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Morwellham River Port
River Tamar, Morwellham, Devon
associated engineer
Not known
date  1805
era  Georgian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  SX444696
ICE reference number  HEW 1082
Morwellham River Port lies within the Tamar valley mining district, now part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. It is situated on the River Tamar, some 3km south of the river's tidal limit near Gunnislake and 32km north of Plymouth.
Morwellham River Port was constructed by Benedictine monks from Tavistock, who used it as a route for shipping goods down river to the sea. The monks owned the port until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. It then passed into the ownership of the Russell family, later the Dukes of Bedford, right up to 1956.
The original quay had been strategically important for commerce for centuries, being a port for Tavistock from 1105 onwards. The nearby George and Charlotte copper mine, open from the mid-18th century until 1869, used it too. There were also connections to the Tavistock Canal (1817) and by rail to the Devon Great Consols copper mine (1859), and another quay was built in the 1840s. Morwellham became known as the greatest copper port in Queen Victoria’s empire with vessels of up to 300 tonnes using the quays.
However, with railway taking much of the trade from the Tavistock Canal and the closure of the Devon Great Consols mine, business dwindled, and by 1896 the quays were deserted.
In 1969 the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust, a charitable body under the auspices of the Dartington Hall Trust, was formed to restore the port. The Trust cleared debris, re-tiled the quays, de-silted the dock and reconstructed the buildings. Morwellham Quay was the first heritage centre in Britain.
Although all that can been seen of the quay today is a slipway into the river, visitors can take a tram ride into the George and Charlotte copper mine and enjoy the docks, ships, canal, railway and social history displays on site. There is also a restored 9.8m diameter working overshot wheel, which typifies ones used to grind manganese from the Brentor-Milton Abbot district.
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH South

Morwellham River Port