MSO7429 - Wychanger Iron Mine, Luccombe (Monument)


The earthwork remains of an opencast haematite mine on Knowle Hill comprises two linear trenches, associated spoil dumps, the footings of a building and evidence for capped mineshafts. The mine operated from the 1820s until 1880.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

"Wychanger Iron mine" printed on Ordnance Survey 1904 map. [1] The earthwork remains of an opencast haematite mine lie on Knowle Top, to the east of Luccombe village, centred at SS 9310 4450. The site was investigated as part of the RCHME Exmoor project. The site is covered with very dense vegetation, making observations and recording difficult. The remains comprise two linear trenches with associated spoil dumps, which run roughly east to west across the hill top. That to the north is circa 80 metres long, 10 metres deep, 20 metres wide, widening to 40 metres at its western end, where there is a pond. This may represent the remains of an infilled shaft. The southern trench is 70 metres long, 10 metres deep and 25 metres wide and has a similar pond at its eastern end. A field boundary lies on top of the spoil heap which separates the two main trenches. The remains of a building lie at SS 9127 4451. The building is 4.9 metres east to west by 3.6 metres north to south. The walls are of local ironstone with lime mortar. They measure 0.5 metres thick and stand to an average height of 0.5 metres. The southwest corner stands to 2.2 metres. An entrance on the eastern side is 0.9 metres wide and is centrally located. A stone plinth lies in the northeast corner. The remains are depicted on the OS 1st edition map and the site is named as "Wytchanger Iron Mine (Disused)". The building described above is depicted. A second building is also recorded on the 1st edition map. No ground evidence of the latter could be seen, as the area in question is severely overgrown. [5] The mine was opened in the 1820s and worked intermittently until 1880. [7] The site consists of two open workings trending approximately westnorthwest to eastsoutheast. Within these two ponds mark the sites of deeper excavations, probably shallow shafts. All traces of a drainage adit, reported to have been situated to the west (SS91224457), have been obliterated. There are no known plans of the workings and the possibility of underground workings of unknown extent cannot be excluded. [9] Iron ore was known to be present in Luccombe parish by 1791 and it is possible that the ore extracted was used at the iron mill in Horner Wood. James Savage visited Luccombe in 1828 and noted that mining had taken place there by some Welsh adventurers, on the large hill to the east of the church. Land on the hill belonged to Sir Thomas Dyke Acland and Francis Worth of Wychanger; it was on the latter's side that mining took place. This has taken the form of a quarry in a field on the top of the hill and built a small house for a forge in which to repair their mining apparatus. A large quantity of ore was obtained, part of which was sent to Swansea for smelting. They ceased mining due to a disagreement among themselves. Further mining appears to have taken place at this site in the latter half of the 1830s, with the ore again being transported to Wales, drawn by car to Minehead and Porlock Weir. A report on mines and prospects in the parishes of Cutcombe and Luccombe dating from December 1855 includes reference to three mines in Luccombe, one of which is likely to be Wychanger mine. It is unclear, however, whether the mine had continued production throughout the time between. Francis Worth had died in 1871 and was succeeded by his brother John, who sold Wychanger but retained other property in and near Luccombe. He may have sold Knowle Top but even so may have retained the mineral rights. In 1875, Kelly's Directory refers to iron mines worked in the parish by the Luccombe Iron Ore Company, and their principal mine was Wychanger. It is possible that the Company was responsible for an adit driven eastwards into the hillside just west of the open workings at Wychanger. In 1880 they offered to sell or let "Luccombe Iron Mine" and in 1883, Kelly's Directory records that the mines had been abandoned. It was reworked for a short time at the turn of the century by one of the directors of the Luccombe Iron Ore Company. The adit was filled about 20 years ago [c.1997]. [10] The extensive remains of the opencast iron mine on Knowle Top have been transcribed as part of the Exmoor National Mapping Programme survey, in as much detail as the heavy vegetation cover allows. The site is centred at circa SS 91284452 to the east of Luccombe village. As far as can be seen the site is largely as described by the above authorities, with the following exceptions; the pond at the western end of the northern trench or path could not be seen beyond the broadening of the trench or path; however a second pond is clearly visible to its eastern end. On the 1946 aerial photographs the southern trench or path curves further to the north-east than is suggested above, with a total length of circa 122 metres. [11-13] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [14] The site is mentioned in the 2018 Conservation Area Appraisal for Luccombe. [15]

Sources/Archives (15)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. County Series; 2nd Edition (1st Revision) 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1904, 34(11).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <3> Aerial photograph: 1971. HSL.UK.71-177 Run 91, September. 8684.
  • <4> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS9240.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889, Somerset sheet 34(11).
  • <6> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1998.
  • <7> Monograph: Atkinson, M.. 1997. Exmoor's Industrial Archaeology. Exmoor Books. Jones M 'Iron Mining'.
  • <8> Report: Juleff, G.. 1997. Earlier Iron-Working on Exmoor: Preliminary Survey. P.30, Table 1..
  • <9> Report: Edwards, RA. 1996. Selected geological locality details…. BGS technical report WA\96\32.
  • <10> Serial: Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society. 1975-. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society Bulletin. (Burton, R.) "Iron mining in the parish of Luccombe, c.1820-1880", 1-4.
  • <11> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF106G/UK/1655 (F20) 4096-7 (11 July 1946).
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/70380 183-4 (23 September 1970).
  • <13>XY Archive: Hegarty, C.. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 94 SW. MD002186. [Mapped feature: #39972 ]
  • <14> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1086608, Extant 24 May 2022.
  • <15> Report: Pratt, N. and Thurlow, T.. 2018. Luccombe Conservation Area: appraisal document. Exmoor National Park Authority. p 7, Figure 16.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO535
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11306
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 SW49
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1086608
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33661



Grid reference Centred SS 9126 4450 (184m by 182m) Historic mapping
Map sheet SS94SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Sep 27 2022 1:08PM


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