By Andrew Westcott
This page is concerned with the quarry shown at location No.2 on the map on my 'Mining Introduction' page, and it can be found at ordnance Survey coordinates SX 849 867. It is located just South of Lake Farm in Doddiscombsleigh in a small area of woodland and is where me and my childhood friends used to spend a lot of time exploring as it was just three fields away from where I lived. We gave this magical location the suitably descriptive name of 'Big Bog'. This working was open cast in nature, and there now remains a large excavation with water filling the bottom. The area is very overgrown, and there are many large oaks growing within the workings, some of which have fallen down, but many of the original features of the workings are still visible.
Many years ago there was a feature which seemed to be an inclined plane leading out of the water-filled excavation at a constant angle which I had always imagined once carried a rail track. A lot of material has unfortunately been removed from what was once the base of the incline in recent years, presumably to provide hard core for some building project elsewhere and the evidence for the inclined plane has now been largely destroyed, but I remember it well.
This incline led to a squared and leveled area set at about 4 feet lower than the point at which the incline emerged, which could possibly have been used for ore dressing or be the site of an old building and from here there is a level route which leads onto the extensive spoil heaps, these being large enough to be shown on Ordnance Survey maps. Photo 1 shows this square leveled area, with the incline entering the area at the rear left of the picture. My imaginary rail track would have continued on from this area onto the spoil heaps and returned to the quarry at a different point via downward slope, creating what was more or less a circular route. I wonder how close this assumption is to how things actually were? Photo 2 looks out onto the level top of the spoil heaps and was taken from the same position as photo 1, just looking in the opposite direction.
It has been suggested in some locally written literature that this was once a road-stone quarry, something I totally disagree with as the rock type, being shale, is unsuitable for this purpose and the material on the spoil heaps is too fine in size to have been the waste from such a quarry. In any case, the gentleman who owned the land when I was a child, long since deceased, categorically described it as being an old manganese mine, something the present owners also happen to agree with. It is possible that some confusion has crept in over the years as high up on the hill there is a stone quarry where dolerite was once extracted, although this seems to have been an isolated occurrence in this area, road stone being currently extracted on a major scale near Trusham. Something I have yet to resolve though, is the issue of the missing manganese ore. Despite doing a careful search of the spoil heaps, all I could find was fairly finely divided shale with no trace of mineralization, which is not what I'd expect. Could these heaps be just the material removed before the ore was exposed? If so, where was the material which was in contact with the ore taken?
Photo 3 shows an odd feature just off to one side of the main pit, and although in a rather overgrown and confused condition, it is still possible to see the high banks on three of the sides and of course the water at the bottom. Once again, material has been moved about here in more recent times sadly destroying many of the original features, but when I was in my teens I distinctly remember this region actually consisting of two distinct rectangular depressions, one in the foreground and the other behind it divided by a ridge of earth and rubble, both regions having water lying at the bottom although the two areas seem to have been merged now and the dividing ridge apparently removed. Against the far bank just below the Wintertime water level there is a drainage pipe which passes under the mound to the rear to exit a little further down the hill between the two spoil heaps. This feature looked very much as though it could have been the site of a pumping engine and its associated sump for draining the mine, but given the similarity of this feature to the typical remains of engine house and mine shaft combinations elsewhere, I have even entertained the idea that there may even have been a shaft here, now filled in or capped, and the foundations of an adjacent engine house.
Much about this place is guesswork as any records seem to be non-existent, so if anyone has any stories, or information on any of the manganese mines I'm studying here, whether factual or highly doubtful, third-hand or passed down from a grandfather, please contact me at the e-mail address below so we can add to the little we do know and hopefully put a few pieces of the jigsaw together, and attempt to get a better picture of Doddicombsleigh's mining history.
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