Close to iconic Haytor, arguably Dartmoor’s most well-known feature, are a number of quarries interlinked by granite tramways, including that of Haytor Quarry itself. These traces of history offer a tantalising glimpse of our industrial heritage that has been reclaimed, in large part, by nature.
PLACE: HAYTOR QUARRY
REGION: SOUTH WEST ENGLAND
OS GRID REF:
Why You Must visit Haytor Quarry
Haytor Quarry is one of a number of disused quarries and is located on the northeastern side of Dartmoor National Park less than a mile from the village of Haytor Vale. It covers an area of approximately nine acres and has been designated, along with Haytor Rocks, a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its geological features.
The spoil heaps from the 18th and 19th centuries are visible from afar but unless you know where to look the main Quarry is very easy to miss as it’s totally hidden from view. There are always lots of people walking up to Haytor Rocks to enjoy the magnificent views but the Quarry below is relatively unknown.
It’s a magical place sheltered from the harshest of the Dartmoor weather being enclosed by high worked rock faces. In spring and early summer the small lake is teeming with tadpoles and newts and the occasional dragonfly hovering over the water lilies. In fact, when walking around it’s almost impossible nowadays to imagine the hustle and bustle and indeed noise that must have been the norm within this industrial site.
The Templer Family and Stover Estate
James Templer (1722-1782)
Haytor was part of Stover, an enormous 80,000 acre, Estate purchased by James Templar, a self-made business tycoon, in 1765. The Templar family were to have a profound industrial impact upon the local landscape.
James built a new home in the Palladian-style,not far from the original dilapidated Stoford Lodge,with granite from Haytor. This new property, Stover House (or Lodge) was finally completed in 1780 and included a magnificent stable block in an Italian Baroque style, again built with Haytor granite.
James Templer II (1748-1813)
By the 1780’s ‘Ball Clay’ was much sought after by the Stoke-on-Trent potters, such as Spode and Wedgwood, for their ‘newly’ discovered white porcelain. The Bovey Basin is rich in Ball Clay and much of this land belonged to the Stover Estate. Transportation, however, was problematic as the clay had to be taken via toll roads and turnpikes to the Teign Estuary and the product was both heavy and bulky, making it economically unviable.
James’ solution was to construct a canal which was opened in 1792. It was just short of two miles in length and provided a means to transport large quantities of Ball Clay; the largest barge had a capacity of 35 tons. The venture proved successful and by 1798 he had won a major contract with Josiah Wedgwood.
George Templer (1781-1843)
The saying ‘rags to riches and back again in three generations’ is appropriate, but not quite literally, for the Templer family! George was the profligate son, more interested in entertaining, hunting, theatrics and poetry. It would seem that he didn’t possess any business acumen, or interest, whatsoever and left the everyday running of his estate to others.
The unusual Haytor Granite Tramway, opened 1820, was constructed during his tenure of Stover and greatly increased the capacity of stone transported. However, despite 20,000 tons of Clay and Granite being shipped per annum he ended up in serious financial difficulty and had to sell the estate in 1829 to Edward Adolphus St Maur, 11th Duke of Somerset.
Haytor Granite Tramway
Due to the burgeoning demand for quality building materials in cities around Britain, in the first half of the 19th century, demand for the high grade attractive granite of Haytor Quarry increased dramatically. It became imperative to find a way of transporting larger volumes of granite down to the Stover Canal and so an idea was conceived to construct a tramway out of the existing raw materials.
The tramway comprised of granite slabs between four and eight feet long, and twelve to sixteen inches wide. Grooves were cut out lengthways for the wheels of the horse-drawn wagons to run within. At various sites along the track, there were points comprising of a metal shoe that levered the truck wheels into the required direction. These granite tracks linked up all five quarries owned by the Haytor Down Company, ran a total of approximately nine miles and descended 1300 feet to the Stover Canal.
History of Haytor Quarry
Dartmoor has been inhabited for thousands of years and the Haytor Quarry area is no exception. Bronze Age hut circles are found within close proximity and a small granite embankment had to be built for the tramway across tin streamworks dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries.
The opening of the tramway in 1820 meant that it was possible to increase granite production considerably. The stone, being of a very high quality, was sought after for many important building projects around the country.
In London alone it was used in the construction of the British Museum, the General Post Office and London Bridge to name but a few well known landmarks. Digressing just a little, the London Bridge built with Dartmoor stone was deemed unsafe for the increased weight of modern traffic in the 1960’s and so sold by the City of London.
It was purchased by an American and is now relocated and reinforced in Arizona. By 1858 the Quarries were closed as they were no longer able to compete with cheaper Cornish granite.
In the 1980’s a footpath known as the Templer Way was created that follows the historic route by which the granite was transported from Haytor Quarry to boats at Teignmouth. It’s eighteen miles long and covers a diverse range of scenery – open moorland to salt marshes.
The walk is divided into six stages and is signed en route, apart from on the moorland itself, where the tramway is still visible and therefore self-evident.
Places to Visit near Haytor
Hound Tor – An atmospheric Tor with the remains of a deserted Medieval Village called Hundatora close by and a number of Bronze age hut circles.
Ashburton – This Ancient Stannary Town is full of independent shops, lovely cafés and is a true antiquers’ paradise!
Buckfast Abbey – The only Cistercian Abbey to be restored to its former glory in the 20th Century and home to the famous Buckfast Tonic Wine!