Page 326. " Although there are very ancient tales of gold being found upon Exmoor, in lumps and solid hummocks, and of men who slew one another for it, this deep digging and great labour seemed to me a dangerous and unholy enterprise "

Gold appears to have been discovered in at least two Devonshire districts prior to the seventeenth century. 

Gold Quartz, Torquay
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGold Quartz, Torquay - Credit: Rob Lavinsky
Legend has it that the North Molton mines were worked by the Romans, and subsequently in the reign of King John, as royal mines, stated to be rich in gold and silver and copper. Folklore suggests that the gold in these mines was used to fund a raid into Wales in the time of Edward I. In 1840, a small company worked the North Molton mines for copper, under the title of "Prince Albert Mine." The copper was found to contain a considerable percentage of gold. The Devonshire Directory for 1856 indicates that "about 1840, gold was found in a large lump or pocket" - although this has since been disputed. 

According to Lyson in his History, during the reign of Edward I, especially in the year 1296, great profit was derived from the Devon mines at Combe Martin and Beer Alston (a silver mine) and 360 miners were forcibly removed from their homes in Wales and Derbyshire, and made to work in these royal mines. In the reigns of Elizabeth, and later, William and Mary, the Combe Martin mines were again worked, but with little success, and probably only for the sake of their silver.

Page 328. " whereas these men, and the horses let down, come above ground never "

Pit pony being lowered into a mine
Public DomainPit pony being lowered into a mine - Credit: Albert Sidney Bolles (

It used to be common to use horses in sub-surface mining. The coal mining industry used "pit ponies" to haul coal from the mines and later, as the workings progressed, in the mines themselves.  Because of low roofs, steep grades and forced production, pit ponies had to be low set, heavily bodied and sure-footed.  The first known recorded use of pit ponies in Britain was in the Durham coalfield in 1750.

Pit ponies were normally stabled underground, coming to the surface only during the colliery’s annual holiday. Typically, they would work an eight-hour shift each day, during which they might haul 30 tons of coal in tubs on the underground narrow gauge railway.

Horse used in mining, 1911
Public DomainHorse used in mining, 1911 - Credit: Jeremy Jannick

At the peak in 1913, there were 70,000 ponies underground in Britain. In later years, mechanical haulage replaced pony hauls and ponies tended to be confined to the shorter runs from coal face to main road. Probably the last colliery horse to work underground in a British coal mine, 'Robbie', was retired from Pant y Gasseg, near Pontypool, in May 1999.