Dartmoor Explorations

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


In 1905, a hydro-electric plant was built at Saddle Bridge beside the O Brook on the Hexworthy road to Venford Resevoir road to supply electricity to Hooten Wheals (Hexworthy) Mine. It was at this time that Dartmoor Minerals Limited re-opened the mine (having taken over Golden Dagger as well). The power station (or hydro-electric plant / turbine) had its water supplied by a 16 inch iron pipe to a Pelton* Wheel, which took its supply off the Wheal Emma Leat at a point on the hillside 183ft (56m) above. This power station was a part of a capital investment to modernise the mine.

*The Pelton wheel or Pelton Turbine is an impulse-type water turbine invented by American inventor Lester Allan Pelton in the 1870s. The Pelton Turbine is a hydraulic ‘impulse’ turbine, in which one or more water jets hit ‘buckets’ on a wheel. The force produced by the jet impact at right angles to the buckets generates a torque that causes the wheel to rotate, thus producing power.

The electricity generated supplied the Power House beside Low’s Shaft for the mine and New Mill for the stamps, hoists, separating classifiers, jigging tables (Wilfley), revolving slime tables and buddles. Power was brought to the mine from Saddle Bridge via overhead cable. In the remains at Hooten Wheals, an armature of a dynamo can still be seen in one of the buddles.

0. Map
Overlay on map showing the water source from Wheal Emma Leat for the power station (generator house) at Saddle Bridge.
1a. Saddle Bridge Old Picture
An old picture of Saddle Bridge, with the hydro-electric plant seen top right. The photograph would have been taken between 1905 (year of construction) and 1929 (year of demolition) of the hydro-electric plant. I am sure someone might be able to narrow down the date of the photograph from the make of the car. Interesting to see that there was a gate here (being kept open by a female figure for the car driver).
1b. Saddle Bridge
View of the hydro-electric power station from the east side of Saddle Bridge
1c. Saddle Bridge
Contextual view of the power plant. Saddle Bridge is said to have obtained its name because the bridge and its approaches look like a ‘Saddle’. The bridge was built in October 1877 by Messrs Gozwell and Townsend for a cost of £35. (Ref: Legendary Dartmoor)
2. Saddle Bridge
The ruins of the power station today.
3. Saddle Bridge
The water wheel (Pelton) and machinery were dismantled around 1929.
3b. Saddle Bridge
With certain amount of artistic licence, this is a mock up picture of what a pelton wheel in situ might have looked like
4. Saddle Bridge
The power conducted was taken to the mine via overhead cables.
6. Saddle Bridge
Exit point of water 
Saddle 7
Close up of exit grill
7. Saddle Bridge
Wall of the power station next to the O brook
8. Saddle Bridge
No remains of machinery or where it was located is discernable.
9. Saddle Bridge
South side of the bridge with wall of the power station just discernible
10. Saddle Bridge
View of the power station (hydro-electric plant) from above, near the pipeline inlet
11. Saddle Bridge
Just above Saddle Bridge (to the south), the line of the water pipe can be discerned. In this picture the road from Combestone Tor and Saddle Bridge can just be seen
12. Saddle Bridge
As the hill is climbed the course of the pipeline appears to have been covered with a low drystone wall
13a. Saddle Bridge
As the hill is climbed towards Wheal Emma Leat, the trench where the pipeline was located becomes very evident. One wonders why the pipeline was buried at all ?
13b. Saddle Bridge
With closer inspection of the pipeline trench, fragments of the pipe can still be found
14. Saddle Bridge
The Wheal Emma Leat where water was fed into the pipeline. The side of the leat here has been strengthen here for the sluice mechanism. The hole where the water fed into the pipe easily identified
15. Saddle Bridge
There is some iron work left in the leat, which one assumes was an old grille to prevent detritus entering the pipe
16. Saddle Bridge
At the pipe inlet there is also a clapper which crosses the Wheal Emma Leat
17. Saddle Bridge
Old iron pipe found below Saddle Bridge at SX66231 72345. Was this part of the original pipeline (now moved) – It certainly looks like the correct diameter.
18. Saddle Bridge
The tranquil waters of the O Brook today where the hydro-electic plant would have dispensed its water.
19. Saddle Bridge
Saddle Bridge (south parapet)
20. Saddle Bridge
Benchmark on the south wall of Saddle Bridge
21. Saddle Bridge Hooten Wheals Buddles
Inside New Mill at Hooten Wheals, with buddles
22. Saddle Bridge New Mill
The buddles today. It is said that an armature of a dynamo can still be seen in one of the buddles.
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