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History

Keeping the past alive for everyone to enjoy...

The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (WHS) in July 2006. Morwellham is now the first designated WHS ‘Key Centre’, one of three to be developed across Cornwall and Devon as centres of excellence for orientation, interpretation and education.

Morwellham is 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 peninsula. Morwellham's location, some 3km below the tidal limit of the River Tamar near Gunnislake and 32 km from Plymouth, was strategic. The port occupies the floodplain of a wide meander and is backed by sharply rising and thickly wooded valley sides which rise to over 180m. It was connected to Tavistock (6.5km away) via the Tavistock Canal, completed in 1817, and also to Devon Great Consols, once the richest copper mine in the world, by a standard gauge mineral railway (and inclined-plane railway) in 1859.

Much of this transport infrastructure is represented by substantial archaeological remains. Between the slate-fronted former harbour master’s house and the Ship Inn are the iron rails (1817) on slate sett 'sleepers' that linked the canal incline with the old copper ore quays.

Copper ore chutes survive in a massive retaining wall on Lower Copper Quay. The Great Dock and Quay of Devon Great Consols has been recently (2007/08) restored and the historic 100-year old Tamar sailing ship Garlandstone, is berthed here. A continual programme of excavation and conservation is underway.

The George & Charlotte copper mine, is unique as the only open copper mine in Britain and made accessible to the public by a riverside railway. Visitors are taken deep underground on the train and the story of hard rock mining is expertly told amidst an historical and authentic backdrop.