MSO6812 - Post-medieval iron workings 'The Roman Adit' at Cornham Ford (Monument)

Summary

The 'Roman adit' at Cornham Ford is most probably 16th to 17th Century iron workings. 19th Century exploitation of the site is visible in the form of several adits, prospecting pits and associated spoil heaps.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 749 387. Mid 19th Century iron workings at Cornham Ford were given the name ‘Roman Adit’ as they were on the site of supposed 'ancient' workings attributed to the Romans; however, these were probably 16th or 17th Century in date. There are remains of several adits and a spoil heap from the 19th Century workings. [1,2] SS 749 384. Remains of iron working, possibly dating to the 16th Century, and certainly the 19th and 20th Centuries. These are located along the River Barle at Cornham Ford and in the Burcombe Valley. The name 'Roman' applied to some of these should be taken as an indication of their antiquity rather than in the literal sense. The site is to be subject to large scale survey. For the interim report and an annotated sketch map, based on brief reconnaissance, see the paper archive. [3] Earthworks and adits remain of mining activity. The works are owned by Dowlais Iron Company after exploration by Frederic Knight in 1854. It is considered probable that activity on site existed from 1550. Work started in 1855 and ended c. 1860. A total of 4 adits were dug, as well as several shafts. The mines were never profitable, due to the high transportation costs and the small amounts of ore which were obtained. A 20 foot water wheel was erected at Cornham Bridge to remove water from the mines, the pit for which can still be seen (in 2013). Some activity is recorded on the site from 1908-11, with plans for a tramway running from the mine to Driver. A shaft is located at SS 7540 3811. The early mining on site was done by patching. [4, 10] The iron mines and extractive pits of Cornham Ford Iron workings can be seen on aerial photographs as earthworks around the River Barle and Cornham Ford. They extend across an area of approximately 11 hectares, and range in form from small prospecting pits and associated spoil heaps to large openworks and quarries measuring up to 100 metres across. According to Orwin and Burton, a number of horizontal and vertical shafts and adits were also constructed here, but these are difficult to identify on aerial photographs. Orwin and Burton both suggest that the mines here were first opened in the reign of Elizabeth I, when German miners were invited to England. Orwin refers to several places on Exmoor which have names of possible Germanic origin, including Ison Common and Ison Cleave. However, these lie some distance from Cornham at Wheddon Cross (SS 93 NW) and aside from the local tradition that the mines lay on the site of ancient workings there is nothing to support this theory. [5-8] Located in the northeast of this site are two oval pits, likely prospecting pits, with associated spoil heaps, which are recorded separately as MSO7060, though they remain part of these workings. [9] 5.1.1, SS 7503 3871. An adit started on 24 December 1855. It is the principal endeavour of the Dowlais Company to prove the worth of their mineral take on Exmoor. Work was abandoned in May 1858 due to finding insignificant quantities of ore. The main drift was cleared out in 1910 by Roberts and it was extended by 16.4 metres before being abandoned in January 1911. The adit is 1.725 to 1.828 metres wide and 259 metres long to the fall of debris from above, which prevented further access at the time of survey. It was originally believed to be 432 metres long. Its height is up to 2 metres in general. The entrance was open but partially blocked, with some water that dimished in depth as the level rose. There were occasional small workings in the roof. The rock at the contemporary far end was "twisted", perhaps where a fault was crossed. The level was suggested to be "perhaps the most significant relic of mid-nineteenth century mining on Exmoor." 5.1.3, SS 7484 3857. Footbridge level. A trial adit driven between 1856 and 1858. It was 10.4 metres in length, 1.37 metres wide and 1.8 metres high. It was open to the end but with water about 1 metre deep throughout. The roof was thought to be sound and the rock that dipped at 50 degrees was thought to be solid. 5.1.4, SS 7494 3859. An unnamed level opened in November 1955. By June 1856 100 tons of ore had been brought out and by August, 15 tons a day were leaving the mine. After 175 tons had been brought out, the vein became too narrow to work and the level was abandoned. It was 18.3 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 2.0 metres high in 1995. A fall at the far end was noted to prevent further access and a filled shaft was noted just inside the entrance on the left. The roof and walls were sound. 5.1.5, SS 7488 3862. An unnamed level that may have been the first work carried out by the Dowlais Company in November 1855. It may have been an attempt to use the South Wales method of 'patching' (opencast mining) to work the ore but was abandoned and adit 5.1.4 commenced instead. It was 6 metres long, c.2.1 metres wide and 2 metres tall in 1995 and was said to resemble a small chamber in the face of a small quarry. 5.1.6, SS 7488 3863. An unnamed level for which no history is known. It may have been driven by the Dowlais Company to intercept the Little Woolcombe vein on the west bank of the Barle. It was 6.4 metres long, 2.02 metres wide and 1.92 metres high in 1995 and was noted to be open and dry. [11]

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Monograph: Sellick, R.. 1970. The West Somerset Mineral Railway and the Story of the Brendon Hills Iron Mines. David and Charles Limited. Second. 11-12.
  • <2> Monograph: Buchanan, C.A.+ Buchanan, R.A.. 1980. The Batsford Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Central Southern England. Batsford. 147.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 21 September 1995.
  • <4> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 186-192, 219, 177.
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. NMR RAF 5463/2821 (F63) 174-175 (27 April 1944).
  • <6> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 116-117, 126-27.
  • <7> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 145-148, 202-204, 217-218.
  • <8> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NW. MD002189.
  • <9> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. S Thorogood, 18 September 2013.
  • <10> Monograph: Siraut, M.. Royal Forest, Exmoor: A guide to the Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 11, 32.
  • <11> 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. 5.1.1. p6, 5.1.3 p7, 5.1.4 p7, 5.1.5 p7-8, 5.1.6 p8.

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred SS 7495 3877 (593m by 710m)
Map sheet SS73NW
Civil Parish EXMOOR, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NW24
  • National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 35067
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33065

Record last edited

Aug 7 2019 10:31AM

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