In Devon

Uncovering Devon’s Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy

Uncovering Devon's Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy, a former engine house for lead, silver and copper mining in Dartmoor, Devon, England

Down in the depths of Devon, far away from the glittering lights of the big city or sparkling stretch of ocean which surrounds Britain, there’s plenty of history to be discovered. And in the very heart of Devon, Wheal Betsy is a former tin mine, and the last standing engine house in Dartmoor, complete with its very own precariously leaning chimney.

Uncovering Devon's Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy, a former engine house for lead, silver and copper mining in Dartmoor, Devon, England

A quick history of Wheal Betsy

Various mining sites across Dartmoor have been in operation since antiquity and it’s thought that Wheal Betsy was one of these. In 1806, Wheal Betsy was reopened for the purpose of mining silver, copper, and lead, though some small quantities of arsenic were also found.

The mine was closed during the 1870s, having operated using steam for decades. This area of moorland is often used by the military and in the 1950s, the army was given permission to destroy the engine house. Luckily, Wheal Betsy was saved by intervention and was gifted to the National Trust.

Uncovering Devon's Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy, a former engine house for lead, silver and copper mining in Dartmoor, Devon, England

Visit Wheal Betsy

Today, it couldn’t be easier to visit the former tin mining site for yourself! On the opposite side of the road to the mine, there’s a small gravel cark and plenty of nearby walking trails. Park up and cross the road and you’ll be greeted by a stile and steep path leading down to the engine house.

If you’re travelling with pets or children, bear in mind that the road is incredibly busy and cars often speed along quite quickly along this part of the moor. The walk is also near the army range so make sure to look out for flags. Free to visit and managed by the National Trust, Wheal Betsy sits along the A386 not far from Mary Tavy.

Uncovering Devon's Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy, a former engine house for lead, silver and copper mining in Dartmoor, Devon, England Uncovering Devon's Tin Mining History at Wheal Betsy, a former engine house for lead, silver and copper mining in Dartmoor, Devon, England

Nearby attractions and things to see close to Wheal Betsy

While you’ll likely not want to spend more than an hour or so walking around the area surrounding Wheal Betsy (after all, there are much more picturesque parts of the moorland), there are plenty of things to see and do nearby, including a visit to one of the very most beautiful churches in England.

Lydford town, gorge & castle: Lydford is an ancient settlement which traces its roots back centuries and was even the site of a Viking invasion. Today, Lydford is a pretty village while nearby Lydford Gorge offers breathtaking walks along a fast flowing river and leafy woodland. Steeped in legend and full of history, it’s well worth a visit to Lydford on any trip to this part of Dartmoor.

Brentor: Perched precariously atop of an extinct volcano, the striking Brentor Church has no road leading up towards it. Instead, there’s one muddy track and it’s said that even brides on their wedding days have to trudge up here, often in their wellington boots!

Brentor Church

The Highwayman Inn: As England’s self-proclaimed most unusual pub, you can’t fail to miss the Highwayman Inn while driving along the A386. Characterised by its numerous architectural styles and reputedly haunted, the pub was first constructed in the late 1200s.

Bearslake Inn: Often said to be the most photographed pub in Dartmoor, Bearslake Inn dates back hundreds of years and started out in life as a former Devon longhouse. Today, it’s a traditional tavern serving locally produced food and plenty of local ales and beers to match.

Bearslake Inn: a 13th-century pub in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England: former longhouse

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