Ancient Monuments

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Taw River tin blowing mill, 840m south of Tawcroft

A Scheduled Monument in Belstone, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7111 / 50°42'39"N

Longitude: -3.9552 / 3°57'18"W

OS Eastings: 262047.486825

OS Northings: 91984.075224

OS Grid: SX620919

Mapcode National: GBR Q4.XHT2

Mapcode Global: FRA 27L6.BXG

Entry Name: Taw River tin blowing mill, 840m south of Tawcroft

Scheduled Date: 9 February 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019228

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28751

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Belstone

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Belstone St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a tin blowing mill situated at the foot of a steep scarp
adjacent to the River Taw. The mill building is of drystone construction with
the wall standing up to 1.4m high. The interior of the mill measures 9.5m by
up to 4.7m and access to it was through a clearly defined doorway in the north
western corner. Within the eastern part of the mill, two edge set stones
represent the site of the furnace, in which the black tin (cassiterite) was
smelted. A recess in the eastern wall denotes the position of the wheelpit in
which a wheel powered by water from the nearby leat operated the furnace
bellows. The leat can be traced to a small reservoir measuring 12.8m long by
5.5m wide and up to 0.3m deep situated on top of the scarp immediately south
of the mill. The water from the wheelpit was carried to the river in a
tailrace which survives as a clearly defined channel denoted on both sides by
substantial banks. To the west of the tailrace a level area represents the
site of a dressing floor. At the northern end of the dressing floor is a
horseshoe shaped hollow which may represent the site of a buddle or similar
piece of apparatus. In the area immediately east of the mill fragments of tin
slag have been recovered in the past.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and,
because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most
complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The
great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as
later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes
in the pattern of land use through time.
Blowing mills (also known as blowing houses) survive as rectangular drystone
buildings served by one or more leats and are characterised by the presence of
granite blocks with moulds cut into them - bevelled rectangular troughs known
as mould stones - and on occasion by the square or rectangular stone built
base of the furnace itself. During the medieval and early post-medieval
period, black tin (cassiterite) extracted from streamworks and mines was taken
to blowing mills to be smelted. At the blowing mill the cassiterite may have
been washed a final time before being put into the furnace together with
charcoal. To smelt tin the temperature within the furnace had to reach 1150
degrees C. This was achieved by blowing air through the furnace using water
powered bellows. Once the tin had become molten, it flowed from the furnace
into a float stone and was ladled into the mould stone, in which it cooled to
form an ingot of white tin. The original number of blowing mills on Dartmoor
is unknown, but at least 26 are believed to survive, whilst a further 41 are
known only from stray finds and documentary sources. All examples with a
clearly identifiable surviving structure are therefore considered to be of
national importance.

The Taw River blowing mill survives very well and is one of only seven
examples known to contain a furnace. Important information concerning tin
smelting technology survives within and around this building.

Source: Historic England


Greeves, T.A.P. and Robinson, R., Taw River Tin Blowing Mill SX 62059197, (1985)
Unpublished plan, Greeves, T.A.P. and Robinson, R., Taw River Tin Blowing Mill SX 62059197, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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