Crediton & District

Morwellham Quay

July 20th, 2018

Historic Buildings & Churches visiting group
History & Local History group

On a quite lovely summer’s day, 37 members of Crediton & District U3A visited Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar, where copper ore was loaded in barges to take around the Cornish coast and up the Bristol Channel for smelting in Swansea. We were rather surprised to find the whole site almost empty of visitors on such a beautiful day.

We were given an introductory talk in the coach on the development of the quay and its reclamation in the late C20th. Morwellham became known as the "richest copper port in Queen Victoria's Empire", but it is a bit difficult to envisage this from its fairly scanty remains. When the copper was almost exhausted, the mines produced arsenic and Morwellham became the world's largest supplier of arsenic in the latter part of the century. However, by 1903 the mines' wealth was exhausted and they all closed.

The outstanding event of our entire day was the late morning trip by electric train into one of the several copper mines whose ores were sent from Morwellham to Swansea. This mine was called the George & Charlotte (after George III & his queen, Charlotte). Our driver and guide, Rick, gave vivid descriptions of the operation of the mine as we went underground.

After our lunch we toured the various attractions of the Quay, although we didn’t have time to visit them all. These included a blacksmith’s forge, a cooperage, several Victorian cottages, a Victorian junior school and one of the sailing barges used for the transportation of copper ore.

K Barker

Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.