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HER Number:MDV21606
Name:Horse Tramway south of Millhill Quarry


A standard gauge horse-drawn railway of light construction built as a speculation to replace the Mill Hill (Collateral Cut) canal branch between 1844-1846. It ran from the Lumburn Aqueduct to the slate quarry at Mill Hill, mostly along the same route of the canal, with one or two deviations. Never particularly successful, the tracks was removed by 1862,


Grid Reference:SX 457 736
Map Sheet:SX47SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishGulworthy
Civil ParishLamerton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Structures, earthworks and below-ground mining features associated with Wheal Crebor Mine including a former canal and railway, east of Buctor Farm

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX47SE/87/1
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • TRAMWAY (Constructed, XIX - 1844 AD to 1862 AD (Between))

Full description

Unknown, 1845, QS 91/2 (Record Office Collection). SDV342567.

'Railway to stone quarry' shown on map of 1845, a little to the south-west of Middle Lumburn Bridge.

Booker, F., 1967, Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley, 125-6 (Monograph). SDV240774.

Following re-opening of Mill Hill quarries in 1844, the Mill Hill 'Cut' branch of the Tavistock Canal was abandoned and a horse tramway was constructed on the embankment alongside and opened in 1846. By 1860 it was moribund, the outline of the embankment can be seen on the north side of the Tavistock to Gunnislake road.

Exeter Archaeology, 1998, Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal: Artiscombe Farm, 3 (Report - Assessment). SDV342538.

Horse tramway built in 1846 along the Mill Hill 'Cut' canal embankment and disused by 1860.

Richards, A., 2009, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV342565.

Possible line of the horse tramway following the 'Mill Hill 'Cut'' branch of the Tavistock Canal digitised from a sketch by F Booker.

Buck, C., 2015, Buctor Farm, Tavistock (Report - Assessment). SDV359746.

This study was commissioned by the landowner on behalf of Natural England as part of a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Agreement Scheme and produced by Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall Council.
This site is adjacent to the stewardship landholding, but is outside the study area. It has been included for historical context reasons. The additional Millhill branch was constructed in 1819 to serve the Millhill slate quarry to the north. It was 2 miles long, and cost £8000. It rose by 19.5ft to Millhill (from the western end of the Lumburn aqueduct – Site 18.3), with an inclined plane for the final section due to the scarcity of water (double tracked with two cradles counterbalanced; loaded boats going down pulling the empty ones up, with the help of three horses) (see MDV18721).
Survey: The towpath is on the eastern side of the canal (near the aqueduct) and is used as a road track until the settlement of Lumburn is reached (see Fig 9, the 1867 map). The canal still exists but without any water, as an obscured, vegetation filled feature.
Significance: Not applicable.
Recommendation: Not applicable.

Waterhouse, R., 2017, The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology, 79-81, 515-518, fig 4.8, 10.32 (Monograph). SDV361789.

The Collateral Cut to the Mill Hill Quarries had never worked reliably, due to the vagaries of the water supply from the River Lumburn, so the principal quarry at Mill Hill tended to rely on land transport. In 1844-1846 a standard gauge horse-drawn railway of light construction was built as a speculation to replace the canal branch, in the hope of renewed trade from the quarries. It didn't exactly follow the line of the canal it replaced; route is described and documentary details of the railway's workings, until it ceased use in 1862.
It started at Lumburn Aqueduct and followed the route of the canal northwards to a point just north of the Tavistock to Gunnislake road, where it deviates from the route of the canal, heading north-east via an embankment across the Newton Valley and crossing over Newton Lane on a level crossing. It then followed a terrace in the west side of the Lumburn Valley, re-joining the route of the canal just south of the site of the canal overbridge at Newton Mills Lane.
It followed the dry bed of the canal all the way up to a point just north of Artiscombe Road canal overbridge, which it passed through, just west of Middle Lumburn Bridge, before leaving the line of the canal, instead following the towpath northwards across the site of Mill Hill Wharf. The lane as far as the present Mill Hill site follows the route of the railway, for which the existing stone side walls were built. The railway terminated in the forecourt of the present quarry offices, although may have had internal spurs into the quarry (no mapped evidence exists).
Never a particularly successful enterprise, the documentary evidence hints that the slate recovered from the quarry was at times disappointing and by 1862, the rails were being lifted, although it's possible some were removed as early as 1855 and used at Morwellham Quay to relay part of the Canal Incline and quay sidings.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV240774Monograph: Booker, F.. 1967. Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley. Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley. A5 Hardback. 125-6.
SDV342538Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 1998. Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal: Artiscombe Farm. Exeter Archaeology Report. 98.21. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3.
SDV342565Personal Comment: Richards, A.. 2009.
SDV342567Record Office Collection: Unknown. 1845. QS 91/2. Devon Record Office Collection. Map (Paper).
SDV359746Report - Assessment: Buck, C.. 2015. Buctor Farm, Tavistock. Cornwall Archaeological Unit. 2015R055. Digital.
SDV361789Monograph: Waterhouse, R.. 2017. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. Paperback Volume. 79-81, 515-518, fig 4.8, 10.32.

Associated Monuments

MDV124532Related to: Artiscombe Road Bridge (Monument)
MDV21607Related to: Canal Basin and Wharf, south of Millhill Quarry (Monument)
MDV18723Related to: Limekiln southwest of Mole End at Mill Hill (Monument)
MDV21611Related to: Mill Hill Cottages south of Higher Lumburn Bridge (Monument)
MDV18721Related to: Mill Hill Cut Canal Branch to Millhill Quarry (Monument)
MDV3957Related to: Millhill Quarry north of Higher Lumburn Bridge (Monument)
MDV123232Related to: Tavistock Canal, Main record (Monument)
MDV3879Related to: Tavistock Canal, Western Section (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV1445 - Lower Tamar Valley Heritage Appraisal: Artiscombe Farm
  • EDV7058 - Archaeological Management Plan, Buctor Farm, Tavistock (Ref: 2015R055)

Date Last Edited:Sep 27 2019 3:55PM