An eclectic group of friends recently made their way towards Great Links Tor, high above the village of Lydford on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park.

Small amounts of tin-bearing rock, scratched out of the ground hundreds, maybe even thousands of years ago and left scattered and forgotten, had been collected over many years, crushed, refined and smelted into pure tin and then hefted across the moor to the site of ancient workings to be cast into modern replicas of old stannary seals. The principal role of a stannary town was the collection of tin coinage, the proceeds of which were passed to the Duchy of Cornwall or the Crown. With the abolition of tin coinage in 1838 (following extensive petitioning by the Cornish tin industry for simplification of the taxation rules), the principal purpose for coinage town status ceased.

Devon stannaries are usually referred to by the names of stannary towns where refined tin was assessed, coined and sold. They were also the locations for some of the institutions associated with the operation of the stannary. Each had its own official seal.

King Edward I's 1305 Stannary Charter established Tavistock, Ashburton and Chagford as Devon's stannary towns, with a monopoly on all tin mining in Devon, a right to representation in the Stannary Parliament and a right to the jurisdiction of the Stannary Courts. Plympton became the fourth Devon stannary town in 1328 after a powerful lobby persuaded the Sheriff of Devon that it had better access for merchants as it was nearer the sea.

The Devon stannary towns are all on the fringes of Dartmoor, which is the granite upland which bore the tin. No definition of the boundaries of the Devon stannaries is known, if indeed one ever existed.

Thus it was on a perfect day at the close of March 2016 that my friend and I came to be present at what is probably the first time that pure tin from Dartmoor had been cast on the moor, as opposed to being mined there. The last tin mine on the moor closed in 1919. Firstly a modern 3D print of an old stannary seal was used to create a mould into which pure molten tin was poured, creating a new stannary seal.

Then a superb Dartmoor tin sculpture of a face was photographed at various locations across Dartmoor, beginning our journey to illustrate and write a book about tin mining on Dartmoor. The aim is to publish the book in two or three years time.


Tin on Dartmoor - back home again