English Heritage are the government’s expert advisors on the Historic Environment and, in performing both a statutory and advisory role, work closely with local authority Historic Environment Service and National Park Authority staff.
Nick Russell is the Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Devon, Cornwall and Exmoor. Whilst maintaining interests in medieval and industrial archaeology he specialises in monument management and land use.
English Heritage has, from it’s earliest stages, been involved in a consultative role, providing expert advice and funding some initial elements of the project.
The Exmoor Mines Research Group (EMRG) formed as a society in 1992 following a symposium on “Mining on Exmoor” hosted by The Exmoor National Park Authority. Since the 1960s the group had met informally as a band of friends that shared an interest in mining and industrial history.
The group had permission to excavate and went on to interpret several sites associated with the West Somerset Mineral Railway. The subject of the first of these excavations in Chargot Wood was an assumed early smelting works. However the dig did not unearth any material that allowed confirmation of such a use of this building. This dig was followed by Langham Hill Mine Engine House and in 1995 Bearland Ventilation Flue. The excavation of the Incline Winding House took place during 2001-2003.
EMRG publishes a bi-annual newsletter including a programme of events which is available from the Secretary Gary Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group is represented on the Project Executive by Mike Jones.
Exmoor National Park was created in 1954. The National Park Authority (ENPA) exists to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.
In the 1990s the Authority had commissioned Mike Jones to undertake a detailed survey of the surviving remains of the iron mines and the West Somerset Mineral Railway. This was completed in 2001. When the opportunity arose in 1998, it secured public ownership by purchase of the spectacular Incline which runs from Comberow up to Brendon Hill.
The Authority has been an enthusiastic promoter of the Project since the inaugural meeting of interested parties was convened at the National Park Centre at Dunster by Graham Wills on behalf of the Authority in 2002. It sees the Project as a way of delivering its objectives in the relatively unknown eastern arm of the National Park covering the crest of the Brendon Hills.
It took on the role of lead authority for the implementation phase of the Project in 2005. From among the members of its board, it appoints the chair of the Project Executive, first Evelyn Stacey and more recently Mike Taylor, and the vice-chair, Fred Rawle. Rob Wilson-North, the Authority’s Historic Environment Manager, was appointed to the post of Project Secretary in 2002. It also employs the two project staff, Mary Olszewska and Heike Bernhardt, and generously lends its facilities and expertise to ensure the success of the scheme.
The Exmoor Society works to protect and enhance the special qualities and diverse wild landscapes of Exmoor. Formed in 1958, the Exmoor Society is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation, protection and enjoyment of Exmoor National Park.
As an Action Group that promotes the conservation of the cultural heritage and historic environment of the park, the Exmoor Society took a keen interest in the West Somerset Mineral Railway and played a crucial role in getting the project off the ground.
Following a meeting of interested groups in Dunster in 2002 the Exmoor Society formed a project planning group under the chairmanship of Michael Hawkins OBE and Rev. Ian Mallard as a member. The Society facilitated the meetings and provided administrative support where needed. In spring of 2004 the planning group secured a project planning grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and appointed David Sekers Consulting to undertake a feasibility study. In December, with the completion of the study, which formed the basis for the Project’s programme, the Society passed on the lead of the project to ENPA.
Linda la Velle, Professor of Biology in Education at the University of Plymouth, and a member of the Executive of the Exmoor Society, is currently the Society’s representative for the project. Brought up in West Somerset, her family has deep roots here: her grandmother travelled on the Mineral Line. Linda played and rode her ponies on the old track bed as a child, and has had a lifelong interest in its history.
Somerset County Council (SCC) is the local authority for the administrative county of Somerset. Its support for the scheme grew out finding ways in partnership with local organisations to implement its countywide policies for economic and cultural regeneration in this part of Somerset.
The County Council, as a partner in the West Somerset Mineral Railway Project, is hosting the project website and curating the project archive. It is also providing advice and guidance on works relating to the West Pier at Watchet, the Community Trail from Washford to Watchet and serves as Curatorial Adviser to Watchet Market House Museum.
The County Council is represented on the Project Executive by Tom Mayberry, SCC’s Head of Heritage Service.
The Forestry Commission (FC) is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.
The Forestry Commission have been an enthusiastic supporter of this Project from the concept stage, taking the opportunity of enhancing our woodlands by adding a heritage and social dimension to their use. The project allows people of all abilities to explore the woodland on the new access trails and to learn about the important mining heritage of this area.
The Commission, represented by Nick Salter, have planned and undertaken the refurbishment of the carpark area at Chargot Wood and the landscaping of two walking trails. The longer, informal trail uses the route of the "Zig Zag" track, which the miners used to walk and takes in the carefully restored Bearland Wood Ventilation Flue and the associated adit. A shorter, newly created route through the trees is an all ability trail and leads to the site of Langham Hill Engine House which has been carefully preserved.
Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society (SIAS) is interested in all aspects of the industrial history and heritage of the County of Somerset and has had a close association with the Brendon Hills since the society began in 1972. Founder members included a group of enthusiasts who had been exploring the derelict iron mines, on one occasion paddling a dinghy along the flooded workings beneath Gupworthy. Furthermore, the first chairman of SIAS, the late Frank Hawtin, was instrumental in raising funds towards the conservation of Burrow Farm Engine House.
In 1974 SIAS obtained permission to acquire the papers of Charles Edward Rowcliffe, Secretary of the WSMR from 1856 until 1877, and undertook a preliminary sort of an enormous quantity of documents which were subsequently deposited at the Somerset Record Office. This corpus of information has shed considerable light on the railway and extended the narrative revealing its origins and a proposed extension to Eisen Hill, both aspects of which were published by the society.
The most ambitious project was the excavation, under the direction of Mike Jones, a past chairman and long standing member, of Smoky Bottom Engine House following the discovery of the remains in 1985. The results appeared in the Society’s Bulletin, printed thrice yearly, and in a national journal of industrial archaeology. Since that time SIAS has continuously supported Mike’s work participating in other excavations in collaboration with EMRG.
Somerset Rural Youth Project (SRYP) is a voluntary sector youth work charity that was set up in 1997. The aim of SRYP is to engage and support young people living in rural areas in a range of social, economic, educational and recreational opportunities designed to encourage social inclusion and life-long learning.
SRYP has worked in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority since its inception and was therefore an obvious choice to assist the West Somerset Mineral Railway in generating interest with and volunteering opportunities for young people from West Somerset and beyond.
Volunteering activities for young people on are organised by SRYP’s Environmental Volunteering Project Worker, Barney Simmons and have included activities such as invasive vegetation clearance, stone wall repair, small scale woodland maintenance projects and path clearance to name but a few. Groups of young people have volunteered from all over Somerset.
Barney also represents SRYP in the Project Executive.
Watchet Town Council's involvement in the Project grew out of its participation in the Watchet Regeneration Partnership where ideas for promoting the heritage of the town had been considered as a way of contributing to the economic well-being of the community.
Watchet Town Council became more directly involved in the Project as the lease holder of the Market House Museum and has contributed funds to help procure enhancements to the displays of the railway.
The Council is represented since 2007 on the Project Executive by town councillor, Peter Murphy, who is also treasurer of the Watchet Market House Museum and convener of the Project’s Watchet Implementation Group.
Watchet Market House Museum (WMHM) is a charity run by a committee of 12 and staffed entirely by local volunteers. The Museum was set up in March 1978 on the ground floor of a grade 2 listed building on a prime site near/at the harbour to show the history of Watchet.
We became involved with the Project early on because the museum already had a display of photographs, models and artefacts about the Mineral Railway. As the Project developed, it became clear that the Museum in Watchet would play a pivotal role for visitors being sited at the beginning/end of the railway line and its exploration.
The Project has funded new displays in our north facing windows. Models of the Incline and the West Pier are displayed, along with artefacts and a digital picture frame, providing a slide show and panels illustrating interesting aspects of the line, mine workings and social history.
The Museum is currently represented on the Project Executive by its curators, Stephanie Franklin and Jim Nicholas.
As the local authority for the district of West Somerset, the Council has developed and encouraged projects that contribute to the economic and cultural regeneration of their area. It was instrumental in setting up the Watchet Regeneration Partnership and has supported this Project from its inception.
The West Somerset District Council is landowner of the West Pier, Watchet and in this role is procuring the improvement works on the West Pier from the funds allocated for this part of the Project.
The Council is represented by Rachel Mulcaire.
Mike Jones is the recognised authority on all aspects of the Brendon Hills industrial landscape and the West Somerset Mineral Railway. He contributed to Roger Sellick's book on the Mineral Line in 1962 and 1970, and is the author of the new book on the WSMR to be published in 2010 as part of this Project.
Mike trained as an architect at the Leeds School of Architecture. In 1957 he acquired a connection with the Brendon Hills when his parents moved to Heath Poult Cross near Wheddon Cross. On his visits to them, Mike explored what remained of the WSMR and soon joined forces with Roger Sellick and John Hamilton, who had already spent years researching the industrial history of the Brendon Hills.
In the 1990s Mike recorded, in meticulous detail nearly all of the structures along the WSMR. Thanks to Mike, the resulting 'Brendon Hills Industrial Survey' makes the WSMR and the area that surround it one of the best recorded industrial landscapes in England.
Since Roger Sellick's death in 1988, Mike has continued his research into the WSMR and has extended his work to encompass the people who managed and worked the mines and railway. As a member and between 1993 and 2004 as Secretary and editor of the newsletter of the Exmoor Mines Research Group, he contributed to studies of the industrial history of Exmoor. Over the years Mike has collected a comprehensive archive on the WSMR which, along with his encyclopaedic knowledge on the subject, he has generously made available to the Project.
John Hamilton, a mining geologist who has researched the Brendon Hills iron mining industry and West Somerset Mineral Railway with Roger Sellick and later with Mike Jones has contributed to Roger Sellick's 1962/70 book. Hamilton and Mike Jones are co-authors of the new book to be published in 2010.
John first became aware of the former mining industry and railway as a ten to eleven-year-old during the winter of 1941, when his father evacuated the family from Taunton to the relative safety of Brompton Ralph. Educated as a day-pupil at Huish's Grammar School, Taunton, Hamilton explored the railway and mining remains at weekends having discovered them on his father's wartime, black and white one-inch Ordnance Survey maps.
This activity profoundly influenced the boy's choice of a future career. On leaving school after World War ll he left Somerset in the late 1940s to work in Cornish tin mining before travelling overseas as a mine assistant, in Nigerian, Malayan and Burmese tin mining and after a further two years as an assistant at the Geology Department of Bristol University, he studied Mining Geology at the Royal School of Mines, London in1962.
Following graduation he was employed as an exploration and mining geologist in South-West England and for a while in Scotland. In 1972 he and his young family moved to Southern Ireland where he spent the next 20 years teaching mining and mining geology in one of Irelands third-level technical colleges at Athlone. In 1995, he and his wife retired to live at Killorglin, Co. Kerry.
David Dawson, a member of the executive committee and convener of the Interpretation Group, has been involved in the project since its inception. As the then Somerset County Museums Officer, he was keen to promote the Project as a way of both conserving and interpreting the cultural heritage of West Somerset and encouraging economic regeneration of the area. He was pleased to accept the invitation to remain involved in the management of the Project as an independent consultant on his retirement from Somerset County Council in 2004.
Dr Eric Robinson is a distinguished geologist associated with the Department of Earth Sciences of University College London. He made a reputation as a great exponent of the art of identifying building materials as a reflection of the geology underlying urban areas. He has applied this methodology to the Watchet area and the corridor of the West Somerset Mineral Railway. Eric has been involved with the Project since its inception. His leaflets on local geology are available at the Watchet Market House Museum.
Mike Taylor, a member of the Exmoor National Park Authority and CEO of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB), holds the chair of the Project Executive committee.
Mike has been member of the Authority for 10 years. Whilst not a resident of West Somerset he and his family have been regular holiday visitors to Dunster Beach for over 50 years, and he believes the successful completion of the West Somerset Mineral Railway project will significantly add to the attractions that draw people to visit Exmoor and West Somerset.
Rob Wilson-North, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Historic Environment Manager, is the Secretary to the Project, a position in which he has served since it was decided to develop the Project in 2002.
He has been the authority’s principal archaeologist since 2000 and co-authored the Archaeology of Exmoor with Hazel Riley. He has been responsible for maintaining and developing research into furthering understanding of the archaeology of Exmoor including the Exmoor Iron Project. In recognition of the quality of his contribution to archaeology, he was recently elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Mary joined the Project in spring 2008 as Heritage Education Officer. She works with local schools and educational bodies to produce teachers’ packs and resources, manages the Project Events Programme, and is responsible for co-ordinating the interpretation of the Mineral Line.
She has prior experience in heritage education and interpretation, which includes work for the National Trust.
Heike joined the Exmoor National Park Authority as project assistant in spring 2009. With previous experience and qualifications in web development, conservation and history she works with two web developers on the project website and is also responsible for the project archive.