Ancient Monuments

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Remains of leat serving former hydro-electric generating station, on the south bank of the East Lyn River, 210m east of Oxen Tor

A Scheduled Monument in Lynton and Lynmouth, Devon

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Latitude: 51.2259 / 51°13'33"N

Longitude: -3.8182 / 3°49'5"W

OS Eastings: 273137.7245

OS Northings: 148985.1975

OS Grid: SS731489

Mapcode National: GBR L2.30JM

Mapcode Global: VH4M9.RGV1

Entry Name: Remains of leat serving former hydro-electric generating station, on the south bank of the East Lyn River, 210m east of Oxen Tor

Scheduled Date: 16 October 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020808

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33057

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Lynton and Lynmouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Lynton St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes the remains of a concrete leat which drew river
water to power the Lynmouth Central hydro-electric generating station
which was opened in 1890. The leat is located on the south bank of the
East Lyn River and it runs parallel with the river downstream from its
intake at the Ladycombe Lake entry to its termination at a clearing shed
approximately 350m to the north. From this point onward the water was
piped rather than carried to the generating station.
The leat, which survives fully in some sections of its 350m length and partly
in others, has a purpose-built sluice at its entry point about 20m west of
where the waters of Ladycombe Lake enter the East Lyn River down a steep
valley slope. The entry sluice is rock cut and located in a slight bend in the
river where the combination of the pressure provided by the river flow abetted
by the nearby rush of waters from Ladycombe Lake would have ensured a good
head of water entering the leat. The sluice gate was blocked with stone and
concrete following the abandonment of the system in 1952. The leat itself was
rock cut on its inner face against the bank but is revetted with stone where
this was felt to be necessary. The outer riverside wall is constructed of
local stone and faced externally with concrete; this wall rises 0.5m above the
ground surface and is 0.15m thick. The leat was cut 1.6m deep and 2.25m wide
on average with both the bottom and the inner walls lined with concrete. This
produced an open channel which had a series of side sluices at intervals which
could release water back into the river in order to control the flow required
at any one time. At the far western end of the leat is a clearing shed which
housed a screening mechanism and which marks the point where the leat gave way
to an overground pipe which conveyed the water for the remaining 280m or so to
the generating station. Nothing of the pipe system survives and the clearing
shed has been the subject of much modernisation.
The generating station continued in operation until 15th August 1952 when
it was destroyed in a major flood and never rebuilt.
The clearing shed at the western end of the monument is excluded from the
scheduling, although the fabric of the leat where it passes beneath the
clearing shed is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The harnessing of electricity for power, following Faraday's discovery of
this energy source, developed in Britain in the years 1879 to 1888 during
which time its application was in the generation of lighting for public
and private use. Numerous companies and supplies were established which
set the pattern for the supply and use of electricity until after World
War I. These early stations and power houses were small, isolated, and
predominantly coal-fired, though a significant number of hydro-electric
schemes, using the established technologies of water wheels and turbines,
served rural areas and country estates.

The water-powered electricity generating station at Lynmouth was the work
of a local engineer, Charles Geen. The station began to operate in the
early months of 1890 and it relied on the fast flowing East Lyn River to
drive the turbines, the water arriving at the station via a leat and
pipeline system. However, by 1895 demand was outstripping supply at
certain times and a pumped storage system was installed to ease this
pressure. This pumped storage system, which relied on water being pumped
to a reservoir for later use as and when required, is considered to have
been the earliest in the world. Both the generating station, which was
swept away in a flood in 1952, and the reservoir have been demolished
leaving the leat which carried water from the East Lyn River as the only
part of the scheme to have survived in anything like a reasonable state of
preservation. This leat will provide a visual reminder of this early
period in the generation of electrical power in England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Tucker, D G, Hydro-Electricity for Public Supply in Britain, (1977), 141-147

Source: Historic England

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