Urban mining in and around Plymouth

Urban mining in and around Plymouth
The saying goes something like, “If I had a pound for every time someone told me that there is no mining here, I would be a rich man”.

Well, in this latest blog I want to dispel the idea that Plymouth in Devon is an area where the legacy of historic mining activity has not taken place and provide a few nuggets from the Mining Searches UK archive, Groundsure’s historical land use database, as well as from various reports from around the web to present to the naysayers.

What you are about to read sets out some of the past endeavours that have been undertaken in the Ocean City.

Utilising Groundsures unique historical land use database (which has data going back to the 1840s), an old Town Plan of Plymouth dated 1861 depicts the extensive West Hoe Quarries, shown also on the early editions of the Ordnance Survey plans produced at around the same date. These quarries extracted limestone. By 1895 the Ordnance Survey shows these former limestone quarries as a residential area with Great Western Road, Eddystone Terrace and Radford Road shown and Pier Street under construction.

Extensive stone workings include Deadman’s Bay Quarry and Catdown Quarry in the south eastern part of the city both of which have since been developed for industrial use.

In addition to the extraction of limestone, in the northern part of Plymouth there is a north to south trending mineralised vein bearing lead and silver. A line of mine entries marks the approximate location of a string of mines from north to south including Wheal Southway, Wheal Looseleigh, Wheal Whitleigh and Wheal Genny’s which were recorded to have been worked between 1850 and 1857 but probably continue to be worked after that period.

In a detailed study Mining Searches UK carried out for the area in 1980 and held within the Mining Searches UK unique mining database we describe the workings. Mine workings were remediated by the council.

There are also records of mineral deposits existing beneath the streets of Plymouth. Iron ore has been found in George Street, Stonehouse and copper in Eldad Hill. The name Copper Place is commonly thought to commemorate a deposit of copper ore and a copper lode was revealed in the new foundations of a prison at North Hill. The records for these discoveries do not however provide evidence of these minerals being worked6.

In more recent times and on the eastern side of Plymouth in Hemerdon, tungsten was being extracted at Drakelands Mine by Wolf Minerals Limited until it was liquidated in 2018. The discovery of tungsten at Hemerdon dates back to 1867. Tungsten West Limited have taken over the mine with a view to potentially restarting production in 2021. Tungsten West Limited are further studying the ore body which according to the British Geological Survey, has the fourth largest tungsten reserve in the world1,2,3,4,5.

Lastly when considering the history of Plymouth as a location where former mining and extraction has taken place there are the quarries and mine entries associated with the east-west trending mineralised veins at Turnchapel in the southern part of the city.

In summary, if only I had taken a pound for every time I heard, “There is no mining here”.

If you are planning the purchase of a new home or looking to develop a parcel of land in this prolific mining county, Groundsure’s GeoRisk and GeoRisk + reports will help highlight any risks caused by non-coal mining and natural ground stability. If any potential risks arise, our reports will include clear guidance and next steps available.


1. https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/tungsten-mine-set-reopen-after-17367777

2. https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2110188-qa-tungsten-west-plans-hemerdon-mine-restart-for-2021

3. http://mhea.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Hemerdon_Mine_Information_Pack-1.pdf


4. https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/business/how-hemerdon-mine-lost-100m-2099262

5. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-devon-34277159

6. Mines Of Devon. A.K.Hamilton-Jenkin. David & Charles 1974

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Jan 28, 2021

Paul Raglan