Data and Description by ICLOK
Dartmoor granite has been used for thousands of years, Prehistoric communities used it to build their houses and ritual monuments. In medieval times through to today farmers have used granite for their buildings (including medieval Dartmoor longhouses, many of which survive to the present day) and for banks and walls using surface stone cleared from the land. However, it was not until the early 19th century that Dartmoor granite was quarried and became a commercial product, going further afield than Dartmoor
On the eastern side of Dartmoor are the Haytor Quarries. Here granite was quarried then transported on a unique granite tramway to the Stover canal near Bovey Tracey and thence to Teignmouth. Most of the production went to London for the construction of some quite famous buildings, including London Bridge. This old bridge is now a tourist attraction in the Arizona Desert!
The 1830s and 1840s were a boom time for the Haytor Quarries but in the latter half of the 19th century the market was captured by the western quarries such as Swell Tor and Foggintor, also the cheaper Cornish Granite became available in large amounts. The last quarrying at Haytor was in 1919 when it was reopened to build the Exeter War Memorial.
The quarries themselves at Haytor were opened by George Templer (local entrepreneur) who masterminded the building of the Tramway also.
The quarries are to the West, North and East of Haytor Rocks. The two main sites are at Haytor itself at 759774 and Holwell Tor at 750777.
The Haytor quarries were operating by 1819 and the tramway was operating in 1820 to them. The quarries at Holwell Tor were operating by 1829. Further quarries are Horraburrow and Emsworthy.
The tramway ran from the quarries down to Ventiford where it met the Stover canal some 10 miles away. The tramway is unique in that there are no metal rails, instead dressed granite blocks form the rails. The trams were horse drawn using gravity it is thought on the decent and the horses for the empty run back.
The Holwell and Haytor quarries are well worth a visit and all can be visited by following the tramway itself around Haytor rocks. In the main Haytor quarry are the remains of a crane by the flooded quarry floor. At Holwell are working faces, a strange round shelter and the remains of other buildings. Don’t expect huge structures typical of other industrial sites in the SW. The place is unique and has an atmosphere all of its own which when coupled to the Dartmoor views, ancient quarries/remains, prehistoric sites, old surface tin works and the incredibly intact tramway makes it a great place to explore. The tramway can be followed as the ‘Templer Way’ footpath as it falls to Ventiford. On Haytor itself the tramway tracks are complete as are other large sections like in Yarner Wood (also see Yarner Copper Mine at SX783783) and below where it follows the contours of the hill down into the valley. It is so complete that you find yourself expecting a team of horses to come snorting around the corner hauling empties up to the quarries. The tracks survived as being made of granite they had no real re-saleable value and hence were simply left… thankfully!
An excellent site full of maps and detail is at