MSO6802 - Wheal Eliza Mine (Monument)


Wheal Eliza mine was active between 1845 and 1857, working copper, then iron. The complex is visible as a series of shafts, spoil heaps, ruined buildings, two leats, a wheel pit and a tail race.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 7845 3811 Wheal Eliza (disused) (NAT). [1] Wheal Eliza Mine was active between 1845 and 1857. It was first worked for copper, then iron. Various trial adits were dug before two main shafts were excavated to a depth of some 300 feet. These were pumped out by machinery powered from a waterwheel on the south side of the river, which was present by 1846. This was powered by two leats running back up the valley. [2, 21] A survey of the surviving remains was undertaken by Burrow and Jowson in 1979 for the Exmoor National Park (see plan). [3] Wheal Eliza lies within the Barle valley at SS 7847 3812. It consists of several shafts, spoil heaps and a range of ruined buildings on the north side of the river. On the south side are the remains of two leats, a wheel pit and a tail race. The two parts of the complex are connected by a modern footbridge. (Suggested for large-scale survey later in West Exmoor Project). [4, 5] The earthwork remains and ruined buildings of Wheal Eliza (originally called Wheal Maria) can be seen clearly on aerial photographs. On the north side of the River Barle, platforms and rectangular enclosures are visible, along with the footings of several buildings, presumably the cottages built here for the miners, or the blacksmiths and carpenters shops and Account house, which were completed in 1846. On the southern slopes, the shaft itself can be distinguished, but the most prominent remains are those of the leats and tail race, both of which were constructed in 1847 as part of a water powered pumping system. Worked ceased at Wheal Eliza in 1854, but started again briefly in 1856. By 1858 the mine had been abandoned and the machinery sold. [6-9] An iron mine was situated either side of River Barle, several elements of the mine remain. [10] The mine was originally called Wheal Maria, which was then changed to Wheal Eliza. It was a copper mine from 1845-54 and then iron mine until 1857 although first activity may be may be from 1552. The workings were encouraged by the Knight family, but were not successful due to insufficient ore. A road was built along the river Barle to Simonsbath. [11-14] The site is under private ownership. [15] The main entrance to Wheal Eliza mine led to an adit and a shaft 100 metres deep. The entrance was stone lined. Nine miners were employed in the mine during 1851, with five of these living in the two bedroom cottage alongside (MSO12505). In 1858 the body of Anna Maria Burgess was discovered in the mine. Her grave can be seen at St Luke's parish church in Simonsbath (MSO10240). [21] SS 785 381. Wheal Eliza is the site of the first recorded mining in the Royal Forest of Exmoor. It may have been worked in the 16th Century; however, in 1846 it was opened by a group of businessmen from South Molton as a copper mine. By May the lode had been uncovered at the surface, with a shaft sunk on to it from the north bank of the River Barle. Later an adit was driven on to the north lode about 100 metres east of the shaft. A waterwheel was installed in May 1847. Very little copper ore was recovered and work paused in October 1849. After further capital was invested, work recommenced and several promising lodes were intersected but nothing came of these and work ended in September 1854. [22] The site was visited for management purposes in 2010. [23] Woollands discusses the events around the murder of Anna Maria Burgess, who was found at the bottom of the mine shaft after it had been pumped clear of water on 2nd December 1858. [24] Recorded by NRIM. [26] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [27] The mine is mentioned in a publication on the industrial archaeology of Somerset. [28] The site is included in a 2023 Condition Survey [29] The heritage asset was assessed for inclusion on the Exmoor Local Heritage List in February 2024. It was noted that it's historical association is high with it's association with Knight Estate and the infamous murder of a child. It's social communal value is high being on the 2 Moors Way, a well known site and associated with child murder. It's collective value has been assesed as moderate being not too well preserved but distinctive locally and associated with other Knight era industrial activity. It was decided to add the asset to the Local Heritage List. [30]

Sources/Archives (30)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1980. 1:10000 Map, 1980. 1:10000.
  • <2> Monograph: Buchanan, C.A.and Buchanan, R.A.. 1980. The Batsford Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Central Southern England. Batsford.
  • <3> Article in serial: Burrow, I., Minnitt, S. + Murless, B.. 1980. Somerset Archaeology 1979. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 124. 134-36 (with plan).
  • <4> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 12 October 1994.
  • <5> Report: Instone, E.. 1995. English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme Industrial Monuments Assessment, Step 3 Reports: The Iron Mining Industry.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF CPE/UK/1980 3455-56 (11 April 1947).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F62) 169-70 (27 April 1964).
  • <8> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 132-35.
  • <9>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NE. MD002190. [Mapped feature: #38532 ]
  • <10> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. I Burrow, Site visit notes.
  • <11> Monograph: Orwin, C.S. + Sellick, R.J.. 1970. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. David and Charles Limited. 2nd Edition. P. 172-78.
  • <12> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 25" SS7838.
  • <13> Monograph: Dines, H.G. 1956. The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Volume 2.
  • <14> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 7838.
  • <15> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records.
  • <16> Unassigned: History Somerset County Council.
  • <17> Unpublished document: Notes by Burrow on history etc.
  • <18> Unassigned: Historic Environment Service HBC 1:500 3.14.2 and 3 (3.14.2 is in Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society 124, 135).
  • <19> Artwork: Bowditch, S.P.. 1982. Wheal Eliza Mine Reconstruction Drawing. Pen and ink.
  • <20> Technical drawing: Unknown. Unknown. Wheal Eliza Mine Plan. Paper. Pen and Ink.
  • <21> Monograph: Siraut, M.. 2013. A Field Guide to The Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 11, 30-1.
  • <22> Report: Exmoor Mines Research Group. 1995. Report on the safety condition of disused mine workings on lands owned by Exmoor National Park Department and other lands nearby. Exmoor Mines Research Group. 3.
  • <23> Unpublished document: Harley, M.. 2010. Disused Mine Workings within the Authority's Estate.
  • <24> Monograph: Woollands, C.R.. 2011. The Wheal Eliza Murder: The true story of the cruel slaying of Anna Maria Burgess.
  • <25> Technical drawing: Unknown. Unknown. Wheal Eliza Mine Plan. Paper. Pen and Ink.
  • <26> Archive: Council for British Archaeology. 1963 - 1980. National Record of Industrial Monuments. Record number SO95, Recorded by S Everett, April 1967.
  • <27> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35004, Extant 17 November 2021.
  • <28> Monograph: Daniel, P. (Ed.). 2019. A guide to the industrial archaeology of Somerset. Association for Industrial Archaeology. 2nd Edition. p 70, W19.5.
  • <30> Unpublished document: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2024. Exmoor Local Heritage List assessed by the Panel on 21 February 2024.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO49
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10869
  • Local Heritage List Status (Listed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE8
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35004
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33007



Grid reference Centred SS 2784 1381 (870m by 690m)
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (11)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Apr 25 2024 8:17AM


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