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HER Number:MDV3185
Name:Wheal Betsy Mine


Wheal Betsy Mine, in use by 1740, but may date earlier than this. The mine was reopened in 1806 and finally closed in 1877. The remains comprise the 1860s engine house, wheel-pit, well-preserved washing floor, with buddles and in-situ dressing waste tips. Surrounding the core area of remains is an extensive multi-period mining landscape. The northern section contains a network of rakes, leats and hushes. The southern section contains early washing floors on both sides of the stream, with cobbled floors and at least one rectangular buddle. This site is included in the local list of Nationally Important Dartmoor sites.


Grid Reference:SX 509 809
Map Sheet:SX58SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishMary Tavy
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishMARY TAVY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 440756
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX58SW/6
  • Old SAM County Ref: 787(PART)
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MINE (XVIII to XIX - 1740 AD to 1877 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX58SW42 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV253760.

Royal Air Force, 13/04/1947, RAF/CPE/UK/1995, 4385 (Aerial Photograph). SDV224714.

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica (Monograph). SDV323771.

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

Watson, J. Y., 1843, A compendium of British Mining (Monograph). SDV253743.

Henwood, W. J., 1843, Metalliferous Deposits (Monograph). SDV337406.

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

Area of the mine depicted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map. Map object based on this Source.

Crossing, W., 1901, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV253763.

Collins, J. H., 1912, Observations on the West of England Mining Region (Monograph). SDV323594.

Crossing, W., 1912 (1965), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, 56, 156, 58 (Monograph). SDV320981.

Unknown, 1921, Special Report on Mineral Resources, 21 (Report - Scientific). SDV253744.

Special report mineral resources; lead. Other details: Geological Survey Memoir 337 Tavistock.

H. M. Stationary Office, 1929, Abandoned Mines (Monograph). SDV215700.

Ramsden, J. V., 1952, Notes on the Mines of Devonshire, 90 (Article in Serial). SDV60737.

Barton, D. B., 1964, The Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon, 84-92 (Monograph). SDV240068.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 36, 65-6, 208 (Monograph). SDV149229.

The remains of Wheal Betsy; one of the most successful mines in the Mary Tavy area are the most spectacular, comprising the shell of the old engine house with its stack (the last surviving on Dartmoor), surrounded by the old workings, spoil tips, dry channels, tracks and a number of shafts on the hillside and along the valley of the Cholwell Brook.
It is unknown precisely when Wheal Betsy was first worked but it was reopened in 1806 for lead and copper and also produced arsenic and silver. It continued in use until 1877 and was known at varying times as Prince Arthur Mine and as North Wheal Friendship.

Department of Environment, 1970, Wheal Betsy (Schedule Document). SDV253746.

Wheal Betsy engine house built in 1868. The mine closed in 1877.

Booker, F., 1971, Untitled Source, 129-30 (Monograph). SDV345749.

Minchinton, W. E., 1973, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 25 (Monograph). SDV7016.

The old Wheal Betsy mine was reopened for a time in 1806 and again in 1863 when it was renamed the Prince Arthur Consols. It produced lead, silver and zinc. Between 1845 and 1875 the output was 540 tons of lead and over 2,000 ounces of silver. Five water wheels were used to provide power for pumping, milling etc. The mine was abandoned in the late 1870's. Its engine house is now owned by the National Trust.

National Trust, 1984, Wheal Betsy (Report - Survey). SDV253747.

In 1967 the engine house and stack were repaired by the national trust.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) (Interpretation). SDV319854.

Mining area, mainly along length of Cholwell Brook, visible on aerial photographs. Heavily disturbed ground and spoil heaps. Shafts marked on Ordnance Survey maps. The disturbed ground stretches from SX51048147 to SX50948068. To the south of this, a mixture of scrub, coppice and non-coniferous trees probably covers a continuation of the area along the Cholwell Brook.

1985, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV253748.

Series of photographs of Wheal Betsy engine house, including one of the National Trust memorial plaque. Other details: 656/15-20.

Cranstone, D., 1991, HBMC Assessment of the Lead Industry (Report - non-specific). SDV344159.

(Site visited during 1990) Important 19th century mine with earlier origins. Core area, at SX510813, contains the engine house, a ruined wheelpit, well-preserved washing floor and buddles, in-situ dressing waste, spoil heap and earthwork remains of leats and rakes. The mine area, SX508803 - SX512816, is an extensive multi-period mining landscape of the late 18th to 19th century. Features in the northern part include the earthworks of spoilheaps, leats, rakes and possibly hushes. The southern part contains early washing floors on both sides of the stream, with cobbled floors and at least one rectangular buddle. Also recorded are bellpits and dressing waste tips. Almost entirely on open moorland.

Cranstone, D., 1991, The Lead Industry, Site 2A, 2B (Report - non-specific). SDV90317.

Landscaped Area
Extensive multi-period mining landscape. North part contains network of leats, rakes ?hushes. South part contains early washing floors on both sides of stram, with cobbled floors and at least one buddle.

Unique survival of extensive lead mining landscape within Devon and Cornwall region, including only known surviving 18th early-19th washing floors; many interesting features. Almost entirely open moorland.

Important 19th century mine, earlier origins. Core area contains 1860s engine house, wheelpit, and well-preserved washing floor with buddles and in situ dressing waste tips.

Important survival of 19th century mine, with good washing floor. Forms core of extensive multi-period and -type mining landscape. Strongly recommended for protection.

Pye, A. + Westcott, K., 1992, Archaeological survey of the pumping engine house at Wheal Betsy, Mary Tavy (Report - Survey). SDV253761.

Wheal Betsy saw near-continuous activity 1804-1877, but was only prosperous during 1830s and 1860s. This was largely due to drainage problems which required considerable investment in pumping machinery at a time of fluctuations in the lead market.

Richardson, P. H. G., 1992, The Mines of Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley after 1913, 50-52 (Article in Serial). SDV323598.

Wheal Betsy is a very old mine, already in existence by the mid-18th century. It boasts one of finest surviving examples of an engine house in Devon. Although the mine wasn't worked in the post-1913 period, during 1912-1918, a water-driven air-compressing plant built to serve Wheal Jewell. Machinery powered by leat from Tavy Cleave that also supplied Wheal Jewell and went on, via the Cholwell Brook, to supply Wheal Friendship. Other details: Figure 7.

Gerrard, S., 2004, List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor (Un-published). SDV345444.

This site was considered for designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument during the Monument Protection Programme. The programme ended before the entire list of sites was successfully scheduled so this is included on a local list of Nationally Important Sites.

Hamilton Jenkin, Dr. A. K., 2005, Mines of Devon, 87-9 (Monograph). SDV282410.

Wheal Betsy mine was reputedly started in 1740, although may have started earlier than this date. The principle lode runs north-south and was developed for three quarters of a mile, yielding lead, zinc and silver.
After a period of idleness, the mine was restarted in 1806 and from 1816 (or perhaps earlier) was worked in conjunction with Wheal Friendship. The mine was worked successfully for many years, although during the late 1820s, the price of lead fell significantly and the mine worked at a loss during this period. The price of lead recovered by the mid 1830s and in 1837 the connection with Wheal Friendship was ended, Wheal Betsy being formed as a separate company.
In 1863, a new company was formed in Glasgow under the name of Prince Arthur Consuls, and a large amount of investment into the mine took place, although the outlay far exceeded the mine's returns during the following years.
In 1869 the mine was sold to another company, when it reverted to being called Wheal Betsy and working continued at a reduced scale until 1877 when mining here ended.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Map object based on this Source.

Waterhouse, R., 2017, The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology, 220, figs 6.76-77 (Monograph). SDV361789.

Wheal Betsy
Ancient silver-lead mine worked a north-south lode in the upper reaches of the Cholwell Valley north of Mary Tavy. It was taken on by the Wheal Friendship adventurers from the 1820s. A leat from Tavy Cleave drove at least seven water engines for pumping, winding and crushing. The mine's drainage adit was extended a mile to the south inn the 1830s to join the Wheal Friendship drainage system, but later proved an expensive folly when working of the latter became too expensive, dealing with the constant inflow of water from Betsy. Steam engines were erected on both mines later in the century to deal with the problem. Fig 6.76 shows principal surface features in 1831 and fig 6.77 a section dates to the same year.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 36, 65-6, 208.
SDV215700Monograph: H. M. Stationary Office. 1929. Abandoned Mines. Abandoned Mines. Unknown.
SDV224714Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 13/04/1947. RAF/CPE/UK/1995. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 4385.
SDV240068Monograph: Barton, D. B.. 1964. The Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon. The Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon. A4 Stapled. 84-92.
SDV253743Monograph: Watson, J. Y.. 1843. A compendium of British Mining. A compendium of British Mining. Unknown.
SDV253744Report - Scientific: Unknown. 1921. Special Report on Mineral Resources. Unknown. Unknown. 21.
SDV253746Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1970. Wheal Betsy. The Schedule of Monuments. Unknown.
SDV253747Report - Survey: National Trust. 1984. Wheal Betsy. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV253748Photograph: 1985. Digital.
SDV253760Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX58SW42. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV253761Report - Survey: Pye, A. + Westcott, K.. 1992. Archaeological survey of the pumping engine house at Wheal Betsy, Mary Tavy. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Field Investigation. 92.08. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV253763Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1901. One Hundred Years on Dartmoor.
SDV282410Monograph: Hamilton Jenkin, Dr. A. K.. 2005. Mines of Devon. Mines of Devon. Paperback Volume. 87-9.
SDV319854Interpretation: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor). Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV320981Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1912 (1965). Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 56, 156, 58.
SDV323594Monograph: Collins, J. H.. 1912. Observations on the West of England Mining Region. Observations on the West of England Mining Region. Unknown.
SDV323598Article in Serial: Richardson, P. H. G.. 1992. The Mines of Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley after 1913. British Mining. 44. A5 Paperback. 50-52.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
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.
SDV337406Monograph: Henwood, W. J.. 1843. Metalliferous Deposits. Metalliferous Deposits. Unknown.
SDV344159Report - non-specific: Cranstone, D.. 1991. HBMC Assessment of the Lead Industry. Manuscript.
SDV345444Un-published: Gerrard, S.. 2004. List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor. Digital.
SDV345749Monograph: Booker, F.. 1971. The Industrial Archaeology of the Tamar Valley. Hardback Volume. 129-30.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV361789Monograph: Waterhouse, R.. 2017. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. The Tavistock Canal. Its History and Archaeology. Paperback Volume. 220, figs 6.76-77.
SDV60737Article in Serial: Ramsden, J. V.. 1952. Notes on the Mines of Devonshire. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 84. A5 Hardback. 90.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1973. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 25.
SDV90317Report - non-specific: Cranstone, D.. 1991. The Lead Industry. English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme Step 3 Site Assessments. A4 Unbound. Site 2A, 2B.

Associated Monuments

MDV79683Parent of: Adit shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43167Parent of: Balance bobs, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43165Parent of: Boiler House, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43172Parent of: Buddles east of engine house, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41539Parent of: Buller's, or Old Engine Shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41538Parent of: Date's, or Bate's Shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43171Parent of: Engine House, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV57140Parent of: FINDSPOT in the Parish of Mary Tavy (Find Spot)
MDV41542Parent of: First Engine Shaft and Pearce's Shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41540Parent of: Footway and Taylor's shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43168Parent of: Job's Shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV79684Parent of: Lean's shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41545Parent of: Loam's and South Engine mine shafts, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43166Parent of: Machinery at Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41547Parent of: Mine shaft in Carpenter's Wood, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41548Parent of: Mine shaft in Carpenter's Wood, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41541Parent of: Mine shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43174Parent of: Mining machinery, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV62933Parent of: Mortarstone east of Cholwell Brook (Find Spot)
MDV41537Parent of: New or 'Williams' engine shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41569Parent of: Quarry, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41569Related to: Quarry, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43161Parent of: Smelter and calciner, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43163Parent of: Smithy, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41546Parent of: South Engine Shaft, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43162Parent of: Stamping mill, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41536Parent of: Wheal Betsy Engine House (Monument)
MDV43164Parent of: Wheel pit, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43169Parent of: Wheel Pit, Wheal Betsy Mine (Monument)
MDV43170Parent of: Wheelpit, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV43173Parent of: Wheelpit, Wheal Betsy Mine (Monument)
MDV26935Related to: LEAT in the Parish of Mary Tavy (Monument)
MDV109613Related to: Mine leats off Cholwich Brook north of Holditch, Mary Tavy (Monument)
MDV114648Related to: Prince Arthur House, Balckdown (Building)
MDV41569Parent of: Quarry, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV41569Related to: Quarry, Wheal Betsy (Monument)
MDV5570Related to: The Reddaford Leat (Monument)
MDV4185Related to: Wheal Friendship Mine, Mary Tavy (Monument)
MDV3236Related to: Wheal Jewell Mine, Mary Tavy (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 5 2019 11:14AM