Dartmoor Explorations

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

Yealm Steps – Tinners’ Blowing Houses and Tinners’ Hut

There is extensive evidence of medieval (and later) tinners’ workings and buildings around the upper reaches of the upper Yealm and Ranny Brook. In the area, the explorer can find two well preserved Blowing Houses, several mould stones, a Tinners’ Hut and Tinners’ Streamworks. There is also several very large prehistoric settlements and a cist to the east of the waterfalls of Yealm Steps, which adds to the rich tapestry of history which can be found in the area.

The area surrounding Yealm Steps has many features which might interest the explorer and this sketch map shows some of the features covered in this post.
Yealm Waterfall (or Yealm Steps) is a spectacular cascade just over one kilometre from the head of the River Yealm. There are remains of medieval and later alluvial and eluvial streamworks situated above and below these falls as well as around Ranny Brook. 
The top of Yealm Steps looking down the start of the cascade.
Just above Yealm Steps looking north.
The remains of the medieval (or later) Upper Blowing House is situated within Tinners’ Streamworks on the west bank of the River Yealm above (north) Yealm Steps.
The structure is measured as being 8.8 metres by 3.1metres internally. Ref: Dartmoor HER.
The walls of the Upper Blowing House are recorded as being up to a height of 1.7 metres. The blowing house is located at SX61721 63851
A mould stone is located to the south end of the building and is measure as being 0.41metres by 0.31 metres and 0.12m deep.
In the vicinity of Yealm Steps and Ranny Brook, a small cist can be found on the eastern edge of a large hut circle settlement. The cist is recorded as being 0.68 metres long and 0.22 metres wide with upright stone slabs standing 0.6 metres high. Only two small stones of the cist survive protruding through the turf. 
Clusters of hut circles are situated within the prehistoric settlements to the east of Yealm Steps (and to the north of Ranny Brook)
Jeremy Butler in the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Three – The South-West, states: “Ranny Brook settlements to the east of the River Yealm and north of Ranny Brook consists of a scattered collection of 57 buildings associated with one complete double enclosure and portions of others as well as several cairns”.
Below (to the south) Yealm Steps another well-preserved remains of a medieval (or later) blowing house can be found on the east bank of the River Yealm. The building comprises two rooms.
The Northern Room of the Lower Blowing House is recorded as measuring 7.5 metres by 4.7metres internally. Ref: Dartmoor HER
View from the Northern Room of the Lower Blowing House looking towards Yealm Steps. At the very north end of the room is a rather splendid standing stone.
At the south end of the Northern Room of the Lower Blowing House, two rectangular mould stones can be found.
Close up of the two damaged mould stones which lie amongst the rubble in the North Room. Each stone contains 2 rectangular moulds which are recorded on the Dartmoor HER as averaging in size 0.42m by 0.26m and 0.15m deep, with tapering sides.
The Southern Room of the Lower Blowing House is trapezoidal in shape and is recorded as measuring 4.4 metres by 3.0 to 4.2 metres.
General views of the Lower Blowing House. The point between the two rooms was measured by the author as being at grid reference SX61781 63522.
Looking across the River Yealm from the Northern Room towards a small Tinners’ Hut.
Looking across the River Yealm from the Southern Room towards a small Tinners’ Hut.
Small waterfall below Yealm Steps. The tree here has a bird nest.
The River Yealm just below the small waterfall, looking towards the Lower Blowing House.
On the opposite (west) bank of the River Yealm, from the Lower Blowing House, are the remains of a possible tinner’s hut.
The Tinners’ Hut is recorded as being 4.5m by 2.5m internally with its walls being 0.7m thick. It consists of a single row of large boulders and is located at SX61753 63513.
Looking east from the Tinners’ Hut to the Lower Blowing House across the River Yealm.
The Tinners’ Streamworks as seen from the north wall of Dendles Waste. The stile leads to a footpath which leads through Dendles Waste to Hawns Woods to the south.
Just to the south of Ranny Brook lies a modern (concrete) weir at SX61799 63123. Yealm Steps can be seen in the distance.

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