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HER Number:MDV17588
Name:Cann Quarry, Cann Wood, Plymouth


The 19th century Cann Slate Quarry, is shown on the late 19th century Ordnance Survey map. The earthwork remains of the quarry are visible under dense tree cover on aerial photographs of 1946 and identifiable as earthworks on visualisations derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2017. The quarry was active in the medieval period and is documented from the 17th century.


Grid Reference:SX 523 596
Map Sheet:SX55NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishPlymouth
Civil ParishSparkwell
DistrictCity of Plymouth
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishPLYMPTON ST.MARY

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1466141
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX55NW/94

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • QUARRY (Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD to 1912 AD (Between))

Full description

Swete, R. J. (Revd), 564M/14/85 & 15/57 (Record Office Collection). SDV338671.

Illustrations by Swete.

Ordnance Survey, SX55NW (Cartographic). SDV338672.

A copy of the 1st edition Ordnance Survey Plan showing Cann Quarry is in the Egg Buckland parish file.

Polwhele, R., 1793-1806, The History of Devonshire, 52 (Monograph). SDV21030.

South West Heritage Trust, 1838-1848, Digitised Tithe Maps and Transcribed Apportionments (Cartographic). SDV359954.

Cann Quarry and associated structures are shown.

de la Beche, H. T., 1839, Report on the Geology of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset, 503 (Monograph). SDV337075.

Mentioned as a source of roofing slate by de la Beche.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Site of 'Cann Quarry (Slate)' shown on 19th century map as a large irregular shaped feature on the east side of the River Plym. Several buildings are shown in the eastern part of the quarry & an aqueduct is shown in the north. A reservoir is shown in the southern part of the quarry & tramlines run to the west & south.
Buildings to the south, including Cann House and Cann Cottages are located on landscaped terraces, possibly made partly from spoil. Long scarps or finger dumps, probably of additional spoil are depicted to the north.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

A different configuration of buildings at Cann Quarry is shown on the early 20th century map. The reservoir had been enlarged to the north & the tramline took a different course within the quarry.

Ordnance Survey, 1907, 118SW (Cartographic). SDV337445.

'Cann Quarry' indicated on 1907 map.

Royal Air Force, 1945, RAF/106G/UK/871, RAF/106G/UK/871 6363-6365 30-SEP-1945 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351258.

The quarry is visible under dense tree cover.

Royal Air Force, 1946, 106G/UK/1190, 4188-9 (Aerial Photograph). SDV170515.

Visible on 1946 Royal Air Force aerial photograph.

Welch, E., 1968, Cann quarry canal and railway, 111-2 (Article in Serial). SDV338670.

Cann Quarry, Sparkwell was owned by Lord Morley in the first half of the 19th century. It had been producing good quality slate since at least 1664. By 1829, Lord Morley had had a canal built between the quarry and Marsh Mills to carry stone to Plymouth. When the canal was abandoned within ten years of its completion, a railway was laid along the same course. For the purposes of serving the quarry, the railway was abandoned soon after 1854.

Ordnance Survey, 1968, SX55NW (Cartographic). SDV338669.

'Cann Quarry (Disused)' indicated on 1968 map.

Born, A., 1988, Blue slate quarrying in South Devon: An ancient industry, 56,59,61-3 & 65 (Article in Serial). SDV338673.

Cann Quarry. Blue slate. Ruins of impressive wheelhouses and other quarry buildings, cottages and manager/owner's residence with remains of garden. Slate working ended 1860's.

Rex, T., 1991, Bickleigh Vale Quarries, 28-32 (Article in Serial). SDV338676.

Bowman, A., 1993, List of Quarries (Un-published). SDV336564.

English Heritage, 1996, Monument Protection Programme, Stone Quarrying, Step 2 Shortlist (Un-published). SDV351124.

Cann & Rumple blue slate quarries on banks of river Plym. Worked from Medieval period, waterwheel mentioned in 1839. National Trust owned includes three larger waterwheel houses and other ruins including smithy and stores.

Bowman, A. C., 1998, British Quarrying History (Monograph). SDV71598.

Cann Quarry. Slate. Leased to Nicholas Edwards by George Parkin in 1693. New lease in 1711. Quarried by Kemp in 1795, Manley in 1825, Reeve in 1835, Pucks in 1845, Bennett & Jennett (Plym River Slate Co Ltd) in 1864, Gullet & Soper in 1874, lease extended to Soper in 188. The freeholder in 1858 was Earl of Morley. References to production: 1834 - slate quarry for sale. EFP 11.12.1834.1C; 1835 - slate quarry for sale. EFP 14.5.1835.2C; 1863 - Plym River Slab and Slate Quarry Company - formation. MJ.31.10.1863.776.

Environment Agency, 1998-2017, LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor, LIDAR SX5259 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017 (Cartographic). SDV361470.

The quarry and scarps to north and south are visible as earthworks.

Hedley, I., 1999, Quarrying Industry (Report - non-specific). SDV338675.

Visited on 7th of February 1997 when the large quarry was partially flooded. The slate quarry had documented medieval working possibly in 12th century. More recently documented from 1671 onwards with more intensive exploitation in the 19th century. Surviving features include manager's house, office, water-powered sawing & planing mill of 1850s & remains of 1820s manual dressing sheds. Site peaked in 1850 and combined with Rumple Quarry on the west side of the River Plym in 1864. Liquidated in 1866. Family working continued until 1912.

Ordnance Survey, 2019, MasterMap 2019 (Cartographic). SDV362729.

The quarry pit and earthworks to north and south are schematically depicted.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2019-2020, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP) (Interpretation). SDV362982.

A large, irregularly shaped but roughly circular pit is visible on aerial photographs of 1946 and visualisations derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2017 on the east bank of the River Plym. The pit measures up to circa 160m across at its widest point. The visible earthwork corresponds closely with Cann Quarry, as depicted on the Ordnance Survey First and Second Edition 25inch maps of the 1880s and early 20th century.
Due to dense tree cover and the necessity of recording the site via a lidar derived Digital Terrain Model which has removed all structural features, no assessment can be made regarding the survival of structures associated with and/or within the quarry. However, traditional aerial photography has recoded the remains of two structures to the south of the quarry pit (MDV73794 and MDV 73795). These appear to have been constructed on heavily terraced ground, the platforms probably formed in part from spoil from the quarry.
Four curvilinear scarps identifiable as earthworks to the north of the quarry, following the eastern bank of the River Plym for up to circa 280, also correspond with earthworks depicted on the late-19th and early-20th century maps. These are also interpreted as probable evidence of spoil dumping associated with the 19th century Cann quarry.
It is probable that the 19th century quarrying destroyed or obscured evidence of earlier quarrying activity.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV170515Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. 106G/UK/1190. Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 4188-9.
SDV21030Monograph: Polwhele, R.. 1793-1806. The History of Devonshire. The History of Devonshire. Unknown. 52.
SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336564Un-published: Bowman, A.. 1993. List of Quarries. Unknown.
SDV337075Monograph: de la Beche, H. T.. 1839. Report on the Geology of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset. Report on the Geology of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset. Unknown. 503.
SDV337445Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1907. 118SW. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).
SDV338669Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1968. SX55NW. Ordnance Survey 6 inch map. Map (Paper).
SDV338670Article in Serial: Welch, E.. 1968. Cann quarry canal and railway. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 100. A5 Paperback. 111-2.
SDV338671Record Office Collection: Swete, R. J. (Revd). 564M/14/85 & 15/57. Devon Record Office Collection. Unknown.
SDV338672Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. SX55NW. Ordnance Survey 1st Edition 1:2500 Plan. Map (Paper).
SDV338673Article in Serial: Born, A.. 1988. Blue slate quarrying in South Devon: An ancient industry. Industrial Archaeology Review. 11.1. Unknown. 56,59,61-3 & 65.
SDV338675Report - non-specific: Hedley, I.. 1999. Quarrying Industry. Monument Protection Programme. Step 3 Assessment. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV338676Article in Serial: Rex, T.. 1991. Bickleigh Vale Quarries. Devon Archaeology. 4. Unknown. 28-32.
SDV351124Un-published: English Heritage. 1996. Monument Protection Programme, Stone Quarrying, Step 2 Shortlist. Monument Protection Programme. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351258Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1945. RAF/106G/UK/871. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/106G/UK/871 6363-6365 30-SEP-1945.
SDV359954Cartographic: South West Heritage Trust. 1838-1848. Digitised Tithe Maps and Transcribed Apportionments. Tithe Map and Apportionment. Digital.
SDV361470Cartographic: Environment Agency. 1998-2017. LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor. Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. LIDAR SX5259 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017. [Mapped feature: #121894 ]
SDV362729Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2019. MasterMap 2019. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV362982Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2019-2020. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP). Historic England Research Report. Digital.
SDV71598Monograph: Bowman, A. C.. 1998. British Quarrying History. British Quarrying History. Unknown.

Associated Monuments

MDV73796Related to: Buildings south of Cann Quarry (Monument)
MDV58882Related to: Burnehall Quarry (Monument)
MDV73795Related to: Cann Cottages (Monument)
MDV73794Related to: Cann House (Monument)
MDV126505Related to: Spoil heaps at Bickleigh Vale, Sparkwell (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8098 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey, Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (Ref: ACD2040)

Date Last Edited:Oct 3 2019 5:09PM