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Wheal St. Ann

Due west of the small moorland village of Drewsteignton lies Bradmere Pool, a large, tree lined, dark, foreboding place which covers about 3 acres. Today the pool is more commonly known as Bradford Pool but in the past it has been called Beechmere Pool. Colonel Hamilton Smith an early antiquarian proposed that the pool was located in an artificial, man-made ritual centre used by the ‘Druids’ to somehow remember the great deluge sent by god to punish mankind for his impiety and of how Noah’s ark landed up on mount Ararat? Rowe takes a more practical approach to the origin of the pool when he remarks; “On the south side, the bank rises steeply from the brink of the pool, and forms apparently the slope of an earthwork, where the vestiges of a ditch or moat can be traced, surrounding a mound of an elliptical form, measuring on the top, one hundred feet, by one hundred and thirty feet. There are too many indications of regularity and design, to admit of the supposition that this mound is nothing more than the upcast of an abandoned mine.” p.119. Here he is alluding to the early supposition that this mound was intended to represent Mount Ararat.  He also  mentions that; “Among the legends of the neighbourhood, may be mentioned one, which relates that there is a passage lined with large stones (high enough) for a man to walk upright) from this lake to the Teign, near the Logan Stone.” p.120. Here we have the first suggestion that the pool is in fact the result of mining activities.

Mr Hamilton Jenkin has to say about Bradmere Pool: “Of the cassiterite occurrences the most noteworthy was Bradford (or Bradmere) Pool … covering upwards of four acres the site originated as a stream work for alluvial gravels. Stannary records show that dues were being paid here in 1539 … In 1789 the Rev. John Swete describes the Bradford site as a ‘vast hollow excavated through a succession of ages by miners’. The work had previously lain idle for a considerable length of time due to collapse of the drainage adit as a result of which an accumulation of water had overwhelmed the bottoms. In 1783, however, the old adit driven beneath the hill on which the prehistoric dolmen known as the Spinster’s Rock stands, was cleared and at the time of Swete’s visit the excavation was again dry … a mining sett was granted at the northern end of the pool sometime before 1841 … In 1846 working was recommenced by a Bristol company who named the sett Wheal St. Ann … At sometime prior to 1848 the adit referred to by Swete had again become choked and Rowe who visited Bradford in that year found it once again a pool – as it still remains“. pp. 105 -106. Wreford and Williams consider that the mine closed down because of the Civil War and that it became the subject of a five year litigation claim in 1698, finally re-opening in 1782. Exit the druids and their coracles along with the replica Mount Ararat, what Col. Hamilton Smith saw was the flooded remnants of the old mine. The underground passage that legend says ran from Spinster’s Rock to the logan stone was obviously one of the mine adits. pp.41 – 44.

Actual mining activities at the location date back to the 1500s when it was worked for streaming tin from the alluvial deposits. In later years at the northern end of the pool a mining sett was established in and around 1841. In 1847 the mine was pretty much still in its infancy under the management of Captain Penrose. The Western times published a letter from a gentleman who visited the mine in the July of that year. “It seems two shafts were sunk some time since, and in driving from one to another, three large lodes containing fine copper ore, tin, and mundic, with the most beautiful gossen and spar intersected. A horse whim was then erected, and an engine shaft sunk to the depth of 22 fathoms, when the water burst into the shaft so violently that the operations of the miners were entirely impeded. In sinking this engine shaft I find numerous beautiful branches were passed through (indicating the existence of a strong body of mineral below), and from the sudden influx of water, there can be no doubt but that  a lode has been intersected. The water now coming from the shaft is of the strongest mineral property. An engine house is now commenced building, and within six weeks or two months, a steam engine will be set at work, and there is no doubt at all in my mind, nor in the minds of the adventurers, and the several mining captains who have examined the lodes and strata but that a mine will be established in Drewsteignton, vying with the famous “Wheal Devon Maria,” proving a source of wealth to the adventurers and the lord of the soil, and the greatest advantage to the neighbourhood in the employment of the poor. When the engine is erected, and has been worked for some tm, I will, if you will permit me, send you another report for the benefit and instruction of the aforesaid benighted Geologists.” – The Western Times, July 28.

In 1848 the Sussex Advertiser reported that; “Wheal St. Ann,” situate near some old tin works, now known as Bradford Pool, in the parish of Drewsteignton. Four lodes have been intersected in the shallow adit, and the adventurers, who are principally men, have set an engine shaft, for the purpose of intersecting the first lode, at about 33 fathoms – 27 of which are complete, the stratum and lodes forming a junction in the centre of the set. Practical and eminent miners have visited the mine, and their unanimous and favourable reports have raised the most sanguine expectations in the company and samples of copper ore assayed produced 14½ per cent.” – June 14th.

Later that year there was a tragedy at the mine following the death of James Goldsworthy who was an engine worker there. One Sunday morning in the December of that year witnesses saw him arrive at the mine in a very intoxicated state. He took off his coat and immediately threw himself down a mine shaft falling some 33 fathoms (198 feet) deep to the bottom where he died almost immediately. The verdict of his inquest was; “that the deceased, in a temporary state of insanity, caused by drunkenness, destroyed himself.” – The Exeter Flying Post, December 14th, 1848.

In the March of 1849 many newspapers announced the fact that on the 21st of that month at eleven o’clock the steam engine and materials of Wheal St. Ann were to be sold by auction. The notice listed a whole host of lots which included; pumps,  rods, ropes, winding gear, horse whim, capstan, pulleys, smith’s shop implements,  miner’s tools, timbers, launders, the counting house furniture, a 18-inch cylinder rotary steam engine and boiler. – The Bristol Mercury, March 17th, 1849.

 

Following the demise of Wheal St. Ann the shafts continued to flood so much so that Bradmere Pool was formed into what we see today. But industrial activities soon were replaced with leisure activities. In the July of 1882 the local rector who owned Bradmere Pool held a Sunday School there, it was reported that over 200 people attended the vent from the surrounding parishes. The children were treated to a sumptuous tea followed by which they took part in a series of rowing boat races up and down the pool. In the February of 1895 it was reported in a local newspaper that over 200 folk from Chagford were skating on the pool. This is but one instance of people skating on the pool at the end of the 1890s. 
In the August of 1933 a fire at Down Park Farm damaged the farmhouse, stables and two corn ricks. Shortly afterwards another hay rick was set alight at Greystones and all incidents were reported as suspicious. This resulted in a police search for the owner of Venton Farm – Elias Mortimore. He was the brother of the owner of Down Park Farm who lived at Venton with his two other brothers. Tragically his coat, hat and boots were found on the banks of Bradmere Pool and after dragging the waters his body was recovered.
As a result of the writings of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (“BB”) in his book “Confessions of a Carp Fisher”, Bradmere Pool has been regarded the birthplace of carp fishing in England.

PLEASE NOTE – Bradford Poll is on private property.

 

Hamilton Jenkin, A. K. 2005 Mines of Devon, Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne.
Rowe, S. 1985 A Perambulation of Dartmoor, Devon Books, Exeter.
Wreford, H & Williams, M. 1985 Mysteries in the Devon Landscape, Bossiney Books, St. Teath.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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