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HER Number:MDV43326
Name:Arsenic Refinery, Gawton Mine


Refinery complex at Gawton mine comprising calciner, furnace house and refining house.


Grid Reference:SX 451 689
Map Sheet:SX46NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishGulworthy
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX46NE/527/4
  • Old SAM County Ref: 1024

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARSENIC WORKS (XVIII to XXI - 1751 AD to 2009 AD (Between))
  • FURNACE (Constructed, XIX - 1883 AD to 1883 AD (Between))
  • REFINERY (Constructed, XIX - 1890 AD to 1890 AD (Between))

Full description

Timms, S., 1985, An Archaeological Assessment of the Remains of the Quay, Mine and Arsenic Works at Gawton, Tavistock Hamlets, 9.1-9.2, appendix (Report - Assessment). SDV352213.

9.1 - Furnaces (SX 4520 6889) noted on sources dated 1895, 1906, 1953, 1984. Poor condition. Reduced by levelling. Built 1883.
9.2 - Refinery (SX 4516 6890) noted on sources dated 1895, 1906, 1953, 1984. Poor condition. Reduced by levelling. Built 1890 of concrete made from the burnt ore.

Dixon, T. + Matthews, A. + Pye A. R. + Slater, W. D., 1988, Gawton Mine and Arsenic Works. The Field Survey. 1988 (Report - Survey). SDV222516.

Refnery complex of 1890 comprising calciner (a) at cSX45206888 (not shown on 1895 map), furnace house (b) at SX45216890 and refining house (c-f) at SX45166890. For purification of arsenic soot by reverboratory furnace attached to condensing chambers. Built of concrete made from recycled burnt ore.

The calciner is located on a terrace above and south of the refinery. Largely demolished but apparently of shillet construction. Two stoke holes in remaining section of north wall. At some period a small shillet building added to west end - only a part of north wall of which survives. All remaining corners have brick quoins. Beyond north west corner is a largely demolished circular structure, possibly the base of a well or chimney. Immediately north of this is a wood lined pit aligned north-south, rubble filled. Parallel with east wall of calciner, 2.5-3m east, is a shillet wall, towards south end of which is an apparently original entrance. Wall appears to have formed end wall of earlier building, possibly calciner in the early works. The furnace house lies immediately west of the calciner in an area bounded on south by originally decoratively capped shillet with quartzite wall revetting the terrace on which calciner stands. Four large rectangular openings, three of which blocked (two by shillet, one by brick). The open (west) one contains wooden shute, presumably from calciner down into refinery area. Some evidence of rebuilding and heightening in east section. Towards this section is another rectangular opening partly blocked by shillet and brick. Small shute with arsenic residue exists on one side of this opening. Two metres east the wall turns south, perhaps the site of a flue from the refinery to the main 1880 flue. During demolition the refinery seems to have been filled with rubble, causing any surviving north wall to begin to slide down into river. Bulk of north wall of grey concrete blocks with occasional shillet buttressing. Some brick platforms or walls protruding in this slope are presumably part of internal arrangements.

Refinery house forms last surviving part of the complex. Dark grey concrete with some internal timberwork. The range is subdivided into units (c-e).
(c) consists at ground floor level of doorway and two windows to orth, all apparently original. At north end of east wall is doorway into (d). At east end of south wall is blocked doorway leading perhaps into the southern (demolished) part of the refinery, apparently accessed by stairs. At first floor level wooden joists ran north-south, with only the stubs remaining. This seems a deliberate alteration opening the building to the ceiling, or may be the result of robbing. Three windows open to north. Concrete walls survive to full height.

(d) divided from (c) and (e) by apparently original shuttered concrete walls. Two storeys. Ground floor has wide opening/door in north wall, flanked by two windows. Several small openings into (e) to east - two may be doors, the others perhaps relating to machinery. Part of first floor survives. Joists again sawn off, having run east-west. Some floor planking survives to east. Two very large beams, now sawn off, ran north-south, probably to accommodate machinery. First floor door into (e); two windows open to north. Small rectangular opening high up on south side - function unclear.

(e) two storeys. Ground floor has opening from (d) and wide gateway and window in north wall. East wall almost completely demolished. At first floor two windows to north. East-west floor joists. One very large north-south beam runs through south wall presumably into demolished part of refinery. Beam and joists sawn off. Rectangular or square concrete platform in centre of ground floor may represent machine setting.

(f) apparent eastern continuation of north-south unit (c-e). Small shillet structure with only south and east walls surviving. Unclear whether this is structural or purely revetment wall for refinery buildings to south, though it appears to be a later feature. Construction includes concrete blocks. An apparent loading platform of shillet construction revetted by wooden posts lies immediately north of (f) and 4-5m north of the line of the north wall of (c-e).

(g) small, ruinous shillet shed immediately west of surviving part of refinery. Access in south west corner. Other details: Survey - Spring/Summer 1988.

Weddell, P. J. + Pye, A. R., 1989, Gawton Mine and Arsenic Works: The Documentary Research 1988 (Report - non-specific). SDV263249.

Buck, C., 2003, Gawton Mine, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV222530.

Other details: Fig. 5.

Buck, C., 2006, Gawton Mine, Devon: Archaeological Assessment, 48 (Report - Assessment). SDV344672.

The arsenic furnace house was mostly demolished in the late1940s, leaving the site as a large area of bricks and wall remnants. The refinery house is now the main two storied extant building of the entire complex, and is now starting to crack and crumble in many places. Ivy and vegetation is growing on the tops and sides of the walls, and trees area growing inside the building. Other details: Figures 29, 36, site 45.

Buck, C., 2006, Gawton Mine, Devon: Impact Assessment Report, 37-38 (Report - Assessment). SDV348353.

The Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project has proposed that a programme of building conservation and public safety works be undertaken to a number of sites within Gawton Quay and Mine. However there will be no impact on the arsenic refinery site, as the intention is to fence it in order to keep the public out due to its high arsenic content and unstable buildings. Other details: Figure 4, site 45.1-3.

Ordnance Survey, 2019, MasterMap 2019 (Cartographic). SDV362729.

Depicted on modern maps.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV222516Report - Survey: Dixon, T. + Matthews, A. + Pye A. R. + Slater, W. D.. 1988. Gawton Mine and Arsenic Works. The Field Survey. 1988. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 89.02. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV222530Report - Survey: Buck, C.. 2003. Gawton Mine, Devon. Cornwall Archaeological Unit Report. 2003R086. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV263249Report - non-specific: Weddell, P. J. + Pye, A. R.. 1989. Gawton Mine and Arsenic Works: The Documentary Research 1988. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 89.01. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV344672Report - Assessment: Buck, C.. 2006. Gawton Mine, Devon: Archaeological Assessment. Cornwall County Council Report. 2006R023. A4 Stapled + Digital. 48.
SDV348353Report - Assessment: Buck, C.. 2006. Gawton Mine, Devon: Impact Assessment Report. Cornwall County Council Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 37-38.
SDV352213Report - Assessment: Timms, S.. 1985. An Archaeological Assessment of the Remains of the Quay, Mine and Arsenic Works at Gawton, Tavistock Hamlets. Devon County Council. A4 Stapled + Digital. 9.1-9.2, appendix.
SDV362729Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2019. MasterMap 2019. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #119605 ]

Associated Monuments

MDV124300Parent of: The Wheal Gawton Arsenic Works Leat (Monument)
MDV5490Part of: Gawton Mine, West Devon (Monument)
MDV43337Related to: INDUSTRIAL BUILDING in the Parish of Gulworthy (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV3172 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV4746 - Archaeological Assessment of Gawton Mine, Devon
  • EDV4747 - Field Survey of Gawton Mine

Date Last Edited:Aug 29 2019 10:41AM