland Cottage

Devon and Cornwall Umber Co., Jonathan Cock, Captain.

White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of Devon, 1878-79 pp 108,109

In the 1881 census 43 year old Jonathan Cock and his wife Jane were living at Dolbear. With them were four daughters and two sons, including 15 year old Jonathan jnr. All had been born at Roche in Cornwall apart from the three youngest girls, two of whom had been born at Veryan, and the very youngest, 9 year old Catherine, at Ashburton.
Jonathan was an umber mine agent; his sons were umber miners.
1881 census RG11, piece no. 2161, folio 18 p16

There are two entries for Umber Mines in the 1893 edition of Kelly's Directory of Devon and Cornwall:
Ashburton Umber Company, William Henry Hosking, Sec
Nicholas Pascoe, Captain
Devon and Cornwall Umber Mine (The Truro Colour Co.), Jonathan Cock, Agent

Kelly's Directory of Devon and Cornwall, Part 2, p1000

Above: Captain Jonathan Cock with his wife Jane Brenton Cock, outside Veryan Villa, which was built for the two mine captains. The little boy in the picture is the son of William Hosking, the other captain. Veryan Villa is so called because the Cocks lived in Veryan (in Cornwall near Truro) before coming to Ashburton.
Captain Cock's son, also Jonathan, laid the foundation stone at what is now South Dartmoor School.
One of Captain Cock's great-grandchildren, Margaret Parker, taught at the primary school for many years. Her maiden name was Boon - it was her paternal grandfather who had the ironmongers in the town (no relation to the later Alan Boon).
Very many thanks to Jerry Parker for both the photograph and the information.

By the time of the 1901 census Jonathan and Jane were at Veryan Villa, with Jonathan describing himself as the foreman of umber works. Jane now appears to have been born in Wenn, Cornwall.
1901 census RG13, piece no. 2053, folio 45, p21

They were still there in 1911  when J[onathan] was 72,  and his wife 76: they had been married for 50 years. Jonathan was a mining agent at the umber works. Bertha Eals, a 14 year old servant, was with the couple at the time of the census.
1911 census RG14, piece no. 12727

Jonathan died in 1913, and was buried in Ashburton.
A report of his death in the Western Times said Mr Cock, known as 'Captain Cock'  had been in Ashburton for over 40 years. He had been a member of the old Parish Council, and had also served on the Urban Council. He was adviser to the late Mr. Berry's trustees, president of the Ashburton Liberal Club, and vice-chairman of the School Managers.
He had three sons and three daughters, with the two eldest sons being in America and Australia. The third son [Jonathan] was the present chairman of the Council.
Parish records
Western Times 8 July 1913, p2 col3

Nicholas Pascoe died in March 1908. The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette described him as having been the owner and manager of the Leny Water Umber Works.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1 April 1908 p3 col3

Kelly's Directory of Devon and Cornwall 1910 has the following entry under Umber Proprietors:

Ashburton Umber Co., William Henry Hosking, Proprietor

20, Courtenay Park, Newton Abbot, and Ashburton

Kelly's Directory of Devon & Cornwall, 1914.Part 2. p1188

William H Hosking, the son of W H Hosking, died at his home, Umbria, in East Street, in 1914.  Connected with the umber industry, he was, said the Western Times, formerly a manager of the Leny Water Timber Works*.

The flag at the Liberal Club hung at half mast until the funeral.
Western Times 13 February 1914 p14 col1

* The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette calls this the Leny Water Umber Works in 1908
When Mr Abraham gave land to build the new Cottage Hospital on, it was described as being near Leny Water
Western Times 11 April 1887 p4 col3



At one stage the Ashburton Color Co., Devon had freehold and leasehold Lands.

Undated documents ref X 116/44 are in the Cornwall Record Office


Company No: 17395; Ashburton Silicate Oxide Paint Company Ltd. Incorporated in 1882. Dissolved before 1916

National Archives BT  31/3058/17395
Board of Trade and successors - Accessed 13-1-2014

'In passing Gulwell Bridge, at the entrance of Ashburton, my attention was attracted to the manufacture of silicate, oxide paint, produced from a rare mineral material found in the fastnesses of Holne Chase.'
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegrams 25 June 1878 p3 col3

Above: Gulwell Bridge, Old Totnes Road.
My own photograph 2014

In May 1885 there was a fire at the Silicate Oxide Paint company's works. The timber and corrugated iron buildings, situated near Gulwell Bridge, were completely destroyed, together with many tons of paint. It was thought that the fire began in a drying kiln.

Western Times 12 May 1885 p3 col1

(To the ) 'East of Dartmoor roofing slates are obtained at Ashburton..' 

White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of Devon, 1878-79 p63