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Morwellham Quay is a historic river port in Devon, England that developed to support the local mines. The port had its peak in the Victorian era and is now run as a tourist attraction. It is the terminus of the Tavistock Canal, and has its own copper mine.
In July 2006, UNESCO (the cultural arm of the United Nations) awarded World Heritage Site status to the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape area. Morwellham is strategically sited at the centre of the Tamar Valley Mining District which, together with nearby Tavistock, forms the easternmost gateway area to the rest of the World Heritage Site.
The Industrial Heritage museum is an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage.
Morwellham Quay was originally set up by the Benedictine monks of Tavistock Abbey, which was founded in 961, to carry goods to and from Plymouth on the River Tamar, since the River Tavy was unnavigable. By the 12th century, tin ore was being transported through the quay, followed by lead and silver ores in the 13th century. Later, copper deposits were also discovered at the Quay itself and the George and Charlotte Mine opened in the 18th century. In addition, by 1800, manganese deposits were being extracted from the northern and western edges of Dartmoor and being brought to Morwellham.
By the end of the 18th century, the trail of pack horses across the rugged terrain was too much, and in 1817 the 4.5 mile long Tavistock Canal was opened. The canal included a 1.5 mile tunnel which ended 237 feet above the quay at Morwellham. From here an inclined plane was constructed to bring the iron barges down to the quay, powered by a water wheel.
The heyday for Morwellham Quay came when the largest and richest copper deposits ever were discovered at the Devon Great Consols just 4 miles to the north in 1844.. £1 shares were soon worth £800 as the rush to extract the ore started. This gave rise to Morwellham's fame as the "richest Copper port in Queen Victoria's Empire", and the queen herself visited in 1856. Another inclined plane was built to transport the ore down the hill and a new quay was added to handle the 30,000 tons of ore that were exported each year. Arsenic was also extracted and it became the world's largest supplier of the mineral in the latter part of the century. However by 1903 the Consols' wealth was exhausted and the mines closed.
By this stage, the railways had taken over and Morwellham's usefulness was also ended. The canal tunnel was used as a water supply for a hydroelectric plant and the inclined planes were abandoned.
In 2009 Devon County Council withdrew funding for the mining museum, which as a direct result has been placed into administration. The firm that manages the site is currently look for a new buyer and is said to be "confident" about the future of the site.
The site has been imaginatively preserved to give an impression of Victorian industrial and rural life. The assayers' offices have been carefully preserved and Victorian cottages, farm and schoolrooms presented. The ore crushing plants driven by a 32 foot overhead waterwheel can be seen. An electric tramway takes passengers down into the copper mine and there is also an extensive by water and land. Old lime kilns can also be seen.
New Quay is a small abandoned village on the banks of the river Tamar in Devon, the village is just downstream of the similar port of Morwellham Quay (now an open air museum). New Quay was formerly an important copper and arsenic port serving the local mines. Since July 2006 New Quay and the surrounding area have been protected under World Heritage Site status, as part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape area.[ .
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