In the 1860s Morwellham Quay was known as The Greatest Copper Port in Queen Victorias Empire!
In 974 AD the Benedictine monks from Tavistock, just four miles away, constructed a quay at Morwellham on the Devon bank of the navigable Tamar River. They used it as a port for boats carrying goods down the Tamar to the sea.
The monks owned it until the dissolution of the monastries under Henry VIII. The Quay was then acquired by the Russell family, who later became the Dukes of Bedford, and who owned it until 1956.
Copper ores and other minerals were transported to the Quay from the mines by trains of pack horses. The opening of the Tavistock Canal in 1817 helped speed ore to the quay.
By 1860 Morwellham Quay was a boom port. The Worlds largest copper strike up to that point had discovered, in 1844, five miles away in 1844 at the Devon Great Consols Mines.
1856 Queen Victoria visited on her way to stay with the Duke of Bedford at Endsleigh house near by.
Another incline was built to connect with a narrow gauge steam locomotive powered mineral railway carrying copper ore from the Devon Great Consols mines.
In addition to copper, local manganese ore was broken down at Morwellam using
water powered crushers, then shipped out of the Quay in wooden casks made in
the coopers workshop next door.Manganese was used for colouring pottery and
for hardening steel. Today a restored working waterwheel of 32 foot diameter
is on the site of the original wheel opposite the manganese storage barn. The
coopers workshop has also been restored and contains a display of coopers tools
There was also a copper mine at the Quay, the George and Charlotte Mine, which operated from the mid eighteenth century until
it closed in 1869. When the copper deposits ran out, arsenic was mined instead.
Today the George and Charlotte Mine is open to visitors on an electrically driven
tram train ride deep into its interior. Inside the mine visitors are able to
see visible copper ore seams and a fully working water wheel used to pump water
from the lower levels.
1969 the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust was formed to restore the Quay.
The Trust cleared the debris, the quays were re-tiled, the dock cleared of silt,
the buildings re-built and the Garlandstone boat, built at the Goss Shipyard
downstream in 1909, restored.