Minerals have been a source of income in the area for two millennia, the region’s geology being rich in lead, silver, zinc and ochre.

The Romans took mining to an industrial scale. In more recent times many waste heaps were re-worked and localised “bell-pit” mining undertaken by individuals from the Harptrees. Harptree Combe, a natural steeply sloping narrow valley, offered ideal opportunities for early pioneers to work mineral seams. Ochre was the principal target – the narrow fissures following the veins are still visible today. By the mid 19th century East Harptree was one of the two biggest producers of ochre in the region.

Brick-making kilns operated on the slopes above the village but these had been abandoned by 1880, probably due to the local availability of good building stone.

The finest industrial structure to remain in the Harptrees area is the chimney on Smitham Hill, a listed building built in 1867 by the East Harptree Lead Works Company Ltd. The business lasted only a few years, but at its peak produced 1,000 tons of lead per year.

The River Chew supported four water mills that served the Harptrees for hundreds of years. These were located at the four road/river crossings, which were probably close to the sites of the four mills recorded in the Domesday Book. As well as grinding corn, at various times they supported other local industries such as cloth manufacture. Milling continued in the area until the last was dismantled in the 1950s.

Our Heritage and History