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HER Number:MDV2353
Name:The Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway (Dartmoor section)


Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway from Sutton Harbour to Princetown. Opened in 1823 and used mainly to transport granite. Section north of Yelverton converted to railway in late 19th century. Most of the rails were removed in 1916.


Grid Reference:SX 547 688
Map Sheet:SX56NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBuckland Monachorum
DistrictSouth Hams
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishMEAVY
Ecclesiastical ParishBICKLEIGH
Ecclesiastical ParishWALKHAMPTON
Ecclesiastical ParishBUCKLAND MONACHORUM

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthwork and structural remains of the World War II RAF Harrowbeer airfield, as well as medieval fields and farms, industrial tin working, sections of the Devonport and Plymouth Leats, and part of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway on Roborough Down
  • SHINE: Earthwork and structural remains on Walkhampton Common including 19th century Swelltor and Foggintor Quarries, a section of the early 19th century Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway, later converted to railway, also streamworks along the Yes Tor Brook
  • SHINE: Earthwork and structural remains of a section of the late 18th century Devonport Leat running between Roborough Down and Burrator Reservoir
  • SHINE: Earthwork remains of an area of the Hart Tor tinworks west and north of Hart Tor, Walkhampton Common

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: LINEAR 1900
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 439568
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX56NW/41

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • TRAMWAY (XIX - 1823 AD to 1883 AD (Between))

Full description

1840, Tithe Map (Cartographic). SDV339770.

Tithe Map depicts the route of the tramway runnning all the way to Princetown.

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

By the time of the First Edition historic map (late 19th century), the tramway had been converted (north of Yelverton) to the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway. Route of this track and some of the older sections of tramway depicted on the historic map.

Hicks, C. E., 1947-1949, A note of the Plymouth and Dartmoor railroad, 381-383 (Article in Serial). SDV252925.

An act of parliament of 1819 authorised the construction of the Plymouth and Dartmoor railroad. The details of its prospectus are reproduced. The main line of rails was fixed on granite blocks, and the sidings were composed of granite blocks fixed to serve as rails. At Leigham the high ground was tunnelled for about 580 metres. The 37 kilometres of track from Kings Tor to Plymouth were opened in 1823. The railroad was never profitable, and in 1880 the Dartmoor portion was reconstructed to form the Princetown-Yelverton Railway.

Baxter, B., 1966, Stone Blocks and Iron Rails (Article in Serial). SDV340946.

The 4 feet 6 inches Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway ran from Sutton Harbour (SX 486542) to near Princetown (SX 588735), by way of Yelverton, a distance of 25 1/2 miles. It was opened in 1823 for the transport of granite to Plymouth and coal, timber, sea-sand, etc., to Princetown. The line became part of the South Devon Railway in 1851, and then in 1878 it became the Princetown Railway and was partly abandoned. At Leigham (SX 515286) is a tunnel, 620 yards long.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 20-21, 169-174 (Monograph). SDV149229.

The Plymouth and Dartmoor tramway was planned in the early 19th century by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt to add to the developing road system across the moor. It was intended to bring up lime and sea-sand for the improvement of the land, timber for building, coal and other domestic necessities. In returning, the railway would carry Dartmoor's exportable commodities; granite, peat and mining products.
The line opened on 26 September 1823, although at that time the upper end only reached as far as King Tor, in the vicinity of the granite quarries. The final section to Princetown subsequently completed. The total length of the single track line was 25.5 miles with a high degree of winding and looping due to the terrain. The railway was not the success it was hoped. Little was carried on it other than granite and by 1840 traffic had dwindled considerably. The section above Yelverton was sold, reconstructed to standard gauge and reopened as the Princetown Railway in 1883. Occasional traffic was carried on the lower section until about 1900 but in 1916 most of the rails, except those taken over by the Lee Moor Tramway, were removed.

Kendall, H. G., 1968, The Plymouth and Dartmough Railway and its Forerunners (Monograph). SDV340944.

Greatly detailed account of the railway and its history.

Anthony, G. H., 1971, The Tavistock, Launceston and Princetown Railways, 86-100 (Monograph). SDV341175.

Detail based on Kendall.
The King Tor to Princetown section of the track was completed by December 1926.

Thomas, D. St. J., 1973, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain Volume 1 The West Country (Monograph). SDV363838.

Minchinton, W. E., 1976, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 27 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Tramway track. The Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway. Built for Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt by William Hughes and Roger Hopkins, ran between Sutton Harbour and Princetown. Opened in 1823, it was used for the transport of granite to Plymouth and raw materials and general supplies for Princetown.

Thomas, D. St. J., 1981, A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain, 110-112 (Monograph). SDV168.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Partly visible on the aerial photographs.

Gray, V., 1985 - 1986, Tramway/Railway (Worksheet). SDV340943.

Horsedrawn tramway. Route of track can be traced for almost its entire length through Bickleigh parish. Section near Darklake Farm has a number of stone sleepers in situ. Embankment to south of Farm collapsing. Four milestones in situ.

Bastin, C. H., 1989, Princetown Railways (Pamphlet). SDV252923.

Ordnance Survey, 2013, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV350786.

Some sections of embankment still depicted on the modern mapping. Map object partly based on this source.

Richards, A. F., 2021, Correction of the tramway route (Personal Comment). SDV364199.

(05/03/2021) Correction of the route of the tramway pointed out; near the Burrator Inn in Dousland the route of the railway diverges from that of the tramway, creating a more gradual curve.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 20-21, 169-174.
SDV168Monograph: Thomas, D. St. J.. 1981. A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain. A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain. 1. Unknown. 110-112.
SDV252923Pamphlet: Bastin, C. H.. 1989. Princetown Railways. Princetown Railways. Paperback Volume.
SDV252925Article in Serial: Hicks, C. E.. 1947-1949. A note of the Plymouth and Dartmoor railroad. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 381-383.
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV339770Cartographic: 1840. Tithe Map. Tithe Map and Apportionment. Map (Paper). [Mapped feature: #83998 ]
SDV340943Worksheet: Gray, V.. 1985 - 1986. Tramway/Railway. Worksheet.
SDV340944Monograph: Kendall, H. G.. 1968. The Plymouth and Dartmough Railway and its Forerunners. The Plymouth and Dartmough Railway and its Forerunners. Paperback Volume.
SDV340946Article in Serial: Baxter, B.. 1966. Stone Blocks and Iron Rails. Tramroads. Unknown.
SDV341175Monograph: Anthony, G. H.. 1971. The Tavistock, Launceston and Princetown Railways. The Tavistock, Launceston and Princetown Railways. Paperback Volume. 86-100.
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV363838Monograph: Thomas, D. St. J.. 1973. A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain Volume 1 The West Country. A Regional History of Railways of Great Britain. 1. Unknown.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1976. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 27.

Associated Monuments

MDV57136Parent of: Ingra Tor Halt, Walkhampton (Monument)
MDV118751Related to: Building on golf course south-west of Clearbrook (Building)
MDV20668Related to: Croftshead deserted farmstead, Walkhampton (Building)
MDV118284Related to: Devon Tors, Yelverton (Building)
MDV5005Related to: Foggintor Quarry, Princetown (Monument)
MDV111871Related to: Higher Peekhill farm, Walkhampton (Monument)
MDV16866Related to: Johnson's Quarries at Ingra Tor, Walkhampton (Monument)
MDV123108Related to: Milestone west of Roughways, Buckland Monochorum (Monument)
MDV19112Related to: Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway (Dartmoor section) (Monument)
MDV2221Related to: Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway (Monument)
MDV28821Related to: Quarry adjacent to the Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway (Monument)
MDV48997Related to: Quarry north-west of Coombe Park Lodge (Monument)
MDV28222Related to: Streamworks along the Yes Tor Brook, Walkhampton (Monument)
MDV2341Related to: The Rock Hotel, Roborough Down (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7375 - Archaeological recording during construction of the Dousland to Rundlestone water main (Ref: 94.40)
  • EDV7384 - Survey of buildings at Swell Tor Quarry, Walkhampton
  • EDV8225 - Survey of an area of Walkhampton CommonSurvey of an area of Walkhampton Common
  • EDV8351 - Walkhampton Premier Archaeological Landscape; Field Investigation Project

Date Last Edited:May 21 2021 10:26AM