Tankerville History

Tankerville mine, recent restoration work.
By Mike Worsfold
Many of you will not have visited the Tankerville Mine site, and may not be aware that Shropshire Mines Trust was formed for the purpose of taking ownership of this site, so I will give a brief history of these events to provide a context for this update. In 1995, the shaft (Watson’s Shaft) beside the old Cornish engine house at Tankerville was dangerously crowned. This means that the ground surface around the shaft was collapsing into the shaft. Because the shaft is very close to the engine house, there appeared to be a risk that the building itself could collapse into the shaft, not to mention the very large chimney. Because the mine is known to be drained by the Boat Level, which discharges a considerable volume into the valley about a mile away, it was feared that such a collapse might have serious consequences downstream on top of the loss of a historic building and landmark. A grant was obtained to stabilise the shaft, the engine house and the chimney, with some work on the ore bins, but this could only be awarded if the property were to be in the hands of a non-profit-making body. The owner agreed to convey the property to the newly formed Shropshire Mines Trust. This was done in 1996 after completion of the work.
This phase left the shaft and engine house and chimney in a stable condition, but the other structures were all in need of help, and the newly formed Mines Trust had no funds and only a few volunteers. Other features of the site (which is only a part of the original mine site) are the impressive masonry ore bins beside the engine house; the reservoir, and the high retaining wall of the dressing floor below the level of the engine house. The entrance to the bob pit is through this retaining wall, and had become increasingly unstable over the ensuing years, so that it was too dangerous to allow access for visitors.

Condition or wall before repairs
Unstable masonary around bob pit entrance

Condition or wall before repairs
Unstable masonary around bob pit entrance

The reservoir, which is heavily silted up but retains no visible water, is immediately above the southern end of the retaining wall. Water from the field above, and the road above that, drains into the reservoir and , until this year (2014) percolated through the retaining wall. A corner of this wall, nearest to the reservoir, supported a pipe which carried some, but not all, the water. After heavy rain, some of this water used to flow into the adjacent property to the north. The masonry in this area was partially collapsed and unstable.
Although the Trust has always allowed free access to most of the site, we had felt obliged to restrict access to the dressing floor below the retaining wall, and to the reservoir above it, for safety reasons. Meanwhile, the Trust has been quietly accumulating funds so as to help us to restore the structures, although we knew that the work required would always be beyond our unaided means and that we would need external support to restore the site. The dressing floor was cleared in October 2011 to allow assessment

Water collection point
Water collection from old resevoir
Water discharge into shaft
Stabilised bob pit entrance
It’s not vertical, and never was!
Lower dressing floor now clear

The site has now been designated a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage, who began to give us financial support for maintenance. About 2 years ago the site was placed on their list of Buildings at Risk, and so qualified for a grant for conservation. In 2013 a grant from English Heritage for restoration of the retaining wall was negotiated, with a requirement for significant match-funding from the Trust, and work started in early 2014. Since then, the site has been in the hands of the contractors and the public have been excluded.
The grant-funded work is now complete and people can visit the site again. The retaining wall has been partly rebuilt and stabilised and the bob pit entrance has been restored and made safe. The water flowing down towards the reservoir has been intercepted and diverted so as to flow down Watson’s Shaft.
The Trust and Shropshire Caving and Mining Club had descended this shaft in 1997 (from memory) using a winch, and found that it was blocked about 40m below the surface, at a point where 30/9/14. East end of the wall now clean and tidy it was intersected by a level which appeared to connect it to New Shaft (near the road) and Ovenpipe Shaft (in the adjoining property to the south). However Peter Eggleston deployed his remotely operated camera (Mine Cam) down the shaft early in 2014 and this revealed that the blockage had fallen away and that the shaft was clear down to water, which drains into Boat Level. I remember standing on this blockage at the time of our early descent, and although I was attached to a rope it still makes me shiver a little thinking about it.
All Photos Mike Worsfold

Vehicular access to the site is an on-going problem. We have a right of way for Trust directors and  agents of the Trust (contractors and the like) to use vehicles to get onto the site by way of the private road from the north, but the public, and even ordinary Members of the Trust, must enter the site by way of a  footpath from the road above. Volunteers from the Trust installed a wicket gate and steps down the steep bank here back in 1997, but both are now in need of repair. There is no parking space beside the road here, and parking on the steep bend of this narrow road is out of the question, so visitors must normally walk from the parking area at the bend in the road which we call Burgam Corner, a few hundred yards Final stage of the wall restoration 22/11/14 south of the Pottery at Tankerville. Visitors should not park outside the Pottery as the space belongs to that business and is provided for their customers.
We still need to keep the bob pit locked, as there is a potentially lethal vertical drop just inside the gate. We will get round to installing a fixed ladder (I have a donated one in my car port which may do the job) and will then have to consider the safety aspects. We also need to do something with the dressing floor, now that it is substantially cleared and levelled. It was a mess before work began. We are thinking along the lines of a wildflower meadow, with mown paths for access, but any ideas will be welcome and considered.
We are looking for ideas about what to do for an opening event, so please let us know what you would like. And, of course, there will be plenty of jobs for volunteers in the coming years. There will be some lime mortar work to do on other parts of the structures which were not covered by the grant, as well as footpath creation and maintenance, and safety work around the top of the retaining wall. And if you do visit the site, please let us know if you have any ideas about how it could be improved.

Mike Worsfold  for Shropshire Mines Trust