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HER Number:MDV43196
Name:Leat from Cherry Brook to the Powder Mills Gunpowder Factory

Summary

Leat of the 19th century running from Cherry Brook to a reservoir in the Powder Mills gunpowder factory complex

Location

Grid Reference:SX 628 779
Map Sheet:SX67NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX67NW/246
  • Old SAM Ref: 28718

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • LEAT (XVIII to XIX - 1800 AD to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

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

Leat running south from Cherry Brook via two 'Sluices' to the reservoir on the north side of Powder Mills gunpowder factory. Map object based on this source and Scheduled Ancient Monument area.


Ordnance Survey, 1906, 99SW (Cartographic). SDV336746.


Pye, A. R. + Robinson, R., 1990, An Archaeological Survey of the Gunpowder Factory at Powdermills Farm, Postbridge, Devon, 38, Figure 3 (Report - Survey). SDV254157.

Leat running south from Cherry Brook to a reservoir in the Powder Mills gunpowder factory complex.


Pye, A., 1996, The Gunpowder Factory at Powdermills, 221 (Article in Serial). SDV254160.


Gerrard, S., 1998, 149197 (Un-published). SDV256688.

Leat serving the gunpowder factory at Powder Mills


Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

'Leat (disused)' shown on modern mapping.


English Heritage, 9/10/1981, Gunpowder factory at Powder Mills (Schedule Document). SDV350194.

The gunpowder factory at Powder Mills survives well and contains a complete range of buildings and other structures and features associated with the industry. Many of the buildings remain essentially intact, with only the roofs and machinery having been removed. The system of leats and trackways provides useful additional information concerning the character of the factory. The unique survival of the associated proving mortar emphasises the quality of the surviving archaeology. Together with a comprehensive historical background this represents a fine example of a gunpowder production site.
The monument, which falls into five areas, includes a gunpowder factory, a partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement and a round cairn situated adjacent to the Cherry Brook. The gunpowder factory, which is Listed Grade II, comprises at least 18 buildings involved in the production, storage and management of gunpowder. Many of these buildings contained machinery which was powered by water which was carried to the site by three large leats from the East Dart and Cherry Brook rivers. These are included in the scheduling. A system of trackways link the buildings and the river was crossed by way of clapper bridges. The gunpowder factory established in 1844 by George Frean, was certainly operational by 1846 and remained in use until 1897, when it closed as a result of increasing competition from dynamite and a slump in local mining activity. The production of gunpowder involved combining a mixture of saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal and the buildings in which the different stages of the process were carried out survive at Powder Mills. The process was inherently dangerous and to reduce the chances of cataclysmic explosions, the buildings were situated at a safe distance from each other and each had a flimsy roof which would have allowed any explosion to be carried upwards. Several explosions are known to have occurred at Powder Mills and fortunately these precautions may have ensured that no workers were ever killed. Amongst the buildings identified at Powder Mills are: grinding mills, where the ingredients were crushed separately between horizontal rotating millstones; blending mills, where the ingredients were mixed in rotating barrels; incorporation mills, where the material from the blending mills was mixed further into a single compound; a range of buildings where the gunpowder was broken, pressed, corned, dried, dusted and glazed; and finally charge magazines, where the gunpowder was stored. Further buildings on the site may have been used as storage or office accommodation. The quality of the finished gunpowder had to be tested and at Powder Mills this appears to have been carried out using two very different techniques. At SX 63777681 a proving mortar, which was used to test the strength of the gunpowder, still sits on a restored carriage. Whilst at SX 62757750 a number of large boulders have been split using a single charge, possibly the result of of testing. To the south west of the gunpowder factory stands an isolated rectangular building in which finished gunpowder was stored prior to transportation. Within the vicinity of the gunpowder works there are four quarries from which material was derived during the construction of the buildings. Parts of the valley bottom contain earthworks related to tin streamworking. Modern post and wire fences, a shed and piles of sand and other materials associated with a consolidation programme are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV254157Report - Survey: Pye, A. R. + Robinson, R.. 1990. An Archaeological Survey of the Gunpowder Factory at Powdermills Farm, Postbridge, Devon. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 90.07. A4 Grip Bound. 38, Figure 3.
SDV254160Article in Serial: Pye, A.. 1996. The Gunpowder Factory at Powdermills. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 52. Paperback Volume. 221.
SDV256688Un-published: Gerrard, S.. 1998. 149197. Monument Protection Programme.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #91625 ]
SDV336746Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1906. 99SW. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV350194Schedule Document: English Heritage. 9/10/1981. Gunpowder factory at Powder Mills. The Schedule of Monuments. Website.

Associated Monuments

MDV5913Part of: Powder Mills Gunpowder Factory, Cherry Brook (Monument)
MDV20480Related to: Leat supplying Powder Mills Gunpowder Factory (Monument)
MDV43193Related to: Reservoir at the north end of Powder Mills Gunpowder Factory (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6029 - An Archaeological Survey of the Gunpowder Factory at Powdermills Farm

Date Last Edited:Jun 2 2015 11:45AM