MSO6931 - Post-medieval Picked Stones Iron Mine on Winstitchen (Monument)


Iron workings visible as a trench, two adits and a mass of disturbed spoil. The mine was operated by the Plymouth Iron Company, which was granted a lease in 1857.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Picked Stones Iron Mine, centred at SS 798 377. The 1962 and 1978 Ordnance Survey maps depict the area of the old mine as earthworks. [1,2] The iron deposits on this site were first identified by Frederick Knight in 1854 and were exploited by the Plymouth Iron Company between 1857 and 1858. In 1857 the Plymouth Iron Company was granted a lease which included most of the Honeymead land east of Wheal Eliza (MSO6802), and land north of the Simonsbath to Exford road, extending as far as Larkbarrow in the northeast part of the Old Forest. The main workings of the company were on this site, at Picket (or Picked) Stones. A shaft 65 feet (20 metres) deep was sunk below the surface workings . A level was driven eastwards from the shaft, and a second adit was driven eastwards towards the shaft from the bank of White Water (see MSO7056). Another adit is reported to have been dug further up White Water valley, and although still open in 1939, can no longer be seen. After a hiatus, mining resumed in the early years of the 20th century, and by 1910 parts of the earlier workings had been extended. The chief problem at the mine was not productivity but transportation due to its remote location. To resolve this a tramway and incline were built in the Spring and Summer of 1913 to move the ore to a loading platform at Gypsy Lane to the east (SS 8060 3814), which can be seen both on aerial photographs and on the ground. The problem of moving the ore on to the nearest railway station or port was never overcome, and led to the closure of the mine in July 1914. According to Burton, the remains are almost unintelligible: "This is due not only to the reclamation work that has been carried out over a large area surrounding the mine, which has destroyed all trace of the tramway and incline to Gypsy Lane, but also because the 76 yard long primary adit begun by Anthony Hill in 1857, and extended by Henry Roberts in the early part of the 20th Century, has collapsed into the workings below, leaving behind an open work double its earlier length" [4]. The field remains at Picked Stones consist of an "open work" and two adits, (MSO7053 and MSO7056), one on either side of White Water. That to the west was dug as part of the Wheel Eliza mine in the 1850s (see MSO6802). The "open work" consists of a linear, steep sided trench, 3.6 metres deep and 80 metres long. A swathe of disturbed spoil lies on its northern side, and the quarried remains of spoil heap at its lower (western) end, on which was found a small piece of a fishplate, presumably from a subsurface tramway. The trench itself has been used as a dump in recent years, and its eastern end has been partly filled with old machinery and other refuse. This feature marks the main area of mining activity at Picked Stones, although its form cannot be readily reconciled with the documentary evidence for the sub-surface workings. There is no evidence of either the tramway or the incline. Surveyed at 1:2500. [3-6, 14] The 19th Century mining remains at Picked Stones were identified during the Earlier Iron-Working on Exmoor preliminary survey; a joint venture between the National Trust (Holnicote Estate) and Exmoor National Park Authority. [7] The main mine workings described above are clearly visible on most aerial photographs of the Picked Stones area. Earthworks in the vicinity may be the remains of machinery, the documented tramway or the documented incline. [8-9] The workings also extended beyond the western side of White Water onto Winstitchen. Building remains are seen at SS 794 53750 and SS 7919 3748, visible as four small rectangular enclosures to the west and north of Cow Castle. There are also adits and trial holes located along the side of White Water (MSO12513 and MSO12514). [4,10-11] Miners' cottages, converted from cattle sheds are situated at SS 7957 3790 (MSO7079) and SS 7948 3848 (MSO12516). They consisted of a living room and 2 bedrooms all on the ground floor. [12] In 1853 Frederick Knight had several costean trenches dug across Exmoor to search for iron ore and in 1854 Blackwell and Rogers made several trials in the area, including at Picked Stones (SS 79 37). [15] 8.1.1, SS 7981 3765. Picked Stones mine. A shaft and adit were driven by the Plymouth Company but were abandoned when the lode was cut off by a slide. In 1910 the Exmoor Mining Syndicate continued to drive the adit and a further shaft was sunk before the Syndicate was wound up. In autumn 1912 the new syndicate constructed a tramroad from the workings up to Gypsy Lane, with a winch at the head of the incline section. Further adits and shafts were excavated but the resulting ore was uneconomical to transport and work ceased in July 1914, with 500 tons of ore left on site. [16] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [17]

Sources/Archives (17)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560. 1962, Somerset, SS73NE.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. Various. Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) . 25", 1978, Somerset, SS7937.
  • <3> Monograph: Orwin, C.S. + Sellick, R.J.. 1970. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. David and Charles Limited. 2nd Edition. 180, 219.
  • <4> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 213-220.
  • <5> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Chapman, H.. 1994. Picked Stones Mine/ink survey . 1:2500. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North and HP Chapman, 28 October 1994.
  • <7> Report: Juleff, G.. 1997. Earlier Iron-Working on Exmoor: Preliminary Survey. 30, table 1.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F62) 167-68 (27 April 1964).
  • <9> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NE. MD002190.
  • <10> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 7937 and 7938.
  • <11> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . LHL CPE/UK/1980 4453 and 3456 (April 1947).
  • <12> Monograph: Orwin, C.S. + Sellick, R.J.. 1970. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. David and Charles Limited. 2nd Edition. 198.
  • <13> Monograph: Dines, H.G. 1956. The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Volume 2.
  • <14> Monograph: Siraut, M.. Royal Forest, Exmoor: A guide to the Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 11.
  • <15> 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. 3.
  • <16> 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. 8.1.1 p19-20.
  • <17> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1099560, Extant 22 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO599
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11016
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE27
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1099560
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33155



Grid reference Centred SS 7982 3770 (266m by 180m)
Map sheet SS73NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 22 2021 3:40PM


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