The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was added to the exclusive international list of World Heritage Sites on 13 July 2006. It covers parts of Tavistock centre, and the border with Cornwall.
In the UK, World Heritage Sites are protected by individual designations and through the spatial planning system. Policies for the conservation and enhancement of English World Heritage Sites can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework (Feb 2019), particularly in Section 16.
A huge amount of information relating to the World Heritage Site (WHS) can be found on the Cornish Mining website. For information about planning is managed within the WHS, please see Planning in the World Heritage Site.
Tin and other metal mining in West Devon dates back into pre-history with international trade in tin taking place since the Bronze Age. Tin from Dartmoor and Cornwall is found in bronze tools made all over Europe. Important, internationally-recognised archaeology survives to tell some of the tale.
In medieval times, tin mining became much more aggressive and Dartmoor bears the scars of this activity in many locations. The tin was usually smelted close to where it was mined, adding to the archaeological remains that can be seen today. It was then taken to the 'stannary towns' where its quality, weight and 'coinage' (a tax payable to the Duchy of Cornwall) were assessed.
A 'stannary town' was a town in a tin mining region which was the central hub for that region. By 1328, there were four stannary towns in Devon - Tavistock, Ashburton, Chagford and Plympton. These towns enjoyed wealth and influence because of their importance to the tin trade.
The tin miners themselves enjoyed a great deal of independence and exercised power through a legal system known as stannary courts. The customs and traditions of the miners and their courts became part of the distinctive history of Devon and Cornwall.
This fascinating and far-reaching history of tin mining was part of the reason that Cornwall and West Devon was added to the international list of World Heritage Sites. From 1700 to 1914, the region produced most of the world's copper, tin and arsenic. The social and financial contributions of the mining industry, together with advances in technology, were vital to the development of the modern world. The Cornish and West Devon mining industry also played a leading role in the spread of both metal mining and steam technology around the world.
There is a large amount of information about the World Heritage Site (WHS) on the Cornish Mining website.