Widecombe History Group Talk on the History of Kelly Mine at Lustleigh

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The History of Kelly Mine at Lustleigh:--

and the Restoration work carried out by The Kelly Mine Preservation Society since its formation in 1984.

Two members of the society, Grahame Spink and Peter Roberts, gave the group a talk and video presentation which was informative and interesting and this will be invaluable prior to our visit to the mine on Sunday October 7th 2001.

The ore mined there is oxidised iron ore, micaceous haematite, while this mine is in Lustleigh Parish a similar mine was once worked in Hennock. Pyrites was mined at Bridford.

The main mines were Great Rock, Kelly, Shuttamoor, Hawkmoor, Plumley, Shaptor and Bowden Hill. There were a few smaller ones. The first two were the only ones that maintained production for any length of time.

The first reference to the mine is 1797, the landlord a George Wills leased to a John Peasant for 21 years a certain mine of ‘black lead’. The product was known as Devon Sand, this fine shiny ore was used prior to the invention of blotting paper, it had a unique ability to absorb a great deal of moisture, and sold for between three and eight guineas a ton in 1839. Re-opened in 1879 by a man named Captain W. H. Hoskin it was found that when mixed with paint it produced a distinctive grey paint and it had an anti-corrosion quality, used for painting ships and believed to have been responsible for the name "battleship grey".

In 1889 a Scottish man named Livingstone lived at Lustleigh and perhaps he was partly responsible for encouraging a Scottish firm to be interested in Kelly! In 1892 there was an increase in production. In 1892 the mine was advertised to let by J. Dadd, of Kelly. Reopened again by The Scottish Silvoid Company during the period 1901- 1917 only to change hands again in 1917 being bought by a Mr Slater, an interesting man who had been involved in South African Gold and Silver Mines. By 1921 it belonged to a Mr Barclay and named "The Government Development Mine". The ore once mined was put through the stamps, washed, dried and then packed into barrels taken to Lustleigh Station and railed away. Slater died in 1933. He left monies to his employees in his will.

Lustleigh archives show members of the community dying from sylicosis in c1907. By the mid 1950’s the mine finally closed The nearby Great Rock Mine continued until 1969. The product having been used for the making of primer paint and used for the railways and some of their bridges.

When Great Rock closed, all the machinery was removed but at Kelly most of the machinery remained on site until ‘re-discovered’ by the Preservation Society. Some pilfering had taken place and some parts had been used to keep Great Rock in service.

Kelly mine is on land belonging to Kelly Farm, Lustleigh and covers about two and a quarter acres. The Society rents the site.

Graham Spink then showed a video recording of how it was when they started work, the progress that they have made and how it is today and described how in 1962, he and a couple of associates, then working at Westward Television/ Television South West, found that they had a common interest, Industrial Archaelogy. They had a particular interest in the Old Kelly Mine. After much thought they decided to set about seeing if they could explore the possibility of rescuing what remained and this hobby became an obsession.

On first visiting the site they discovered that the old sheds had completely collapsed and were overgrown, a scene of complete and utter devastation. However, when they eventually started work they discovered that almost all the machinery was still there just as it had been left all those years ago. So much equipment, the Blackstone Engine, (minus a couple of bearings), the Drum Winch, Compressor, Pelton Wheel, even the Californian Stamps (originally fixed by the Gold and Silver Mining Company), were all still in situ, and so began the massive task of clearing all the vegetation, cleaning up the site, unearthing the machinery buried beneath all the debris and to their amazement finding that so much remained virtually intact. However they had the difficult task of locating or getting specially made, some spare parts. The three of them formed The Kelly Mine Preservation Society in 1984, so began the mammoth task that has culminated in the remarkable sight that we were introduced to by means of the video presentation, they now have a membership of fifty-five. They have now rebuilt the sheds, built up the Launders and Leats for carrying the water to the now refurbished Water Wheel, got the Stamps working and the Engine which was used to drive the machinery when the water ceased, the Filter Beds, the Dry (the hut where the men had their meals and dried their clothing), and much much more. Images including maps of the site were shown to the meeting and has increased our desire to visit the site and see for ourselves the fruits of their labours.

We look forward to that visit on Sunday 7th October. Due to the lack of parking facilities it is important that we make use of the maximum of seats in the minimum of vehicles.

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The information on this page was last modified on March 18 2013 12:54:38.

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