Dartmoor Explorations

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

Wheal Katherine

This mine was originally named Crane Lake Mine. The earthworks of the tin mine and its associated processing were documented as far back as 1792. The name of the mine changed to Wheal Katherine when it was part of the Eylesbarrow Mine, the main hub of which is located approx 1km to the west. Several archaeological field surveys have been carried out on the mine and features recorded include: openworks, leats, pits, shafts, a stamping mill, dressing floors and buddles. The Dartmoor HER refers to these surveys and provides excellent summaries of features and is a valuable resource for the would be explorer and it is this source that the author has used in the construction of this post. The mine was operational until 1856 and some of the features which remain are quite well preserved considering the intervening 160 years since its closure.

Wheal Katherine Plan
Wheal Katherine plan has been drawn by ‘overlaying’ drawn features onto Dartmoor HER and Side by Side Maps ‘layers’ (before removing them to leave just the plan). The result is a relatively accurate scaled plan of the mining operations.
Wheelpit 1
At the eastern end of the operation is quite a substantial wheelpit, which is not shown on modern OS maps. A feature of this size is normally shown as a black rectangle on OS maps. The wheel probably powered pumping rods for shafts north of this pit. It is mid 19th century. It can be located at SX61026 68495.
Wheelpit 2
The wheelpit can be found at the top of and sunk into an old openwork just below the track. As recorded in the Dartmoor HER, there is ‘no evidence of a bob pit or flatrod system survives but the wheel was intended to power pumping equipment in the shaft’. It is an impressive wheelpit and is described by a 1983 survey as having ‘Internal dimensions 7 metres by 1.1 metres’ and in a 1999 survey as having dimensions of ‘6.4 metres by 1.7 metres’. The source of water for the wheel is not very obvious.
Wheelpit 3
Inside the Stone-lined wheelpit there is a good example of an ‘exit lobby’ to discharge water further down the gully.
The discharge ‘outlet’ from the wheelpit can be found approx 10 metres down the gully at SX61025 68482.
Revetment Wall
Continuing west down the track from the wheelpit, a large revetment wall can be found (this is marked on modern OS Maps). This is a level area and it has been suggested that this may have originally been a dressing floor but there are no other features present to add to this theory. Another suggestion is that it could have been a covered area for storage or processing but is a long way from the main dressing floor. The wall is 2 metres high and is made from dry coursed stone. The revetment wall is at SX60920 68448.
Shaft by Revetment Wall
Shaft by the Revetment Wall. In the Dartmoor HER, this is called Shaft 31.
Stamping Mill 1
One of the key impressive remains of the mine is the stamping mill, which is easily found being surrounded by the tracks to and from the mine. During a 2002 survey it was noted that the wheelpit was largely filled with loose rubble and was 0.6 metres wide and the wall is up to 1.87 metres high on the southern corner. The wheelpit was centrally located allowing stamping on both sides. To the north of the wheelpit (right side of picture) is a bearing stone. This picture looking from east to west shows off these features from the descriptions. The stamping mill is at SX60721 68303
Stamping Mill 2
More views of the former stamping mill. The bottom two pictures are looking north (left picture) and south (right picture) and show additional walling and alcoves surround the mill. The stamping mill is believed to have been constructed in 1804 and was probably refurbished before the mine closure in 1856.
Stamping Mill 3
Close up of the bearing stone, which is recorded as measuring 1.46 metres long, 0.58 metres wide and 0.65 metres thick having four circular holes cut into its eastern end. The holes are recorded as being are 3 centimetres in diameter and 8 centimetre deep.
Stamping Mill 4
View of the stamping mill from the west, looking at the ‘tail race’ from the water wheel. There is a small stream still flowing here hence the reedy area.
Stamping Mill 5
General view of the stamping mill (picture from January 2020), looking east showing the tracks that surround the mill
Stamping Mill 6
This view was taken in May 2021 and shows the farmstead and dressing floor in relation to the stamping mill. The farmstead is said to date from at least the early 19th century. The farmstead when surveyed in 1999 was described as being ‘within a peninsula of unworked ground…….consisting of a ruined building and outhouse within two enclosures covering 1.2 hectares’. The author plans to return to the area to explore the farmstead and nearby leat (1), which are not covered in this post.
Openworks 1
The picture is taken adjacent to the Miners’ Shelter (see walling on left) and is looking east towards the main east / west openworks.
Openworks 2
These fenced off openworks are on the westernmost part of the mine. The tree is at approx. SX60644 68270.
Openworks 3
General view of the openworks (where the Miners’ Shelter is located – upper middle part of the picture).
Miners Shelter
Miners’ Shelter (as described on the Dartmoor HER). Pictures taken in January 2020 and May 2021. From a 2002 survey this building is described as being ‘3.9 metres long by 2.8 metres wide denoted by a 0.55 metre wide coursed drystone wall standing up to 1.25 metres high’ Furthermore there is a ‘fireplace at the east-north-east end is 1.02 metres wide, 0.83 metres high and 0.6 metres deep. The doorway in south-west corner is 1.08 metres wide’. SX60696 68365
Dressing Floor 1
This view was taken from near the westerly openworks and shows the dressing floor, two reck houses, leat (2) and settling pits / buddles just below the track and stamping mill.
Dressing Floor 2
This is the same picture as the previous one, but with the features labelled up. The leat can be seen coming from the River Plym.
Dressing Floor 3
General view of the dressing floor. According to the 2002 survey there are ‘a range of well preserved structures denoted by revetment or walling on three sides. The revetment stands up to 1.25 metres high’ . Furthermore, ‘three small recesses in the revetment wall probably represent the site of jagging boards used together with the adjacent buddles’. 
Dressing Floor 4
Close up of dressing floor revetment with stamping mill behind.
Reck House 1
A ‘reck’ or ‘rack’ house is defined as where fine residual tin trapped in the tailings underwent a further refining process. It is described in a 1999 survey by Dr Phil Newman where ‘The apparatus consisted of single or paired boards onto which the tailings were placed and over which a gentle flow of water was introduced. The concentrate would build up and then it was removed either by tipping the board or washing it into a separate launder by a more powerful stream’. Reck House (1) is at SX60751 68270.
Reck House 2
Reck House (2) at SX60743 68258.
Settling Pit 1
Buddle 1 with ‘lead in’ trench. The buddle (right hand picture) is at SX60738 68254.
Settling Pit 2
Buddle (2) at SX60731 68268.
Settling Pit 3
Buddle (3) at SX60745 68242
Explosives Hut
This small structure to the south-east of the stamping mill / dressing floor with an entrance to the south is believed to have been a possible explosives store hut. SX60770 68216.
Leat 2
A view of leat (2) taken from just above (north east) of the explosives hut. The left hand picture shows the leat snaking around an open work and the right hand pictures shows it leading towards the dressing floor.
Tinners Hut
This tinners’ hut is located on the south east side of the River Plym. SX60816 68183. The Dartmoor HER states that it ‘probably’ formed part of the Wheal Katherine Tin Mine.
Mine viewed from the east
Dressing floor and stamping mill as viewed from the east
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