Report on talk “The Penn Recca Slate Mine” by Revd Nicholas Pearkes

The Penn Recca Slate Mine talk took place at Galmpton Village Institute on 18th January 2019.

Nicholas, former vicar of Littlehempston and surrounding parishes and today chairman of Babbacombe and St Marychurch local History group was introduced by John Risdon, who also welcomed six members of the newly re-formed Kingswear History Group.

Today little can be seen of the mine and quarry workings, but beneath are over a mile of tunnels and caverns.

The earliest record is from 1388 when slate was recorded as being used on Dartington Hall.

There is little evidence of working until the mid-19th C when Quarrying was carried out to a depth of 400 feet, the slate being extracted by windlasses operated by horses.

The quarry flooded to 200 feet and a tunnel (adit) 6’ high by 7’wide was dug for half a mile into the hillside to allow drainage and easier extraction of the slate. During the tunnel excavation which took 3 years much more slate was discovered leading to side tunnels and caves. It was recorded that £30,000 was spent on these developments. The slate blocks were processed on site to create roof slates. Rail tracks carried trucks from the mine, pack horses would have been used for much transportation. The Hems Canal carried some slate to Teignmouth for onward transportation. It is recorded that the Madras Army Barracks were roofed with Penn Recca Slate.

By the later 19th C Welsh slate which was of superior quality and produced more cheaply with closer rail links eventually forced the closure of the mine.

During the 20th C several explorations have taken place and records of the tunnels, over a mile in extent, caverns and evidence of working practices recorded.

The mine is still a source of domestic water supply in the local area. Currently the Church Commissioners who own the land prohibit entrance to the mine works on Health and Safety grounds.