Nineteen DPA Members and friends met at the Haytor Upper Car Park on Friday 25th June for another short walk that offered a variety of things to see – including the Pay & Display parking machine. The weather started as a cloud in the car park and it was grey for some time – but the group photo shows the sun shining. Most photographs were taken on a sunny reconnaissance day on 15th June. The route went up to Haytor Rocks and then down to the main quarry. After passing through the quarry, we joined the Templer granite tramway and the intention was to follow west to Holwell Quarry – however, a navigation error cut that short. From there, we climbed the slope to the rarely visited Rubble Heap Quarry and continued back to Haytor and the car park
First thing on the risk assessment, crossing the road! The view above shows the separation of the two piles, with Low Man on the left. This is also called an “avenue tor”, like Bellever (Bellaford) Tor, Hound Tor, Great Staple (or, originally, Steeple) Tor, Rippon Tor and Pew Tor.
“Hey Tor” was the local dialect name for this tor which was interpreted as Hay Tor by the original Ordnance Surveyors and has been the label on maps ever since. It was called “Hey Tor” because it is seen from The Channel. There are steps up to the top of the tor made for tourists in Victorian times that run diagonally to the top along a fissure that can be seen in this photograph.
The main quarry can be approached from the path that leads to the entry gate and this offers a good overview of the site. From this point it is possible to follow the fence around to the gate, but it is safer to go back to the path because the fence route is sandy, gravelly and “slippy”. The Legendary Dartmoor – Haytor Quarries web page has a lot of information.
The quarry is normally a quiet area and it is hard to imagine there being about 100 men working in the area when it was in full production.
George Templer (1781–1843) was a landowner in Devon, England, and the builder of the Haytor Granite Tramway, which connected the quarries to the Stover Canal. the Haytor Quarries were worked from the late 1700s. The granite railway was opened in 1820.
His father was the second James Templer (1748–1813). It may have been the winning of a contract to provide granite for John Rennie’s rebuilding of London Bridge that led Templer to develop the tramway: light grey “Devonshire Haytor” granite was specified, along with two Scottish granites, by the Act of Parliament that authorised the new London Bridge. Work on the new London Bridge began in 1824. The tramway was opened on 16 September 1820 with a great celebration at Haytor at which Templer gave a “short and energetic speech, which excited bursts of applause”. The tramway and quarries folded in 1858/1860 due to competition from Scotland and Cornwall and the high cost of transportation. Some stone was taken for special requirements: e.g. Exeter War Memorial, 1919.
The granite was cut into blocks for building and these were loaded onto small wagons on granite rails. The crane was of the “derrick” type, consisting of a vertical mast with a sloping jib and winding gear. There is an old print that is said to be Haytor Quarry that shows three derrick cranes in position. The photograph above shows either the mast or the jib laying on the ground behind the “windlass” mechanism.
The central part of the quarry is now flooded and is quite a boon for wildlife.
As can be see, water lillies abound but there are other plants, insects and birds in this sheltered oasis on the moor.
The photograph above shows a shaped block behind the winding gear on which the crane’s mast might have stood.
Proceeding around the pond, there is an iron ring embedded into a waterside rock. It’swhose function is not known for sure, but it might have served to steady the crane mast – there is another ring across the lake …..
The iron ring is “matched” by a second one across the water, this second ring is on the left of the path, away from the water. It can be discerned in the photograph above on a large, flat white rock.
The photograph above is taken from the second iron ring, looking across the water to the first ring.
There is a somewhat enigmatic feature – two iron spikes driven into a rock …..
Closer view of the spikes – why are they here?
The tramway is said to run some ten miles from the Holwell area to the Stover canal, where the blocks were transferred to barges. These took the blocks to Teignmouth harbour where the the blocks were transferred to ships to be takes e.g. to London.
From Wikipedia – Haytor Granite Tramway …..
The wooden flat-topped waggons had iron flangeless wheels and ran in trains of usually twelve waggons drawn by around 18 horses in single file, in front for the upward journey and at the rear for the downward. An old sailor called Thomas Taverner wrote a poem which gives us this information:
“Nineteen stout horses it was known,
From Holwell Quarry drew the stone,
And mounted on twelve-wheeled car
‘Twas safely brought from Holwell Tor”
At junctions the wheels were guided by ‘point tongues’, pivoted on the granite-block rails, this could be described as an early form of a railway “switchplate”. Authorities differ on whether the point tongues were oak or iron.
Certain rails bear inscribed letters which are masons’ marks and signify who laid them.
There are a number of sets of points along the tramway where wagons were switched from one route to another. Some of the points lead to tracks that are now without rails which were probably lifted and re-used elsewhere along the tramway.
The photograph above shows a rarity, where the feather and tare marks left from the splitting of the granite are showing – probably an apprentice’s error?
The rail in the above image was abandoned for some reason – perhaps another error in the making of it? Or perhaps it was broken during man-handling? This was seen on the recon walk.
In the middle of nowhere, near Holwell Quarry, right beside the tramway, is an abandoned apple crusher (at SX 75514 77725). This was seen on the recon walk.
Just north of the tramway at Holwell Quarry is a sturdy quarrymen’s hut, perhaps as a shelter during blasting or as a store for explosives? This was seen on the recon walk.
A short distance beyond the hut, to the west, there are long “drops” on either side of the track where the rock has been removed. This was seen on the recon walk.
There are two main working areas to Holwell Quarry, close to the side of the tramway. The west end area is quite open and easy to explore ….. This was seen on the recon walk.
There is at least one recognisable ruined building inside the west end of the quarry, although the Historical Environment Records indicate five buildings in the area. This was seen on the recon walk.
The east end of the quarry is a little more overgrown and not so easy to explore. This was seen on the recon walk.
The route from Holwell Quarry back to HaytorRocks passes the little-heard-of Rubble Heap Quarry. This is reminiscent of the Big Tip and Foggintor Quarry arrangement where waste rock was brought out through the entrance to form a long tongue. There is a single tramway rail left in situ along the top of the heap. The long entrance into the quarry is reminiscent of the arrangement at West Mead Quarry near YRed Cottages / Four Winds car park. The entrance is hidden by gorse.
The quarry has a god entrance but the floor becomes quite boggy after entering several metres in, although there are ledges up to the left and right.
The above photograph was taken en route to the main quarry.
This photograph was taken from the western pile, Low Man.