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HER Number:MDV5548
Name:British Patent Naptha Tramway, Princetown


The course of a 19th century tramroad built by the British Patent Naptha Company runs some 3.6 kilometres north from the gasworks which formerly lay within the prison of war at Princetown. Branch lines ran to peat cuttings on Black Dunghill.


Grid Reference:SX 579 758
Map Sheet:SX57NE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX 57 SE 175
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57NE/48
  • Pastscape: 1064763

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • TRAMWAY (XIX - 1850 AD to 1875 AD (Between))

Full description

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/CPE/UK/1890, 2475 (Aerial Photograph). SDV169268.

Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/2149, 3165 (Aerial Photograph). SDV282746.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 203 (Monograph). SDV149229.

About 250 metres east of Rendlestone Cross are signs of a now grassy track, north and south of the road, which curves away around the plantation on the prison ground in the direction of Princetown. It is probable that this was the route of a tramway over which peat was brought in to supply the Princetown Naphtha works.

Hemery, E., 1983, Walking the Dartmoor Railroads (Monograph). SDV345331.

In 1846 the British Patent Naphtha Company rented the war (Dartmoor) prison, built naphtha gas plant and horse-tramroad to Yearlick Ball.

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

Visible on the Royal Air Force aerial photographs. Recorded on map overlay.

Environment Agency WMS, 1998-2016, LiDAR DTM data JPEG image (1m resolution) (Cartographic). SDV360208.

Visible on the lidar data fairly clearly, especialy northern branch to Black Dunghill.

Newman , P., 2018, Archaeological Sites within Merrivale Training Area, Dartmoor National Park, Devon: A condition survey on behalf of Defence Infrastructure Organisation (Report - Survey). SDV361635.

The 3.6 kilometre long course of a 19th century tramroad built to transport peat, extends from Princetown to Black Dunghill. Surviving as a series of linear cuttings and embankments.

Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

Partially depicted on the modern map as still in use as a trackway.

National Monument Record, 2018, Pastscape, 1995-2005 data (Website). SDV360651.

Between SX57537687 to SX58437421 runs the course of the tramway designed to transport peat from extractive sites flanking the upper reaches of the Blacka Brook to a naphtha works occupying part of the former war prison at Princetown (see SX 57 SE 143). At SX57537687, the northern extremity of the system, lies an overgrown loading bay approximately 12 metres long and standing a maximum of 1.4 metres high constructed of large granite boulders. From this point the tramway ran some 3.6 kilometres south to SX58437421, a group of currently used prison buildings occupying the site of the naphtha works. The trackbed survives in its entirety and comprises a series of cuttings and embankments serving to create an even gradient. For most of its length it remains in use as a vehicle track though its upper reaches are now very marshy (citing Probert, S. A. J., 17/07/1995, Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments in England Field Investigation).
A branch line diverged from the main route within what is now the Prison Farm. This line served the workings on the north flank of Black Dunghill. It crossed the Blackbrook River on a clam bridge which remains in situ and eventually exits the present newtake at SX57567672 finally terminating at SX57787753. Within the newtake a separate line diverged to run south-east and apparently terminates on the gentle slope above the right bank of the Black Dunghill stream.
(citing Probert, S. A. J., 03/08/2002, English Heritage Field Investigation).
The course of the tramway in the unenclosed moorland to the north of the prison newtake has been heavily disturbed by later peat cutting and drainage works but remains in a stable condition (citing Probert, S. A. J., 05/01/2005, English Heritage Field Investigation).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 203.
SDV169268Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/CPE/UK/1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 2475.
SDV282746Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/2149. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3165.
SDV319854Interpretation: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV345331Monograph: Hemery, E.. 1983. Walking the Dartmoor Railroads. Walking the Dartmoor Railroads. Hardback Volume.
SDV360208Cartographic: Environment Agency WMS. 1998-2016. LiDAR DTM data JPEG image (1m resolution). Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital.
SDV360651Website: National Monument Record. 2018. Pastscape. http://www.pastscape.org.uk. Website. 1995-2005 data.
SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #112747 ]
SDV361635Report - Survey: Newman , P.. 2018. Archaeological Sites within Merrivale Training Area, Dartmoor National Park, Devon: A condition survey on behalf of Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Southwest Landscape Investigations. A4 Comb Bound.

Associated Monuments

MDV114496Related to: Dartmoor Prison: Former Infirmary (Building)
MDV51413Related to: Site of gas works, Princetown (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Aug 7 2018 8:58AM