John Taylor and the Tavistock mines


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As my talk at the East Cornwall Branch of the Trevithick Society approaches, so more posts about John Taylor will arrive on this blog. This one looks at his other West Devon mines.

Soon after proving  his worth at Wheal  Friendship, John Taylor quickly expanded his influence in to other mines near Tavistock. In doing so he created a mining district that would link the wealth of the Stannary Town and Taylor together for many decades.

Wheal Crowndale
John Taylor had a direct financial interest in its reopening this mine in 1879 and acted as its agent. This was only one year after his appointment at Wheal Friendship; an indication of his rapid rise in wealth and recognition of his talent.

An important feature of the mine was its long wide leat, fed from a weir at Tavistock. This leat would form the basis of his best known engineering achievement, the Tavistock Canal, the subject of the previous post. A subject of a post to come is his invention at Crowndale of the copper crusher, or ‘Cornish Rolls’.

For 10 years the mine was rich, even to the point of overtaking the success of Friendship. Unfortunately its richness was short lived and from 1810 its output declined. In 1824 Wheal Crowndale closed. A small scale re-opening occurred in 1850.

Wheal Crowndale in 1883, Ordnance Survey

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
This was linked physically and financially with the Tavistock Canal. At times the mine supported the finances of the canal, at other times the situation was reversed.

Wheal Crebor was sunk at the eastern portal of the canal tunnel. Its hauling shaft is perched above the canal bank, deep in the tunnel lobby cutting.

Tree roots trailing down one of Wheal Crebor’s shafts

Crebor’s first ore sales were in 1805,  and by 1809 the canal  had reached the mine from Tavistock. Like Crebor its reserves proved short lived, with output diminishing after 1815. Canal profits were used for a while to support the mine, but it closed in 1828.

Later workings by new companies occurred in the 1840s, 1850s and 1880s. Wheal Crebor finally closed in 1889.

Wheal Crebor in 1884, Ordnance Survey

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

An impressive feature of the mine is the incline hauling shaft perched on the Canal’s entrance. This is a typical John Taylor piece of engineering, but one that is hidden away from public view on private land.

Wheal Betsy
This is the odd one out of Taylor’s Tavistock mines; lead not copper was contained within its ores.

In 1816 the mine was managed as part of Wheal Friendship, and making a loss. But by 1818 John Taylor had transformed the mine’s fortunes, and it was returning a profit. A major part of his work was building a  leat from Hillbridge within the Tavy Valley.

Depressed lead prices returned the mine to a loss by 1830. This instigated Taylor starting an adit from Wheal Friendship in 1835. In  1837 the mine was separated from Wheal Friendship, and the mine abandoned before mid century. In 1850 it was reworked as North Wheal Friendship and later as Prince Arthur Consols. This last working built the engine house that still stands beside the Mary Tavy to Okehampton road, one of the best known industrial heritage landmarks in Devon.

Next post inbound …..the copper crushed, or as it became known the ‘Cornish Rolls’.

Click here for John Manley’s Amazon Author page

One thought on “John Taylor and the Tavistock mines

  1. Pingback: John Taylor, Mining genius- An index of posts | navsbooks

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