MSO6293 - Post-medieval opencast haematite mine at Brockwell (Monument)


The extensive remains of a 19th Century opencast haematite mine are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. Features include circular and subcircular pits with associated spoil dumps, various trenches and linear earthwork banks.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

'Iron Pits' are recorded on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. [1] 'Old Pits' are recorded on the 1962 Ordnance Survey map. [2] The remains of an extensive opencast iron mine lie on the lower slopes of Dunkery Hill, centred at SS 9285 4295. It lies 1 kilometre southwest of Wootton Courtenay, and close to the hamlet of Brockwell. The mine is generally referred to as 'Brockwell'. The area depicted on the 1889 map covers some 7 hectares. A field visit, as part of the RCHME Exmoor Survey project, confirmed this depiction; although most of the area is now covered with very dense gorse, making detailed observations difficult. [3] The features range from circular and sub-circular pits, with associated spoil dumps, to linear trenches and more complex gully-like features. It has been suggested that many of the pits have been re-worked. [4] The site represents the remains of an opencast haematite mine. A geologist's report of 1826 gives an account of trial pits dug into the ore at this site. This report led to opencast workings by Lord Sherborne; by 1848 Smith Tibbits, a Cornish miner living at nearby Dunster, had leased the mine. Both the documentary and cartographic sources suggest that the mine was worked out in the late 19th Century and has been abandoned since then. [5] The extent of, and several features within, the former haematite mine at Brockwell have been transcribed as earthworks from aerial photographs, as part of the Exmoor National Mapping Programme survey. Due to the vegetation cover described above it is not possible to accurately transcribe every pit and gulley. However, clearly visible are two concentrations of circular pits are visible; at circa SS 92854304, to the north-east of the quarry and SS 92794286 to the south west, alongside a large exposed quarry face. Several linear earthwork banks have also been transcribed, measuring 1-2 metres wide and up to 50 metres long. The function of these banks is unclear, but it is possible they pre-date the extraction activity. [6-9] The area is number 365 on Wootton Courtenay Tithe Map of 1844 and described as 'Land worked over for Iron Stone' in the Apportionment Book. [10] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [11] Letters dated October 1835 refer to a mineral estate leased by the owners of the Maesteg Works at Wootton Courtenay. The letters were written by Charles Bailey, the land agent of Lord Sherborne’s estate which included the village of Wootton Courtenay, and they refer to the ‘Maesteg Lease’ and the ‘Maesteg Premises’ on land near the village. From the letters it is evident that some of the Wootton ore had been used (or sampled) at the Maesteg Works, but it is unlikely that any significant quantity of the ‘ore leased to the Maesteg Co.’ was ever mined and shipped to the Llynfi Valley. Shortly after the discovery of the new ore, in 1835, the Merthyr ironmaster Richard Crawshay of Cyfarthfa leased the land adjoining the Maesteg mineral estate at Brockwell (near Wootton Courtenay), and mined the haematite ore from surface workings during the late 1830s. Crawshay’s mining operation was probably on a small scale as his ‘iron pits’ were not linked by rail to the port of Minehead six miles away. The ore was transported to the harbour by pack-horses and farm carts. Although the Maesteg Company held leases in the area, Crawshay’s excavation seems to have been the only mining development in the district. [12]

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889, Somerset 34(15).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560. SS94SW.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1998.
  • <4> Report: Juleff, G.. 1997. Earlier Iron-Working on Exmoor: Preliminary Survey. Mostly P.14-15.
  • <5> Monograph: Atkinson, M.. 1997. Exmoor's Industrial Archaeology. Exmoor Books. Chapter: Jones, M. 1997. Iron Mining. P.33.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3180-81 (11 April 1947).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 264-5 (17 April 1979).
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 9242/1 (18286/03) (11 February 1999).
  • <9>XY Archive: Hegarty, C.. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 94 SW. MD002186. [Mapped feature: #46629 ]
  • <10> Map: 1844. Wootton Courtenay Tithe Map and Apportionment. Land parcel 365.
  • <11> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1086655, Extant 24 May 2022.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Lewis, David. 2023. The Iron Industry in Maesteg. email with extract of 2007 publication.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO537
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11772
  • Local Heritage List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 SW59
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1086655
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34342



Grid reference Centred SS 927 429 (349m by 481m) Additional areas shown on SEM6703 added
Map sheet SS94SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Feb 3 2023 10:59AM


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