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HER Number:MDV20471
Name:Northern wheel pit at Meldon Quarry


This is one of two wheel pits at the site and is the earliest; dating to at least the mid 19th century. Depicted on the Tithe Map, it was fed by an elaborate arrangement of one (later two) reservoirs and a launder bank and housed a wheel at least 5.5 metres in diameter. Used to pump water out of the quarry, it was out of use by 1905 and can still be seen as a partially filled, stone-lined depression.


Grid Reference:SX 564 920
Map Sheet:SX59SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishOkehampton Hamlets
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishOKEHAMPTON

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX59SE/88

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WHEEL PIT (Constructed, XVIII to XIX - 1800 AD to 1845 AD (Between))

Full description

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

Leats and reservoir serving the wheel pit depicted on the Tithe Map.

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

Depicted on the late 19th century historic map, just south of the foot bridge at Meldon Quarry. Small circular and larger sub-circular reservoirs shown to the east, with a sluice also depicted.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1978, Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity, No. E.10 (Un-published). SDV233126.

Wheelpit leat and dam by footbridge over the East Okement River.

Fletcher, M. + Newman, P. + Probert, S., 1997, The Meldon Industrial Landscape, Okehampton, Devon. An Archaeological Survey, 13-4, figs 2, 10-13 (Report - Survey). SDV346364.

The western quarry was extended to a depth of 130 feet (40 metres) and required pumping to keep it dry. A pair of waterwheels (not used concurrently) to the south of the foot bridge drove pumps to achieve this.
The two wheels were served by a series of leats and reservoirs, taking water from the West Okement and the Red-a-ven seen crossing the south-western quadrant of the site.
The northern waterwheel, near the modern foot bridge had an elaborate supply utilising one and later two reservoirs and a launder bank. The wheel and first reservoir are depicted on the Tithe Map. They are fed by what appears to be the lower of the two West Okement leats and bringing water from the Red-a-ven. The wheel had a diameter of at least 5.5 metres. By 1885 the higher West Okement leat was supplying a large sub-circular reservoir immediately to the east of the earlier one and was powering the same wheel.
Both wheel pits and the later reservoir are shown on the 1905 map but no water supply is connected and they therefore appear to be out of use by this time. The northern wheel is well recorded photographically, occurring in two 1905 views, which also show an intact launder while in 1912 the wheel remains but the launder has been removed. The iron wheel frame is still visible in photographs taken in the winter of 1947.
The actual method of pumping is, as yet, unclear though the waterwheel's motion was transmitted by flat rods across the West Okement and transformed to s pumping action by some form of reciprocating gear in the vicinity of a series of small structures overlooking the quarry.
The wheel pits remain as partially filled stone-lined rectangular depressions, behind which are two smaller holes to hold the weights used in tensioning the flat rods powered by the wheels.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV233126Un-published: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1978. Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity. Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity. No. E.10.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #82769 ]
SDV346364Report - Survey: Fletcher, M. + Newman, P. + Probert, S.. 1997. The Meldon Industrial Landscape, Okehampton, Devon. An Archaeological Survey. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Report. A4 Bound. 13-4, figs 2, 10-13.
SDV359954Cartographic: South West Heritage Trust. 1838-1848. Digitised Tithe Maps and Transcribed Apportionments. Tithe Map and Apportionment. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV120324Related to: Leats supplying the water wheels at Meldon Limestone Quarry (Monument)
MDV120294Related to: Quarry buildings at Meldon (Building)
MDV120302Related to: Reservoirs at Meldon Lime Works (Monument)
MDV120297Related to: Southern wheel pit at Meldon Quarry (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 7 2020 1:49PM