Paul Rendell & Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Talk – The Role of the Dartmoor Pony in the Granite Tramway

The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust hosted an interesting and informative talk today, presented by Paul Rendell, Dartmoor Historian, in association with the Moor Than Meets the Eye Landscape Partnership, discussing the role of equines on Dartmoor in the Granite industry and in the transportation of quarried stone, via the 10 miles of Tramway, also constructed, uniquely, from granite.

This talk attracted a full house at the DPHT Centre at Parke. We enjoyed listening to Paul’s enthusiastic regaling of what life was like to quarry granite from Haytor from 1829 – 1858, including how it was quarried, the roles of the workers, the clues we can glean from sparse building remains and the part that the Dartmoor-based horses and ponies played in getting the stone down off the moor to be loaded onto barges on the Stover Canal at the Ventiford Basin and taken to Teignmouth to be shipped. Haytor granite was superior in quality and provided the raw materials to build such important structures as London Bridge and The British Museum.

Paul’s accompanying slide show illustrated his points perfectly with present day industrial archaeological photographs, old illustrations and route maps tracking points of interest to be found along the tramway. It was excellent to see the restoration work that has been progressing with regards to uncovering and clearing sections of the tramway which time had caught up with and obscured. New sections of track have been uncovered together with remains of wooden barges at the basin. It was interesting to learn that this is the only granite tramway in existence – something unique to Dartmoor and due to the prevalence of available granite.

Dartmoor National Park HQ at Parke has an example of one of the preserved wheeled carts, used to carry the cut blocks.

Dru Butterfield, Charity Consultant of the DPHT, then demonstrated a reconstruction of a transportation sled, now used by their Dartmoor Heritage Ponies for light work on their Bellever acreage.

This was a stimulating talk, celebrating such an important industry to Dartmoor. Despite the Granite Quarrying Industry being relatively short-lived in duration, it played a very significant part to the industrial history to the area and learning more about the archaeological remains will make future trips to the quarries much more enriched in context, certainly for me.

The afternoon was brought to a close with Dru Butterfield giving a short talk about the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, their mission statement and the varied work they do for the ponies and within the community in their Ponies Inspiring People projects.

Some of the Heritage Ponies from the centre were brought in for a meet and greet, with children having the chance to groom them and interact with them and refreshments completed a lovely afternoon spent at this forward-thinking centre which celebrates so many aspects of Dartmoor, its life and its history, but most of all, its ponies.

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