The Bere Peninsula Silver-Lead Mines ~ Part II
Last Updated: 16th Feb 2011
Mines on the Western Lode (from North to South).
Ward Mine (South & North)
OS Reference: SX427687
‘Almost nothing is known of North Ward Mine, even its location: 500ft west of North Ward farm was unmarked until subsidence occurred on the shaft in 1957.
South Ward Mine lies close to the river bank and here work was suspended in 1835 when there was a break in by the river. It was reopened in 1869 and continued until 1876 with a production of 130 tons of ore in the period 1873-6.
The engine house is now a farm house and the count house a cottage.’
A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
’South Ward was sunk to a depth of 90-fm on Engine shaft the most extensive level was the 40-fm which ran 115-fm north and 180-fm south. The lode is cut by a fault to the north of the shaft and another to the south, the latter
heaving the lode about 5-fms to the right in the lower levels.
A further lode was opened up 25-fms to the east and driven on 2 levels but no production records specific to this work are noted.
Output from 1873-6 is recorded as of 130 tons of 56% lead ore and 390oz silver.’
Dines H.G. 1956
There is nothing to be seen of North Ward mine but approaching South Ward on the public footpath from around the top of the peninsula you come across the mine quite suddenly on leaving the woods. The footpath: despite the notices to
the contrary this is a public footpath, then crosses the garden in front of the engine house at Engine Shaft.
Approaching on the road from Helston Farm there is a white gate with similar notices and 2 very ferocious guard dogs in a pen (you hope). The converted engine house is not easy to see from the gate, the only real indication of its
former use being the large bay window that occupies the upper storey in the bob wall. The count house is behind a large hedge and high gate and cannot be seen.
There are no apparent tips.
From here drop down to the riverside at South Ward Farm and follow the footpath to North Hooe.
North Hooe ~ (Including Hancock Mine and was also known as North Tamar. In conjunction with South Hooe it may also have been known at different times as Tamar Silver-Lead and Tamar Consols.)
OS Reference: SX426661
‘In 1842 North Hooe was reopened though it was never as productive as South Hooe, with a peak production of 1200 tons in 1846. Again reopened in the early 1900s there was insufficient capital to lower the water level sufficiently to
make the venture successful.’
A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
‘Worked from engine shaft (600 yards west of Whitsom and 40 yards east of the Tamar) to a maximum depth of 110-fms, with levels at 10-fm intervals below the 30-fm level. The lode is vertical at the shaft but underlies to the east in
the northern levels and ranges from 18inches to 4 feet in width.
Abandoned by 1867 with no specific record of output other than approximately 20 tons of concentrate per month. It was re-opened in 1901-2 but only partly unwatered and no output was made at that time.
Hancock mine lies on the west bank of the river. Sunk on a shaft with 2 levels it apparently failed to cut the lode.’
Dines H.G. 1956
When looking at a map of the area if a line is drawn between South Ward and North Hooe Mines, representing the western cross course, it becomes apparent that the cross course must indeed lie close under the western bank of the river.
The decision to prospect here must have been a fairly logical one to any miner who once stood at either South Ward or North Hooe.
Approaching North Hooe Mine along the riverside footpath the tips can be seen on the far side of the inlet. To see them clearly however follow the shoreline to where it emerges from the reeds on the far side of the inlet.
The top of the tips are marked by a level grassy area flanked by trees on the south and west sides and gorse covering the rock dump on the north side.
The gorse covered tip is mostly of hard grey chunky slate; in complete contrast to the rock waste in all the dumps on the eastern cross course (the same grey slates also make up the dumps at South Hooe). Fluorite: white, clear, pale
yellow and green and dark ‘dirty’ purple, is common (Dines estimates 1%). Quartz is found as sheets of clear or milky points. Pyrite: gritty is found occasionally. Sphalerite: orange-brown is fairly common both as intergrowths with
fluorite but also as flat hexagonal ‘snowflake like’ deposits and is possibly a reversion from wurtzite. Galena: gritty crusts on slate or intergrown with fluorite, is relatively abundant compared to all the other dumps on the walk.
The slate on which galena has been directly deposited has apparently been metamorphosed and is harder and more crystalline than the other slates present. The metamorphosed slate is as likely to break across the beds as cleave between
The dump underneath the flat platform is exposed on the shoreline and is made of much larger blocks of slate.
A path runs southward into the wood and climbs gently upwards and away from the river. This leads directly to the engine house at Engine Shaft. This is fairly clear of ivy and has 2 windows facing the river but there is no chimney.
A further ruined stone building can be found a little beyond.
However, of greater interest is the low block built shed as this contains an engine, 2 belt driven pieces of machinery and a raised water tank, possibly a boiler. Outside the shed and beside the engine house is a water trough.
This equipment may possibly have been from one of the attempts to rework the mine but it does seem fairly modern and may have served no more purpose than to provide water to the trough for cattle to drink.
Dines mentions an adit driven at river level close to Engine Shaft. However on this occasion and a previous visit the tide has been in and the river level too high for safe access to the full length of the river bank.
Return along the shoreline to the footpath and follow it up the steep hill to the road and turn right.
South Hooe ~ (In conjunction with South Tamar it was also known as South Tamar Consols)
OS Reference: SX422653
‘South Hooe is situated on the north side of the Tamar River, where it makes a west to east meander. Worked in the early 1800s the silver content was found to be as high as 180oz to the ton, with lead at around 60% and in 1814-15 3
tons of silver was raised.
In 1820 a merger linked South Hooe and South Tamar under the name South Tamar Consols but in 1821 the whole was offered for sale.
Work began again in 1835 at South Hooe under the name of the Tamar Silver-Lead mine with high expectations. As the lode pitches south the majority of the workings are to the south for up to ¼ of a mile under the river. As work
progressed in the mine it was necessary to drive longer and longer levels from the initial shaft. To overcome this a 25degree incline was driven between the 13 and 115 fathom levels. Spurgin’s shaft under the river was then sunk to
the 175 fathom level and an underground engine installed for hauling. The smoke from the engine was ducted to surface through old workings but unfortunately in 1851 a group of workers found a rich packet of ore in the old workings
and 4 of the 6 were overcome by the fumes and died. Ores were smelted at Weir Quay where furnaces could handle up to 300 tons per month and the silver return averaged 60oz / ton. Returns on the ore increased with depth but working
finally ceased in 1885 250 fathoms below adit.’
A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
‘Worked from engine shaft, sunk to 250-fms on the 15 degree east underlie. The 160 and 175-fm levels are the most extensive out to 470-fm south.
Outputs under the names of Tamar Silver-Lead and Tamar Consols are 1845-76 14640 tons of 62% lead ore and 326300oz silver. From 1879-82, 780 tons of fluorspar.
Tamar Consols may also have included North Hooe for which there are no specific records of output.’
Dines H.G. 1956
Where the road forks both lanes claim to be private, but the left hand one is a public footpath. Follow it to the end where the footpath turns sharply left off the road back towards the river bank. The path runs through the gardens
of several houses but it is also possible in places to walk out on to the shoreline. From the shore one large rock dump can be seen. This has spilt onto the shoreline and is clearly made up of blocks of hard grey slate as at North
Hooe. Fluorite: clear, pale yellow or green, is fairly common. Pyrite (marcasite) is present as very bright radiating crystals seeded on quartz or fluorite crystals. Pyrite, fluorite and galena also occur as intermingled gritty
mixes. Galena: cubic, also occurs with quartz.
A substantial lump of slag material was also found. The surface on one side is textured with a rope like flow. The main bulk is black and glassy with a hint of iridescence and exhibits a conchoidal fracture. When broken tiny white
quartz or fluorite fragments can be seen embedded in the mass. Small bubbles have also formed, most of which are about ¼ full of a material that is reddish in places and in other places resembles pyrite in colour and lustre.
This is the only site at which no sphalerite was found.
Further downstream is another dump beside a wooden landing stage. This is made of iron cemented stamps(?) grit which in one place shows a large patch of green copper secondary staining. However, whether this is from minerals in the
dump, an artefact in the dump or simply a modern pipe or other rubbish is impossible to tell.
Immediately above this landing stage is a short run of cottages in front of which the public footpath runs. The footpath exits from the garden of the cottages through a tall wooden gate beside which is an engine house. This is in a
fairly reasonable state and directly in front the bob wall on the riverside is Engine Shaft capped off with a series of girders.
Hamilton Jenkin mentions that at one time 5 steam engines were working on this site. Where the others may have been sited is not immediately apparent.
To complete the walk, there are now 2 options. The simplest is to follow the footpath up and down through the woods back to Hole’s Hole and then along the waterfront to Weir Quay. Alternatively, and this is only possible when the
tide is out, drop down onto the shore line and walk along the high tide line to Hole’s Hole.
Again, looking at the map and imagining a line connecting Ward Mines and North Hooe, it becomes evident that the surface workings of South Hooe Mine lie some way to the west of the theoretical strike of the lode. However, on the
rivers edge just a little to the east of the theoretical line there is a adit entrance just above the high tide mark (SX428654).
The adit is approximately 100m long, the first 5m striking slightly east of north then turning and striking northward. At the turn there is a dam of fallen material and after that the adit is flooded to a depth of no more than 2 feet
for ½ the remaining length. Approximately 10m from the end the floor starts to climb up quite steeply in a series of steps onto a pile of loose clayey shale. The end wall is blank but at floor level is a small hole, approximately
0.5m x 0.5m, possibly dug by an animal as there were many animal footprints in the clay floor of the adit (but no sign of boots or shoes), which seems to extend only another 2m or so. Generally the adit is wide enough and high enough
to walk along comfortably.
The end wall of the adit shows clearly the nature of the ‘lode’. The adit has apparently been driven along a fault line where a soft, flaky, grey fragmented shale ‘breccia’ has in filled between much harder blocky slates. The fault
strikes north-south and underlies about 30 to 35 degrees east.
There is no stopeing in the adit and no apparent mineralization with the exception of a small area of limonitic (iron oxide) flowstone. It may be that the miners drew a line on their maps and went to look for it, finding the fault at
surface in the river bank, hoping that it would connect with the cross-course.
Continue along the waterfront to the cottage where the road comes down the hill and here you will find a set of (very slippery) steps back up onto the road.
A visit to the pub ‘The Edgcumbe Hotel’ in Fore Street , Bere Alston is a fine way to finish the day.
Mines on the cross courses ~ South of the river.
Park Mine ~ (Park Valley Silver-Lead Mine, Tamar Mine)
OS Reference: SX432630
'2 lodes about 3 fms apart underlying at 12 degrees are crossed by a flat lode between 30 and 40 fathoms below surface were exploited on 2 shafts.
Recorded output from 1855-7 of 410 tons of 77% lead ore and 665 oz silver.'
Dines H.G. 1956
Located as it is equidistant between the 2 cross courses this mine could have been an attempt to exploit either or was developed on a small separate discovery.
Other localities on the Bere Peninsula.
Philley Wood Mine ~ Tuckermarsh Mine
'¼ mile east of Buttspill the mine was opened on a new discovery in 1846. In 1851 it was reopened as North Tamar Consols but abandoned in 1855.'
A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
Queen of Tamar ~ Great Tamar
'This small mine is said to have returned both lead and copper on an east-west lode. This may have been the site of Wheal Jenny worked very briefly in 1915, when it was found that the old men had removed all the lead ore.'
A.K. Hamilton Jenkin
(1) A.K. Hamilton Jenkin (1974), Mines of Devon, Vol1, The Southern Area, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon.
(2) Dines H.G. (1956), The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England, Vol2., Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, pp681-685, 1994 reprint.
(3) P. Claughton (2006), Mining History Information Pages, http://www.people.ex.ac.uk/pfclaugh/mhinf/contents.htm
(4) Ben A. Grguric & Ernest H. Nickel (2007), Acicular Wurtzite and Sphalerite from the Lockridge Mine, Bere Alston, Devon, UK Journal of Mines and Minerology No27.
(5) The following guide-lines are issued by English Nature with respect to mineral collecting at SSSI sites. It is reproduced in full here as it took much searching to find this clear statement. The original and other information is
Best Practice Guidance for Fossil and Mineral Collecting
Specimen collecting is an important aspect of geology and an important part of geological conservation, as long as it is undertaken in a responsible and sustainable fashion.
The principles of responsible fossil and mineral collecting apply to all collectors and are simple and easy to follow:
Access and ownership - permission to enter private land and collect specimens must always be gained.
Collecting - in general, in the case of in situ exposures, collect only a few representative specimens and obtain these from fallen or loose material. In the case of mine dumps, collect only a few representative specimens and
do not excavate material Detailed scientific study will require collection of in situ specimens.
Site management - avoid disturbance to wildlife and do not leave the site in an untidy or dangerous condition for those who follow.
Recording and curation - always record precisely the locality at which specimens are found and, if collected in-situ, record relevant horizon details. Specimens of key scientific importance should be placed in a suitable
repository, normally a museum with adequate curatorial and storage facilities.
It is essential that the scale of collecting is tailored to the available collecting resource. Where the resource is extensive and readily renewable, then higher levels of collecting can be sustained. Where the resource is more
restricted, such as a mineral spoil heap or vein, much more careful management is required to ensure the maximum scientific gain is made from a limited resource.
All images and original text © Chris Popham, 2007.
Article has been viewed at least 8272 times.