Category: Vellacott

Exmoor History Mining Uncategorized Vellacott

Mining in the Hoar Oak Valley

Stories and memories come in many shapes and this one is from a letter sent to the Voices Project by Roger Burton following a meet up with our Bette Baldwin.  As Roger described in his letter below, “the conversation triggered off something in the back of my mind concerning a mine and mining within the close proximity of Hoar Oak (in the mid-1850’s) which I had written up for the Exmoor Mine Research Group newsletter in July 2004.”

There is a long history of mining on Exmoor – well told elsewhere in books such The Heritage of Exmoor by Roger Burton; The Reclamation of the Exmoor Forest by Orwin and Sellick; The West Somerset Mineral Railway by Sellick to name but three.  However, this story starts with Roger reviewing letters from the Knight family estate which had been left to the Somerset Records Office in Taunton.

For the Knights, there was a strong desire to find other sources of income from Exmoor and mining was clearly considered a good option to pursue. This little collection of notes made by Roger Burton from estate managers’ letters from the Knight family collection relate to their attempts to resurrect an old mine at Hoar Oak which had already been used and abandoned by the 1850s.  A letter dated January 9th, 1856 states that:

“The mines at Hoar Oak have difficult ground to encounter but we are in hope of cutting the lode very shortly, the old lode has been cleared and the lode looks remarkably well. Vellacott has cut through the lode which is showing it at the angle where Comer made his rapid turn to the east and it is 7’ to 8’ thick in clay, but has not seen any small stones of iron.”

The next report dated January 12th, 1856 mentions that “Captain Morcambe and Trelease (Combe Martin Mine Captains) were at Hoar Oak yesterday. They were pleased with the appearance of the neighborhood. The first cut old level is an unfortunate affair; it is run in again and some of the timber has given way. I have decided upon adopting the new level so far as it has been driven and then carry on a new level on the lode which is running north of Comers first or old level. The upper level is still going through hard ground; it will take many fathoms to reach the upper clays.”

By January 17th, 1856 it is being recorded that “They can’t take the timbers out of the first level; we are driving on north side without any timber” and on January 23rd that “The new level going well and 6 ft deeper than the old one” and on February 4th that “The Hoar Oak Miners driving new level at the Old Works the first one had nearly run together so no one could reach the end.” On February 12th it is reported that “The men are almost at the end” and by February 23rd that “Hoar Oak has reached old lode and there they well made a cross-cut to old mind workings.”

A sketch of the mine workings at Hoar Oak – included in a letter dated February 23rd 1856 – is reproduced below.  Although perhaps not very clear to us, to the Mine Captains, it was no doubt very clear what was being portrayed.

As mentioned on the sketch, the approximate location of the Hoar Oak Mine is at SS744 431 which puts it on the west side of the Hoar Oak Water and about 500 metres south of Hoar Oak Cottage. Although we do not think there were any Vellacotts living in Hoar Oak Cottage around 1856 we have learnt that there were many of this family name in and around this part of Exmoor – especially at the Furzehill Farms – and so it is not surprising to see a Vellacott mentioned in the very first letter above.

On February 23rd 1856, it is recorded that “Hannay visited Hoar Oak and was pleased with clays and ores in the sample room. Lode of clay and ironstone is 5 ft wide.” Roger Burton tells us that this Hannay is almost certainly from Schneider and Hannay and a quick Google search shows them to be an active mining concern, Schneider, Hannay & Co,  in the mid-1800s.  Burton also notes that the Hoar Oak Mine formed part of the sett leased to Schneider and Hannay on the 3rd of April 1856. There is no evidence they ever worked there and previous work there was carried out by employees on the Exmoor Estate. Perhaps that is where Mr. Vellacott comes in?

On March 29th it is recorded that there were “4 men driving at Hoar Oak Upper level” and on April 14th 1856 a final note says “Hoar Oak works stopped” Roger Burton completes his letter by saying: “It is obvious from the reports on the mine at Hoar Oak that mining had been carried out there in earlier times but, of that earlier mining, there is no record.”


You might find this link to the Combe Martin Miners website of interest and perhaps find out more about Captains Morcambe and Trelease mentioned above.


A general Google search using ‘Mining on Exmoor’ as the search terms will also lead you to several interesting links.

Posted by John Shortland
Australia Heritage History Life@Hoar Oak Cottage Vellacott

Guest Blog: Vellacotts of Tasmania

The Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage welcome guest bloggers and our very first are Rob and Elaine Vellacott from Tasmania, Australia who have shared their story and their links to Hoar Oak Cottage.

Robert Vellacott was born (1940) in Perth West Australia, the youngest of 7 children of Harold and Irene Vellacott. He grew up and was educated in Perth. He completed a plumbing apprenticeship and whilst on a working holiday round Australia Rob met Tasmanian, Elaine Cable, who was working in a local shipping company. They married in 1963, settled in Devonport and had 2 children. Robert became a plumbing instructor at the Devonport technical college for 25 years and is now retired but is the local tourism association secretary and takes an active interest in local government and council affairs. They began researching the Vellacott family in Australia and England and their discoveries led them to Hoar Oak Cottage.

They write:
“In September, 2013 we visited Hoar Oak Cottage which had been the home of my great, great grandfather and mother Charles & Elizabeth (nee Passmore) Vellacott. This was very special day for us because it represented the fruition of years of research into our Vellacott family. We were most probably the first Australians of the Lynton line of Vellacotts to visit Hoar Oak Cottage since my great grandparents lived there almost 200 years ago. The restoration and conservation work was still underway at the time of our visit however one sensed the quiet isolation and freedom the family must have felt whilst living there, especially the children who would have enjoyed roaming the rolling hills and investigating the creek. This photo is of our first sight of Hoar Oak Cottage as we travelled across Cheriton Ridge.”

“On the day it was lovely to meet up with the descendants from other families who had lived at the cottage and especially Jim & Mabel Vellacott who still live locally in Devon.  Jim and I – both GGGrandsons of Charles Vellacott of Hoar Oak Cottage – laid flowers in the hearth of the cottage as a little memorial to all our families.”

“My great grandfather, Josiah Vellacott, was the last son of Charles and Elisabeth Vellacott and in 1866 Josiah, with his wife Mary and their 3 sons migrated to Queensland, Australia seeking a better life in a new country.  However, they found life tough dealing with the heat and remoteness of the sheep farm where Josiah worked as well as the isolation from their extended family back on Exmoor.  Josiah and Mary had two more sons before tragedy struck the family in 1871 when Josiah was found drowned. Mary was left with five young sons, the oldest being 11 years old and the youngest was two years old.  Not able to manage, she sent the eldest boy out to work; put the next two sons in an orphanage and kept the youngest two boys with her until they were able to work. Later she married again and went on to have another 4 children. Despite the hard and tragic life the family faced, the descendants of Josiah and Mary Vellacott made the most of the opportunities given in a new country and are now well established across Australia and many other places world wide.”

Rob’s wife Elaine takes up the story:

“I am a 4th generation Australian and was born in Tasmania. Most of my Australian ancestors have been farmers.  In researching the Vellacott family name I was fortunate to find Lorraine Vellacott who had researched the two lines of the Vellacott families.  Her research was very thorough and we were able to link the Australian line with the two UK lines. It has been an interesting journey, especially when Robert and I were able to visit Hoar Oak Cottage in 2013 and meet descendants of the Vellacotts and many other families who had lived in the cottage. My hope is that Hoar Oak Cottage will continue to be of interest for those travelling to the Exmoor National Park.”

Rob and Elaine have shared the following photos of members of the Australian Vellacott family.

Grandchildren of Josiah & Mary Vellacott’s youngest son John:
  Dorothy, John & Winifred – the “Queensland Line” in 1995
Second youngest son of Josiah and Mary Vellacott:

William and Harriet’s sons:


And finally, a photo of the youngest grandchildren of William and Harriet Vellacott:

Rob and Elaine finished their Guest Blog by saying:

We are very thankful for all the help received and friendships formed during our research into the Vellacott family and our hope is that Hoar Oak Cottage will continue to be of interest for those visiting Exmoor.

Thank you to Rob and Elaine for being our first Hoar Oak Cottage Guest Bloggers and sharing their fascinating story.  You can find out more about the Vellacotts at Hoar Oak Cottage on this link.

If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog please do get in touch.

Posted by Bette Baldwin