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The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of particular value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the ‘Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.


The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was recognised as a World Heritage Site on 13th July 2006, placing it on a par with international treasures like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Miners in Cornwall
Miners in Cornwall

Each World Heritage Site is deemed to possess Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which means that they have significances(s) which transcend national and cultural boundaries. The OUV of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape is described by UNESCO as:

The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was transformed during the period 1700-1914 by early industrial development that made a key contribution to the evolution of an industrialised economy and society in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. Its outstanding survival, in a coherent series of highly distinctive cultural landscapes, is testimony to this achievement.

Tavistock - the eastern gateway to the World Heritage Site

Tavistock is the ‘eastern gateway’ to the World Heritage Site, and the ideal place to start exploring the mining landscape of west Devon and Cornwall. The town itself was transformed during the 19th century after the discovery of rich veins of copper and other metals nearby, such as at Devon Great Consols. Tavistock’s population nearly doubled between 1821 and 1861, and the town’s physical fabric was extensively remodelled as the Dukes of Bedford invested some of their mining profits in new public buildings and ‘model’ cottages for industrial workers.

Arsenic grinder at Devon Great Consols. Photograph by Ainsley Cocks © Cornwall Council
Arsenic chimney at Devon Great Consols. Photograph by Barry Gamble © Cornwall Council

According to UNESCO, the town's attributes of Outstanding Universal Value are:

19th-century town centre urban planning in Bedford Square, Duke Street and the Pannier Market; fine public and commercial buildings including the Cornmarket, the Guildhall, Town Hall, Fitzford church, Bedford Hotel and Tavistock Bank.  

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Model industrial workers’ cottages built by the Bedford estate at Dolvin Road, Fitzford, Parkwood Road, Trelawney Road and Westbridge. Between 1845 and 1866 some 300 cottages were built across the Bedford estate, often to a standard design of two up two down with outbuildings for a privy and a pigsty. 


Three foundries which rank among the most significant examples of ancillary industry in the WHS. As well as testifying to Tavistock’s technological prowess, by exporting mining equipment to foreign markets including South Australia and South America, they contributed to the formation of characteristic ‘transferred’ mining landscapes throughout the world.

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The Tavistock Canal (built between 1803 and 1817) provided a commercial artery linking West Devon’s communities, mines, quarries, foundries and farms to the wider world. The engineer John Taylor established his reputation and overcame formidable geographical obstacles by constructing an aqueduct above the river Lumburn, a 1½ mile tunnel under Morwell Down and an inclined railway down to Morwellham. 


Discover More

For more information about the history of mining in West Devon and Cornwall see:

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