Ancient Monuments

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Raleigh's Cross iron mine, 310m south east of Heather House

A Scheduled Monument in Old Cleeve, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0989 / 51°5'56"N

Longitude: -3.3931 / 3°23'35"W

OS Eastings: 302549.231686

OS Northings: 134211.888598

OS Grid: ST025342

Mapcode National: GBR LN.C06V

Mapcode Global: FRA 36S6.V8P

Entry Name: Raleigh's Cross iron mine, 310m south east of Heather House

Scheduled Date: 3 September 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021351

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33073

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Old Cleeve

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes the greater part of the ruins, earthworks and other
remains of Raleigh's Cross iron mine located on the south side of the B3190
road. The mine was one of a number opened on the Brendon Hills in the
mid-19th century to exploit the high quality iron ore lode which, on the
Brendons, was most productive at two mines, Raleigh's Cross and the adjacent
Carnarvon Pit.
The Raleigh's Cross mine, which was opened in the 1850s, survives as an
infilled shaft together with a group of earth and rubble mounds many of which
indicate the position of demolished buildings including the winding engine
house, pump house, furnace stacks, miners' dry, locomotive shed, blacksmith's
shop and a row of cottages. The foundations of these buildings are thought to
survive as buried features, confirmed in some cases by archaeological
investigation. Cartographic and archaeological evidence has established the
layout of the mine and the locations of all the main components have been
identified. The mine was the only one on the Brendon Hills to have separate
winding and pumping engines.
The mine closed in 1883 and the standing buildings were demolished in 1907 to
be used as ballast for the re-opening of the West Somerset Mineral Railway.
The foundations however survive and excavations have revealed the plans of
both the pump house and winding house whilst the remainder of the general
plan is known from recorded sources. The majority of the foundations were
covered over following excavation, although some wall footings remain
Raleigh's Cross had been one of the first iron mines to be opened on the
Brendon Hills and was considered to be one of the most important during the
30 year period of working until 1883. In May 1858 the mine had been connected
by a short branch of railway to the top of the incline which took the ore
onto Watchet for transhipment to South Wales for smelting. In 1865 a beam
pumping engine was installed and by 1867 the mine was over 116m deep with 17
levels cut east and west. Information for this scheduling has been provided
by Mike Jones of the Exmoor Mines Research Group.
All gates, fencing, fence posts and telegraph poles are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry,
spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major
part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance
peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms
across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques,
including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and
underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and
features at extraction sites. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small,
relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced
from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a
higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is
brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be
remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge,
but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to
more sophisticated types of furnaces. A comprehensive survey of the iron and
steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of sites of national
importance that represent the industry's chronological range, technological
breadth and regional diversity.

The 19th century iron mines on the Brendon Hills are closely related to the
iron industry of South Wales. By 1830 supplies of locally mined ore in South
Wales were becoming exhausted at the very time when demand for wrought iron
rails was increasing as a result of the spread of railways. It became
economically profitable, at least for a period in the mid- to late 19th
century, to mine the ore in the Brendon Hills and tranship it to South Wales
for smelting.

Raleigh's Cross mine, 310m south east of Heather House, one of the closest to
the head of The Incline (the steepest section of the rail system used to
carry the ore to Watchet) was one of the first mines to be opened and was the
last to close. Despite the above ground destruction of its buildings in 1907,
the remains of the mine provide a visible reminder of the importance of the
iron mining industry of the late 19th century at a time when the British
Empire was exercising great influence worldwide; a contemporary photograhic
record of the mine buildings also exists.

The monument will retain archaeological evidence providing technological
information about the mining processes of the period and about the community
which grew up around the mines.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 145
Jones, M, Notes on some of the Brendon Hills iron mines and the WSMR, 1998, Unpublished report for ex-RCHME

Source: Historic England

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