Tankerville lead mine had a brief but intense career. In the 1860's Heighway Jones discovered an enormously rich pipe vein of galena.
By 1876, Watson's shaft with its magnificent Cornish beam pumping engine house was producing ore. This shaft was sunk 113m to reach the drainage adit (Boat Level), it then continued to the sump 460m below ground. It was later deepened to 560m to become the deepest shaft in the orefield.
The ornate octagonal brick chimney served the boilers of the two steam winding engine houses, of which only the pumping engine house survives today.
While the shaft was being sunk, a Fowler steam engine was installed in an underground chamber at the 74 fathom level (249m below ground). It is reputed to have had its own 347m long chimney to the surface!
All underground depths at the the mine were measured in fathoms below the Boat Level, which was about 226 ft. (69m) below the surface at Tankerville.
Rising costs and falling prices finally led to the mine's closure in 1884, after less than 20 years of prosperity.
The buildings at Tankerville are listed monuments and in 1995 conservation work started which involved digging out the unstable shaft top and constructing a new concrete shaft collar and cap.
The new works can be seen through these arches which lead from the mine buildings, through the balance bob pit to the shaft.
In 1995, when the the shaft consolidation work was complete the Shropshire Caving & Mining Club used their winch to descend Watson's shaft.
The shaft was blocked about 50m down where a cross-cut leads towards Old Engine (or Ovenpipe) Shaft and an ever deepening pool of cowsh slurry! The blockage was probably supported by an old wooden platform, which has since collapsed, so the shaft is now open to water.
A few metres into the level, a second level heads out for about 70 metres towards what we assume to be New Shaft. There is an obvious draught towards Watsons Shaft which appears to find its way over backfill at the end of the level.
Along the level there are a few rusting cans, some small calcite and limonite stal and two sections of a wall mounted wooden leat or ventilation duct (see picture).
English Heritage, Shropshire County Council and South Shropshire District Council funded the conservation work on the shaft. The Conservation Area Partnership scheme paid for the work to rebuild the Watson’s engine house, the adjacent ore bins and the nearby Ovenpipe engine house and it's truncated chimney (there is currently no public access to the Ovenpipe part of the site).
After completion of the conservation work Tankerville Mine site was donated to the Shropshire Mines Trust in December 1996. They plan to create a low key interpretation site which is open and free of charge to the public.
National Grid Reference: SO 355 995
c1800s: Known as Ovenpipe mine, working a small pipe vein via a shaft (Ovenpipe shaft) and a crosscut from the Boat Level.
1830s: Mine leased by Walker, Cross and Company, but they neglected the mine in favour of Bog and Pennerley mines.
1860s: Mine taken over by Heighway Jones, who discovers and exploits the Tankerville vein. Arthur Waters appointed mine manager.
1870: Joint stock company "Tankerville Mining Company" floated to develop Tankerville and improve output.
1874: Watson's shaft completed to 190 fathoms below adit - 252 fathoms from surface (461m in total) - vertical for first 52 fathoms (95m), then followed the angle of the vein.
1876: Watson's pumping engine house built.
1877: Falling lead prices and rising costs start effecting the company.
1878: Tankerville Company operating at a loss. Company liquidated.
1879-80: Tankerville Great Consols formed by Peter Watson (a director of Devon Great Consols, Tavistock, Devon) combining Tankerville with Bog, Pennerley and Potter's Pit mines.
1881-82: Watson's shaft deepened to 244 fathoms level (515m total shaft depth - the deepest on the orefield), discovers rich orebodies.
1884: Falling ore prices cause the driving of underground levels to be stopped.
1884, April: Shareholders vote to wind up the company.
1902: Engines and mine equipment finally sold by auction.
1995: Conservation work starts on the surviving mine buildings and structures.
1996: Tankerville Mine site donated to the Shropshire Mines Trust.