Surface Mining Gazetteer - Morwellham Down - Lodes 16-20

Lode 16/16a - Wheal Russell Great Lode, Etc...

Also: Holming Beam North Lode, East Wheal Russell North Lode

NGR: Lode 16: ;
100m southward heave to .
Lode 16a:

Worked as Wheal Russell Great Lode 1807-21, Holming Beam North Lode pre-1803, and East Wheal Russell North Lode 1852-75.

This substantial lode, which runs closely parallel to Lode 14, is traceable in the form of a sequence of substantial lode-back pits through sometimes dense woodland from a point immediately east of the Frementor Railway cutting beside the Tamar, across the gently sloping land and steeply up the valley side, being cut by the Devon Great Consols Railway just inside the eastern woodland boundary. Surface indications have been traced for some distance further eastwards on the 1946 RAF APs, but it seems to have been heaved southwards 100m by the Morwell cross-course which also affects Lodes 14 & 17.

East of this cross-course, the lode appears to pass the 19th century Stevens' Shaft at surface, being represented across the fields just south of the Rock crossroads by a sequence of large disturbances on the 1946 RAF APs. A possible costeaning trench crosses these at (intersection), on the same alignment as a possible cross-cut drainage level, referred to in more detail on the Underground Mining page.

The course of the lode appears to run along the northern edge of a linear extension to Morwelldown Plantation, flanking the access track to the B3257 road just south of the Rock crossroads. This area is obscured by dense trees and bushes, but lodeback pits re-appear just east of the track in the plantation proper, where they are cut by a flatrod trench which served the 1808-16 Canal Tunnel development shafts. These pits then multiply across an area up to 50m wide where the lode passes along the southern edge of Morwell Down Plantation. This suggests that the lode splits into several parallel branches, all of which were extensively pitted in the 18th century or earlier. This area of working extends for some distance, running along the southern edge of the western half of the wood and extending into the fields just to the south-east, where a triangular area of intense surface pitting is shown on the 1768 map and appears little changed since. In this locality, the pits occasionally give way to substantial openworks up to 4m deep.

Slight evidence for shafts includes one respected by the boundary of the plantation, shown as a kinked hedgebank on the 1768 Bedford Estate Map. Surface disturbances continue through the fields north of Hartshole Farm, passing just south of Stonage Rocks and aligning with the deep adit of the 1830s-1920s South Wheal Crebor in Particliffe Wood.

The lode extends west across the River Tamar into the Drakewalls sett; another very rich mine, believed to have been worked from at least 1664.

Lodes 17/17a - Impham Lode, possibly Beacon Lode, Etc...

Also: Wheal Russell North Lode


Recorded as the Impham Lode 1718-1820s, possibly the Beacon Lode on Morwell Down before 1808 (Lode 17), reworked as Wheal Russell North Lode in the 1840s-1860s (Lode 17a).

A pair of substantial and impressive vertical gunnises can be seen on the south-eastern edge of Impham Valley about 150m east of its confluence with the Tamar. These are classic examples of their type and were already old and worked out to some depth below adit when the Tavistock Canal Company reworked them in 1808, driving an adit from the river bank to the west. Henric Kalmeter referred to the Impham Mine in his journal of 1724, but did not visit it. Unfortunately, the dump of a 19th century shaft to the east has obscured any evidence for the continuation of these early workings further in this direction, although lodeback pits on the same alignment have been cut by the 1857-58 Devon Great Consols Railway further up the wood.

A line of three large costeaning pits on the line of the Morwell to Impham cross-course (1946 RAF APs) seems to show the extent to which Lode 17 was heaved to the south; its eastward continuation in the form of a few small lodeback pits is preserved in a narrow east-west plantation just north-west of the Rock crossroads. The fields to the north-east do not contain any surface indications, but an alignment of small lodeback pits can be picked up again on the western edge of Morwelldown Plantation. This runs along the south side of the northern drive in the plantation, where it is expanded in two places by large shallow openworks (one marked erroneously as a gravel pit on the 1883 OS map). It runs in close proximity here to Lode 20 and continues for some distance eastwards across the plantation. Its position almost on the crest of the down may mean that a former name for it, referred to in the Canal Company Committee Minutes for 1808, was the Beacon Lode.

Lode 18 - Name & date unknown


Possibly a stringer from Lode 20, this short lode connects two disparate surface disturbances seen on the 1946 RAF APs, but is not represented by any known historic working. A short length of openwork survives on its line in the western extension of Morwelldown Plantation and confirms the link between the two disturbances.

Lode 19 - Cherry Tree Reefs


This short lode was first referred to by HG Dines in 1956 and was probably worked as part of Wheal Impham in the 18th century. He refers to an adit off the Frementor Tramway 250m north of Weir Head, which aligns with a shaft encircled by a hedge on the northern side of the Impham Stream. Surface disturbances in the field south-east of Impham Cottage on the 1946 RAF APs are on the same alignment, which may intersect with the southern side of Chimney Rock Lode just to the east of the DGC Railway. This is almost certainly not the old name for this lode (see comments regarding Lode 14).

Lode 20 - Impham Crown Tinwork, Etc...

Also: Weedy Pits Tinwork, Chimney Rock Lode


This long and productive lode begins beneath Chimney Rock beside the Tamar opposite Gunnislake and was almost certainly also worked as part of Old Gunnislake Mine on the Cornish bank of the river. Its size and position at the head (or 'crown') of the Impham Valley may mean that it was a tinwork referred to as Impham Crown or Impell Crowne in 1539. By the 20th century, this was known as Chimney Rock Lode, though it is not known how long this name had been current. Workings on its line further east appear to have been known as Weedy Pits Lode in 1808, implying an ancient, overgrown working.

A series of lodeback workings runs across the steeply sloping valley side in the southern part of Hatch Wood and crosses the upper part of the Impham Valley obliquely just north of Impham Cottage. This ruined house of before 1768 may have been the Captain's House of this or Impham Mine, a suggestion made more convincing by its close proximity to Chimney Rock Lode's shallow adit and its small cobbing floor. A sequence of four small adit shafts, each enclosed within the remains of an encircling bank lie west of the DGC Railway, in an area of thick gorse.

East of the railway are two further open shafts within banks, with substantial lodeback pits between them. Beyond the former Down hedge, which is about 150m east of the railway, these pits become very large, being 10-12m wide by up to 4m deep, covering an area two or three pits across and about 40m wide. A further 100m on, the pits run into each other and become a very large openwork, 40-50m wide and up to 10m deep. Occasional pits in the floor suggest the former positions of shafts or 'hatches' and the lode clearly curves around slightly to the south. The great age of this working is underlined by the dead trunks of ancient gnarled oak trees which still stand in it. The openwork ends abruptly about 60m from the B3257 Gulworthy to Bere Alston road, continuing up to the road as a slighter openwork between lodeback pits.

Between this road and that to Tavistock from the Rock crossroads, a single line of large lodeback pits, some running into each other to form short openworks, continues in a beech plantation, while east of the road, a dark mark denoting deeper soil is visible on the 1946 RAF APs. In Morwelldown Plantation, the lodeback pits recommence, at first large but shallow; becoming larger as they cross to the north side of the north drive. The pits continue along the entire northern edge of the plantation, sometimes running into each other for short distances, and occasionally with possible shaft depressions in the bottom. The Canal Company Committee Reports clearly identify this as Weedy Pits Lode; a name suggestive of an abandoned lodeback working colonised by plant growth.

Lode 20a - Name & date unknown


Seemingly a stringer of the Chimney Rock Lode, this line of small lodeback pits runs parallel to the major openwork on Lode 20 at a distance of about 30m to its north. It may be associated with Lode 21a further to the west.