Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

East Vitifer Mine

East Vitifer Mine lies to the south west of the farming community of West Coombe. Interest in the tin deposits started around 1845 in an area next West Coombe Brook, which had showed no evidence of previous streamworks. The main lode ran parallel to the brook and several adits were driven along this. One of these adits is shown in this post, alongside other mine artefacts such as old mine buildings and the dressing floors. The mine is now very overgrown and difficult to walk around due to the steep and uneven ground and is quite concealed in a copse next to the track between West Coombe and the house called Kings Barrow.

On the open moorland, to the west, a couple of shafts were sunk and connected with the aforementioned adits. One shaft found by the author was very overgrown and cordoned off. It is recorded, that the upper of two shafts had a small wheel pit alongside it, being fed by a tinners’ reservoir a short distance up the hill but the author could not confirm this. A shaft is shown on modern OS maps.

After 1869 a second lode was worked on 300m above the mine to the north and is also shown (but not labelled) on modern OS maps. This second shaft had an adit associated with it. Ore was transported to the dressing floors by way of a tramway. None of the above artefacts were explored by the author due to the Coombe Down being very overgrown. A re-visit in the Winter months is needed. The mine also went by the name of Hookney Mine, Kingsbarrow Mine and Great Devon Tincroft. Information for this post was obtained from Dartmoor HER and Jeremy Butler Dartmoor Antiquities, volume 1 – The East (map 23).

East Vitifer Mine Map

This sketch map is the authors (amateur) interpretation of the mine layout using the OS 1873-1888 map as a guide and from a plan of East Vitifer Mine extracted from THE BIRCH TOR & VITIFER MINING COMPLEX – By D.G. Broughton.

Approaching the mine from West Coombe, the first ruined structure is located on the right hand side of the track. It is labelled (1) on the sketch map. The purpose of the ruined structure is unknown, even if it was part of the mine infrastructure. It does not appear on the 1873-1888 OS map.
The mysterious structure has a series of apertures in two retaining walls on the downhill side of the slope. There is a gap between the two walls, which look like steps, beyond which lies a levelled area. At the back of the levelled area is a retaining wall built into the upward slope. The structure can be located at SX70871 82451.
On the OS 1873-1888 map, a smithy is marked. The author hasn’t managed to find any further information about this building but assumes it was associated with the mine. It is labelled (2) on the sketch map.
The “smithy” can be found at SX70840 82386. There doesn’t appear to be any information on the Dartmoor HER relating to this building.
Inside the “smithy”. The author has been told a story, from around 60 years ago, when the children of West Coombe observed bullocks using this as a shelter and in which the children used to sit up in the hayloft.
A few metres further up the track from the smithy are the foundations of a building, labelled (3) on the sketch map. It is marked on the OS 1873-1888 map and can be found at SX70838 82380.
After the smithy and unknown building foundations, the mine can be found on the opposite side of the track. The picture is of a “levelled area”, labelled (6) on the sketch map and is located around SX70868 82326. Its use is unclear but does appear to lead directly to the dressing floors.
The structure in the picture was recorded at SX70862 82346. Relating this NGR to the OS 1873-1888 map it looks like it may have been the end of a platform. It is labelled (4) on the sketch map.
Retaining walls of the dressing floors
More retaining walls of the dressing floors. The edge of these dressing floors was recorded at SX70876 82349.
Probable buddle / settling pit or pond at SX70880 82344. Part of area labelled (5) on the sketch map. The mine was never that successful, with the exception of 1876 when production reached 13.5 tons of black tin.
Another levelled area. The greatest number of men employed in one year at the mine was 27.
Ruined building, which looks to be divided into two rooms can be found at SX70857 82295
Another view of the ruined building. It is labelled (7) on the sketch map.
Cordoned off adit. The mine was abandoned in 1887 and re-opened briefly in 1912-3 employing men conducting surface work only..
View of the adit from the side. This adit linked to the shaft on the open moorland. The author has found a You Tube video showing the inside of an adit at East Vitifer mine, which is believed to be this adit. The You Tube video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3OWNtwDl9c
View of the top of the adit, taken at SX70826 82275.
Kings Barrow at top of the lane just before the open moor.
On the open moor, just below the mine shaft is what look like a B.S. Was this associated with the mine? It can be located at SX70645 82127. Easdon Down can be seen to the top right of this photograph.
The shaft on the open moorland is extremely overgrown and the picture shows the closest point the author managed to get to it (through shoulder high bracken). The shaft is located at SX70636 82211.
Large pond believed to be a tinners’ reservoir on the open moor which is fed from West Coombe Brook. This reservoir is believed to have fed the water wheel at the Engine Shaft of the main lode. It is located at SX70582 82032. King Tor lies beyond the pond.
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  1. Kevin Knight March 29, 2023

    Thank you so much for this astonishing resource for mine explorers. I only wish someone would do the same for the Cornish side of the Tamar. Nothing of any real note since Acton and Brown sadly.

    Do you have plans to visit Wheal Betsy? I should love to have that particular site shown at this level of detail.

    • SteveGriggDartmoor March 30, 2023 — Post author

      Dear Kevin,

      Many thanks for you kind comments about East Vitifer Mine.

      Regards to Wheal Betsy, the last time I was there the National Trust were erecting scaffolding on the Engine House at Job’s Shaft as part of the process to secure the structure. There are at least 12 shafts in the area (some now on private land). I will most probably return to the site and construct a post before too long.

      Kind Regards,

      Dartmoor Explorations (Steve)

  2. Mike Jeffery February 13, 2024

    Hello Steve another excellent survey and of great interest to me as I love the industrial work on Dartmoor and do my own surveys similar to you. An interesting point about the upper shaft, I was in the fire service for many years and one evening we had a call to report of a person trapped in a mineshaft, we could not get the appliance anywhere near so the local farmer took our equipment to the site. A young man was picking blackberries and got too near the edge which gave away, he fell about 80 feet into the shaft, he was not too badly injured and we lowered one of our and an ambulance man to stabilise him and hoist him to the surface,. This was the second time we entered that shaft as a few years earlier a dog was rescued from the same shaft. Keep up the good work

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