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Bere Alston (Beeralstone; incl. Bere Alston Mines; Old Beer Mines; Tamar Silver-Lead Mines), Bere Ferrers (Beer Ferris), West Devon, Devon, England, UK

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Location is approximate, estimate based on other nearby localities.
Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 50° North , 4° West (est.)
Margin of Error:~5km
Other regions containing this locality:Callington and Tavistock Mining District, Cornwall/Devon, England, UK
Devon and Cornwall metalliferous mining district, England, UK
Köppen climate type:Cfb : Temperate oceanic climate

NOTE: Beeralstone (sometimes: Beeralston) is an antiquated 19th century spelling variant. The spellings are also seen as Beer Alston or Bere Alston. The current spelling as seen on Ordnance Survey maps and elsewhere is Bere Alston.

A group of silver-lead mines, the Bere Alston mines are amongst the oldest workings in Britain, and date back to the 13th Century. After long periods of inactivity, mining was resumed throughout the area in the 1780s. The area was also one of the south-west's most important producers of fluorite (albeit of minor importance compared northern England)and produced many fine specimens in the late 1700 and early 1800s.

There is some possible naming confusion with these early workings, e.g. are contemporaneous references to Beer Alston Mine specifically referring to a Beer Alston Mine, or perhaps more generally, to one of the several mines located at Beer Alston?

A lead mine referred to by the famous British mineral collector Phillip Rashleigh (1729-1811), who, in writing to his fellow Cornish mineralogist John Hawkins sometime around 1790, notes that "In consequence of your telling me that some Fluors of a different Colour to mine were flung away on the Shammels [stopes] at Beer Alston Mine and that [the mine] Captain John Vivian knew where to find them, I writ to him desiring he would procure me some. He properly applied to Mr Gullet for his liberty, who writ me a most impertinent letter on the occasion - on which I shall have no further intercourse with him". Clearly, the tribulations of mineral collecting are nothing new!

A merger was formed in 1820, with the mines being named "Beer Alston Mines. This included South Hooe Mine and the Birch and Cleve Lode (the latter subsequently being included into South Tamar Consols). The mines, as in many of the mines here, were rich in silver, South Hooe occasionally running as high as 1800 oz to the ton, Bere Alston Mine half this. The highest production of silver was in 1814-15, when 3 tons of silver was produced.

Although the plant of Beer Alston Mines was put up for sale in 1820-21, a new company was formed in 1835 as the Tamar Silver Lead Mining Company (not to be confused with the Tamar Silver-Lead Mine), with working resuming then resuming at South Hooe. By 1850 there were 7 engines and 200 people employed here; in 1861 it was described as the deepest lead mine in England. Operations ceased in 1885, by which time the workings had reached 250 fathoms below adit.

Mindat Articles

The Bere Peninsula Silver-Lead Mines ~ Part I by Chris Popham
The Bere Peninsula Silver-Lead Mines ~ Part II by Chris Popham

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Hall, T.M. (1868): On the mineral localities of Devonshire. Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Vol. 2, 332-346.
Hamilton Jenkin, A. K. (1974): Mines of Devon, Vol. 1: The Southern Area. David & Charles (Newton Abbot), 154 pp.
Claughton, P. (1994): Silver-Lead: A Restricted Resource - Technological Choice in the Devon Mines. Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society 12(3), 54-59.

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