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Paul Rendle spoke on the Tin Miners of Dartmoor

Posted by on in Guest Speakers at Ace
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Tin has been mined and smelted on Dartmoor since the 11th Century. It is found as a 3% black rock with granite and other rocks that means a high percentage of waste. Pewter, made of 94% tin, 1% copper and 4% antimony, was used, in those early days, for plates to eat off and drinking containers. They forged Bronze primarily of copper plus 12% tin, for weapons and tools.

Tin ore was first found in streams and on the surface before it was mined. It was crushed, washed and smelted into moulds before being transported, by pack horses, to one of four Devon Stannary Towns for sale. Stannary Parliaments and courts were able to legislate and prosecute matters relating to tin.

Water, channelled into leats from streams or reservoirs, powered the water wheels, of various sizes, as crushers and pumps to drain the water from the mines and to supply fresh air.

Miners wore hats hardened with vinegar and they had to buy the candles they worked by. They hammered chisels into the rock and blow it out with gun powder. It was very dangerous work in dusty, wet, cold conditions and the miners were exhausted by the age of 35. Boys started work underground at ages of 8-9 and girls started work usually, on the surface, a little older. Men walked, up to 5 miles, to and from work and over that distance they stayed in local accommodation.

Gun powder was made on the moor, with men wearing slippers, to prevent explosions.

Local famers grew food and bred rabbits in constructed warrens.

We very much enjoyed Paul’s talk illustrated with photographic slides. He gives many other talks on life on Dartmoor.

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Guest Wednesday, 23 May 2018