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HER Number:MDV51412
Name:Herne Hole Quarry, Princetown


Stone quarry that provided granite for the construction of the prison from the early 19th century and has been used by convict working parties from 1850 onwards to provide materials for building and maintenance.


Grid Reference:SX 583 746
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthwork remains of Medieval or later streamworking and 19th century Naphtha Tramway and granite quarries north and west of Princetown Prison

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX57SE194
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1364178
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57SE/71
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BUILDING (XVIII to XIX - 1800 AD (Between) to 1850 AD (Between))
  • STONE QUARRY (XVIII to XIX - 1800 AD (Between) to 1850 AD (Between))
  • SUBWAY (XVIII to XIX - 1800 AD (Between) to 1850 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'Quarry' is depicted on the later 19th century historic map (not shown on the Tithe Map). A substantial quarry with 'Cranes' depicted on the western side, a spring on the north and a number of buildings at the eastern entrance and along the southern side. 'S.P.' (spring / signal post / sewer pipe?) indicated near the eastern entrance.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

A further building depicted on the northern side of the quarry, but otherwise unchanged from the late 19th century historic map depiction.

Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure, 40, 48, 58-9, 65, 77, 163-4, photographs (Monograph). SDV359843.

The quarry and its buildings, known as Herne Hole, was the source of all granite for the seven war prisons and all the ancillary buildings, and especially the mighty convict halls.
For a century and a half, from 1850 to 2000 the works' staff employed anywhere on the estate would take a party of convicts with their carts to the quarry to collect aggregate, sand, fencing materials or materials for maintenance works. The quarry party would extract granite for buildings, smash it for use in roadworks and supply screened sand for putting on the children's playgrounds in the prison officers' school. In recent years they have used modern stone-crushing machinery.
All roads, including some public roads, were coated in the old days while in recent times vast quantities were produced to spread on all prison tracks. Hard-labour convicts produced large amounts of crushed stone, so it had to be taken from the quarry and used anywhere possible to get rid of it.
The quarry produced 5000 tons of granite for building, but first 650 cubic metres of earth and soft granite had to be removed from the quarry head to allow access to the good granite. The quarry also produced 2200 feet of kerbstones for Wormwood Scrubs and 40 tons of shaped stone for Woking Prison and 20 tons of dressed granite for Portland Prison as well as materials for Holloway Prison.
In the early 20th century, 900 cubic yards of earth and surface rock were excavated to access the granite and in 1901 4300 tons of granite were quarried and 2900 tons split into various sizes.
An accident during a blast at the quarry in 1866 saw one convict die and another lose an arm; unfortunately this was not an uncommon event owing to the use of black powder, which was notoriously explosive and convicts were treated as disposable commondities at that time. Images of a pump that was used to pump water continuously to the quarry from th espring below the quarry, as well as a tunnel under the road that led to the quarry and was used by convicts to avoid using the public roads.

Probert, S. A. J., 2002, Dartmoor Prison Farm, Devon. An Archaeological Survey and Evaluation, 7, fig (Report - Survey). SDV364452.

The Prison Quarry
[1364178a] (23/08/2002) Centred SX 58127455. Herne Hole quarry represents nearly two centuries of stone extraction. It provided the stone for the 1806-9 building programme and was worked intermittently until the late 1980's or early 1990's. The quarry floor lies some 15m below the surrounding hillside and is enclosed by spoil heaps of overburden. Quarry waste was deposited in a number of tips, most notably immediately opposite the entrance and adjacent to the peat tramroad.
The quarry entrance is flanked by two buildings constructed into the sides of the approach cutting:
[1364178b] SX 58197459. The north structure measures 5.5m long and 5.3m deep beneath a cast concrete roof. The front possesses two doorways.
[1364178c] SX 58207457. Measuring 5.5m east to west by 7.5m deep beneath a corrugated iron roof. The frontage contains a single, blocked, entrance.
[1364178d] SX 58237461. The subway is a barrel-vaulted, cast concrete structure 2.5m wide and 2.1m high supporting both the Rundlestone road and the prison leat. It is approached by a metalled track originating at the prison.

Stanbrook, E., 2002, Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817, 11 (Monograph). SDV359848.

So much stone was required to build the war prison at Princetown that a quarry, to become known as Herne Hole Quarry, was opened just a few hundred yards to the north-west of the site. From here, tramlines (or an iron railway) were laid to the building site.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

'Stone Quarry' is depicted on the modern mapping.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV359843Monograph: Joy, R.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. 2. Hardback Volume. 40, 48, 58-9, 65, 77, 163-4, photographs.
SDV359848Monograph: Stanbrook, E.. 2002. Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817. Dartmoor's War Prison & Church 1805-1817. Paperback Volume. 11.

Associated Monuments

MDV15309Related to: Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV131687Related to: Magazine, Dartmoor Prison Quarry (Monument)
MDV55620Related to: Nissen huts in quarry north of Princetown (Monument)
MDV27089Related to: Prison Leat, Dartmoor Forest (Monument)
MDV51408Related to: Quarry to the north-east of Herne Hole Quarry (Monument)
MDV133776Related to: Trackway, Dartmoor Prison Quarry (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8409 - Dartmoor Royal Forest Project
  • EDV8714 - Survey of Dartmoor Prison Farm (Ref: AI//37/2002)

Date Last Edited:Mar 6 2023 4:42PM