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HER Number:MDV4384
Name:Knack Tin Mine on the River Taw south-west of Steeperton Tor, Dartmoor Forest


Knack Tin Mine, also known as Steeperton Tor Mine and Wheal Virgin mine. Worked between 1850s-1880s, but may be related to Wheal Virgin and Hock Tor which were worked earlier in the 19th century.


Grid Reference:SX 611 880
Map Sheet:SX68NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthwork and structural remains of Knack Tin Mine (also known as Steeperton) 400 metres south-west of Steeperton Tor, an 18th century Tin Mine worked between the 1850s-1880s

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX68NW78
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 619188
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX68NW/17

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BEAMWORK (Constructed, Early Medieval to XVI - 1066 AD (Between) to 1540 AD (Between))
  • TIN MINE (Constructed, XVIII to XIX - 1799 AD? (Between) to 1881 AD (Between))

Full description

Duchy of Cornwall, 1834-1876, Duchy of Cornwall Papers (Unknown). SDV242815.

London bundle : miscellaneous 1830-1835 dated 16th Setember 1834.
Bradninch : ls - dated 13th June 1876 and lr - dated 15th June 1876.

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

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

Ramsden, J. V., 1952, Notes on the Mines of Devonshire, 97 fig. 1 (Article in Serial). SDV60737.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 202 (Monograph). SDV149229.

Knack Tin Mine. At foot of Steeperton Tor beside the infant River Taw are numerous undulations but nothing spectacular to mark the site of Steeperton or Knack tin mine. No records of production.

Greeves, T. + Robinson, R., 1983, Survey drawing (Plan - measured). SDV256584.

Visited on 25th October 1983. Area surveyed at 1:200. Plan in possession of T. Greeves.

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

'Mine' shown on AP transcription by RCHM APP - no photo reference given.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1985, Steeperton Tor Tin Mine, Dartmoor, 101-127, figs 1-6 (Article in Serial). SDV310154.

Licence of steeperton tor sett granted in 1853. Burst of activity in 1870s, to which most of the surviving surface structures probably belong. Workings found to be in a dangerous state in 1876. Wheelpit dug in 1877 to house waterwheel purchased from Gobbett Mine (see subsheet).
In 1878 one ton of black tin was sold, and 27 men employed. The following year the mine was in liquidation, and in 1880-1881 all plant was sold by auction. See subsheets for surviving features.

Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England, 1987-1993, Duchy Farms Project Survey Visit (Report - Survey). SDV350839.

(30/09/1993) Centred SX 61308820. The remains of Steeperton Tor Mine are spread along both sides and the floor of the steeply sloping Taw valley, south-west of Steeperton Tor. Also known as Knack Mine or Wheal Virgin, it is a tin mine for which documentation from the period 1799 to 1881 survives. Also within the valley are the remains of earlier tinning activity in the form of opencast lode workings and streamworks, which although undocumented, probably date to the late medieval and post-medieval periods. (For streamworks see separate entry SX 68 NW 84).
There are four areas of opencast lode working:
Centred SX 61858798. On the west side of the river a large openwork, with a steep-sided `V' shape profile, cuts obliquely into the hillside from river level, following a north-west to south-east orientation. It measures approximately 140m long by 8m wide and is up to 5m deep. A series of narrower water diversion channels, which conveyed water into the openwork, join the working on the west side and run uphill for 120m. Their water source was a reservoir sited at SX 60968796, which consists of an 80m long earthen linear bank up to 4m wide at base and 0.8m high forming a dam. Behind the bank the level base of the reservoir is approximately 3m wide and has a scarp of approximately 0.5m high at the rear. A leat, which survives as a fragmentary and much eroded channel of approximately 0.8m wide by 0.4m deep between SX 60768764 and SX 60958792, served as the main supply of water to the reservoir, diverting water from a small, marshy tributary of the River Taw.
Centred SX 61328699. On the eastern side of the River Taw is a crescentic openwork, with steep sides and a level interior. It is 65m long overall by up to 30m wide. The depth varies from 2m at the lower western end to 10m at the eastern upper end.
Centred SX 61288808. A smaller openwork exploited a lode extending to the west of the River Taw between SX 61228810 and SX 61288808. The working is linear and situated at right angles to the river course. It is 70m long by up to 8m wide and 4m deep.
Centred SX 61258840. Three smaller openworks are concentrated in the area to the west of the nineteenth century mine, extending along an east to west orientation. Two of the openworks are roughly linear in shape and between 70 to 80m long, between 3 and 6m wide and up to 2.5m deep. A third openwork is roughly `Y' shaped and measures 100m long overall.
Another two cuttings, which are crescentic in shape, extend west from river level centred at SX 61388842 and SX 61398844 and cut into the very steep hillside. Greeves considers these features are either trial adits or quarry sites used during the construction of the 19th century mine (a). Their appearance is certainly unlike that of any openwork.
The earliest probable reference to a mine at Steeperton comes in 1799 when a mine called `Wheal Virgin' was reported to be `raising tin fast' (a). However, the first specific references were in 1853 and 1854 when the bounds of the `Steeperton Tor' sett were defined. Further activity took place in the period 1871 - 1877 for which detailed documentation survives revealing information on underground activity, the workforce, accounts and the purchase of machinery. By 1879 the mine was reported as being in liquidation and in May 1881 the sale by auction of all the mine machinery marks the final closure (a).
Remains which may be identified with the 19th century episode of activity are a wheelpit, a dressing floor, a building, a stone platform, two leats and a dam, shafts and adits.
SX 61418846. Sited on a level terrace on the steeply sloping western bank of the River Taw, approximately 4m above river level, are the remains of a rectangular granite building. The building has a NNE - SSW orientation with a probable overall length of 18.4m, though the walls at both the north and south ends are now ruinous and ill-defined. The width is 4.5m. An internal, west to east partition-wall divides the building into two sections. That on the north measures 8m long and that to the south is 10m. Both sections have external door openings on the east wall of 1m wide and the southern section has a fireplace recess on the western wall measuring 1.2m wide by 0.5m deep. All walls are made from coursed granite and are on average 0.7m thick with a maximum surviving height of 1.3m high on the western wall. Much of the walling has now collapsed and the floor of the building is strewn with tumbled masonry. Drill-split granite has been used in the walling, giving a terminus post quem for the building of approximately 1800, when drill-splitting technique first came into use on Dartmoor.
The wheelpit and dressing floor are located on the eastern bank of the River Taw approximately at river level. The dressing floor consist of a level area of 20m by 8m centred at SX 61438840. Sited centrally on the terrace at SX 61448839 is a circular buddle of 5.1m diameter by 0.5m deep. The floor and sides of the buddle are turf-covered, disguising any surviving detail. The buddle wheelpit, survives in similar condition and is sited 5m to the north. It is aligned east to west and measures 4m by 1m by 0.4m deep. A second roughly circular recess, 10m to the north-west, measuring approximately 4.5m diameter, is a possible, though disturbed, buddle. The wheelpit is sited to the south of the dressing floor at
SX 614288238. It is cut into the base of a slope and consists of an elliptical, grassy hollow measuring 17m north to south, by 8m wide and 3m deep. At the base of the hollow the rectangular outline of the wheelpit is visible though no masonry is exposed. It measures 9.9m by 3.0m. On the eastern side of the hollow is an opening of 2m wide which is likely to be the approximate position of the stamping machinery. A small leat embankment stands 2m south of the wheelpit. It consists of a stony, turf-covered mound of 4m by 2.5m wide at base and 0.8m high. The tailrace is position 7m north-west of the wheelpit and forms an arc-shaped cutting with sharply-defined sides, spreading into a shallow marshy channel as it nears the river.
At the northern end of the dressing floor at SX 61438842 there is a curious earthwork feature of unknown purpose. It consists of a level platform 8.8m long by 6m wide surrounded by a low bank of 0.4m high on three sides. The platform is divided into two sections with the western half being 0.3m lower than the eastern.
SX 61408840. Sited 25m east of the wheelpit adjacent to the River Taw is a raised platform contained within a dry-stone revetment. The platform is rhomboid with sides measuring 16m and 11m. Granite walling survives on all but the north-east corner to a maximum height of 1m. The purpose of the platform is unclear but it could have served as a base for timber-built sheds.
There are four adits on the steeply sloping western valley side. At SX 61298836 and SX 61348841 the remains consist of collapsed tunnel entrances, creating a gully up to 4m wide by 1.5m deep and 14m long. On the eastern, downslope side of the adits are large, conical spoil heaps with level tops, and bases truncated by the slope of the hillside. The heap at SX 61358840 is 15m wide at base and approximately 4m high. The southern spoil heap at SX 61308835 is 20m wide at base by approximately 3.5m high. 20m to the west of the northern adit, a section of the adit tunnel has collapsed leaving a pit of 11m diameter by 3m deep. Both adits exploited lodes which has previously been worked as opencasts. A third adit is sited at river level at SX 61378840 and was certainly associated with the same lode as the northernmost adit described, probably serving for drainage. It is now heavily disguised by turf and heather but consists of an elliptical pit of approximately 12m by 8m by 3m deep. The fourth adit at SX 61248840, higher up the hillside, is less well preserved and appears older. The gully is 9m long by 2m wide and 2m deep. The spoil heap, sited 20m to the south-east, is 9m diameter by 2.5m high. 20m north-east of the adit there is a blocked shafthead consisting of a conical pit of 6m diameter and 3m deep. On the eastern downslope side is a crescentic ring of spoil measuring 5m north-south by 1.5m high.
SX 61118792. A fifth adit is sited at river level at the extreme south of the tin working area, at the base of the large southern openwork. The entrance has not collapsed and the opening survives to 0.8m high. Water flows from the entrance via a channel which appears to have been re-cut quite recently. A flat-topped spoil heap stand to the east of the adit entrance measuring 20m long by 10m wide and up to 2m high.
A blocked shaft associated with this adit lies inside the openwork at SX 61098796. It is a conical pit of 4m diameter by approximately 2m deep, now filled with reeds.
Two leats, now dry and silted, supplied water to the wheelpit and dressing floor area on the eastern side of the River Taw. The easternmost of the leats is higher of the two and had its source on the River Taw at SX 61178791. The channel is on average 1.5m wide and up to 0.8m deep although the remains are more slight nearer the source where it enters marshy ground. An upcast bank of 0.8m high by 0.2.5m wide runs along the downslope side of the leat. The leat follows the curvature of the valley side on an approximate contour course for 400m before broadening into a level, linear reservoir centred SX 61418825. The reservoir consists of a strip of level ground 2.5m wide by 80m long, cut into the hillside to a depth of 0.6m. There is a bank of upcast material on the downslope side, 0.5m high, behind which water would have been retained. North of the reservoir, a flat-topped stoney embankment, approximately 3m wide, descending the hillside in the direction of the dressing floor but fading out before reaching it, marks the final section of the leat's course.
The source of the lower leat was a reservoir created by the construction of a large dam across the River Taw at SX 61308814. The dam, consist of a linear bank 7m wide at base by 30m long and 1.2m high, surviving on the east side of the river and to the west a smaller bank 4m long by 3.5m. Before being breached these would have formed a single bank straddling the river at right angles. Two hollows at the foot of the hillside, 70m south of the dam are likely to be the quarry source from which the dam was built. The area to the south of the dam, which formed the reservoir, has become overwhelmed by bog and is visible as a concentration of reeds. The leat exits the reservoir at the eastern end of the dam and follows a contour course northward to a point 80m south of the wheelpit, beyond where its course is uncertain. The channel measures on average 0.8m wide by 0.6m deep and has an upcast bank on the downslope side of 2m wide by up to 0.6m high in places.
It is unclear why two leats were necessary, as the exact destination of either is uncertain from ground evidence. The construction of the lower leat dam and installation of the surviving wheelpit is well recorded in 1877 (a), near the end of the mine's working life but this does not necessarily exclude the upper leat as part of the 1870s activity.
SX 61268843. An erect granite stone, sited within an openwork bearing the letters `WV' on its west face, is likely to be a boundary stone recorded in 1799 as part of the Wheal Virgin bounds (a). The stone is a triangular slab 0.3m thick by 1.6m high and 1.9m wide at base. The inscribed letters are 0.18m high and 0.05m deep.
Several ancillary features exist at the site which are not identifiable to any specific period of activity.
Tin pits are distributed over much of the area but are mostly associated with the developed lode workings, with concentrations centred SX 61028803 around the south openwork and at SX 61238838 at the northern complex. They consist of conical pits, the size of which varies greatly between 1.5m diameter to 4m diameter by up to 2m deep. On the downslope side most of the pits have crescentic spoil mounds up to 1m high and 2.5m wide on average with their length coinciding with the diameter of the pit.
Narrow gullies which may represent exploratory diggings, occur at
SX 61138794, SX 6120882 and SX 61358857. The channels are no wider than 5m and are up to 2m deep.
Greeves mentions a blocked adit at SX 61798939 downstream of the mine. The site is on the eastern edge of a small patch of streamworks but the only evidence of an adit is a wet, spongy mound of vegetation characteristic of a disused adit mouth. However, there is no visible evidence of the adit itself.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1990, An Assessment of Dartmoor Tinworking, 29 (Report - Assessment). SDV343684.

Steeperton Tor Tin Mine, also known as 'Knack' and 'Knock' mine. No specific references before 1853, but references to 'Wheel Virgin' (1799 and 1836) and Hock Tor (1835) may refer to this site.

Butler, J., 1991, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North, 213-214, Map 41, Knack Mine (Monograph). SDV219155.

Knack Mine worked in the 19th century on the west bank of the River Taw to the south-west of Steeperton Tor with a wheel-pit, buddles, leats, adits and shafts and a number of ancillary buldings. Only small amounts of tin were raised and the workings were finally closed in 1879.

Cranstone, D. + Hedley, I., 1995, The Tin Industry, Step 3 Site Assessments: Devon, Devon 26 (Report - Assessment). SDV346887.


Greeves, T. A. P., 1997, Dartmoor Mines in 1799, 7-8 (Article in Serial). SDV262863.

GeoInformation Group Ltd, 2010, 1:625 2010 Colour aerial photography for Dartmoor (12.5cm resolution) (Aerial Photograph). SDV346026.

Remains of this mine are visible on the aerial photography.

Ordnance Survey, 2023, Mastermap 2023 (Cartographic). SDV365227.

'Knack Mine (disused)' shown on modern mapping.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 202.
SDV215700Monograph: H. M. Stationary Office. 1929. Abandoned Mines. Abandoned Mines. Unknown.
SDV219155Monograph: Butler, J.. 1991. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North. Two. Paperback Volume. 213-214, Map 41, Knack Mine.
SDV242815Unknown: Duchy of Cornwall. 1834-1876. Duchy of Cornwall Papers.
SDV256584Plan - measured: Greeves, T. + Robinson, R.. 1983. Survey drawing. Measured Survey Drawing. Unknown.
SDV262863Article in Serial: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1997. Dartmoor Mines in 1799. Dartmoor Tin Working Research Group Newsletter. Unknown. 7-8.
SDV310154Article in Serial: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1985. Steeperton Tor Tin Mine, Dartmoor. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 117. 101-127, figs 1-6.
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.
SDV320981Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1912 (1965). Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Hardback Volume.
SDV343684Report - Assessment: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1990. An Assessment of Dartmoor Tinworking. Digital. 29.
SDV346026Aerial Photograph: GeoInformation Group Ltd. 2010. 1:625 2010 Colour aerial photography for Dartmoor (12.5cm resolution). 2010 Aerial Photographs. Digital.
SDV346887Report - Assessment: Cranstone, D. + Hedley, I.. 1995. The Tin Industry, Step 3 Site Assessments: Devon. English Heritage Report. Unknown. Devon 26.
SDV350839Report - Survey: Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England. 1987-1993. Duchy Farms Project Survey Visit. Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England Archaeological Survey. Unknown.
SDV365227Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2023. Mastermap 2023. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #137098 ]
SDV60737Article in Serial: Ramsden, J. V.. 1952. Notes on the Mines of Devonshire. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 84. A5 Hardback. 97 fig. 1.

Associated Monuments

MDV42332Parent of: LEAT in the Parish of Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV27715Parent of: Openwork west of the River Taw (Monument)
MDV27716Parent of: Openwork west of the River Taw (Monument)
MDV22800Related to: Boundary stone on the edge of Wheal Virgin mine, Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV42329Related to: Building at Steeperton Tor Tin Mine (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7620 - Okehampton Artillary Range
  • EDV8409 - Dartmoor Royal Forest Project
  • EDV8679 - Okehampton Range: Management Survey
  • EDV8291 - Okehampton Range: Monument Baseline Condition Survey
  • EDV8695 - Survey of Okehampton North Dartmoor Military Range
  • EDV8423 - Duchy Farms Project

Date Last Edited:Oct 13 2023 4:05PM