The Morwellham Quay mining train adventure ended when Covid hit the UK in 2021, but plans are now in place to reopen the much-loved amusement ride
For two years, the village of Morwellham Quay has been eerily dark as its main attractions are closed amid a global pandemic. But now, 25 months after Boris Johnson ordered a UK lockdown, Devon’s popular family attraction is finally reopening.
Created by the monks of Tavistock Abbey, Morwellham Quay was once the busiest copper port in Queen Victoria’s empire. But its demise came at the start of the 20th century, when the mines were abandoned and the village became derelict, engulfed in weeds and brambles.
In the 1970s Morwellham Quay and the Tamar Valley Trust opened the Living History Museum. For decades the popular tourist attraction, with over 150,000 visitors a year at its peak, received millions of pounds in funding from various organizations including the National Lottery and local councils. But in 2009, the museum closed. The number of visitors fell from 150,000 to 50,000.
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In 2009, the tourist attraction was put up for sale for a guide price of £1.1 million after the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust came into administration. Fortunately, in 2010 the Living History Village, harbor and mine at Morwellham Quay – a must-visit trip for many schools in Devon – were reopened. It remained a popular tourist attraction for many years, but something totally unforeseen happened.
On March 16, 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation regarding the Covid-19 outbreak. In a dramatic televised statement, he said: ‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact and travel. Cafes, pubs, restaurants, theaters and public attractions all closed. We were all told to “stay home”. For many, the imposed confinement was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
If you have visited Morwellham Quay in the last year you will have found a quiet, peaceful but picturesque village, where a pub serves good food, a shop sells charming gifts and a pottery is a hive of activity. Everything else has been temporarily abandoned, including the mine train, which once took visitors along the scenic River Tamar and into the Victorian copper mine on an exhilarating 40-minute journey.
Despite the closure of the mining train, visitors were still able to cross the railway line and explore the historic site. It is a popular spot for local dog walkers and curious adventurers. Now the ride could finally reopen. The attraction recently opened its brand new Miners Adventure Play, a soft play area in a newly built warehouse. And the Victorian Village of the Mining Train Attraction and Adventure is due to reopen in June this year.
Morwellham Quay: History
In 1844 a new company was formed to operate the copper mine at Morwellham, ‘The George and Charlotte Mining Company’. Quantities of copper ore were found, although working conditions were extremely dangerous and flooding was a constant occurrence. Miners worked by candlelight and accidents were common. Many men died. The miners worked hard, but were paid little. An average salary between £30 and £50 per year.
Despite this, the village was admired and revered – even by royalty. In 1856 Queen Victoria visited Morwellham and described the valley as the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Over the next few decades, hundreds of people lived and worked at the wharf, and ships from around the world dropped supplies for the mine.
The mines remained profitable for several years, but in 1868 the silver ran out. Many workers emigrated to find work elsewhere and in 1902 the mine officially closed. At the beginning of the 20th century, the buildings fell into disrepair and only a few houses remained occupied. The docks were stripped of their tiles and the dock filled with silt.
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But in 1970 the Morwellham Quay and Tamar Valley Trust was formed to conserve the historic site. Properties have been refurbished or rebuilt and the pub has reopened. It was even decided that a mine tram would take visitors into the deep gallery. As the attraction grew in popularity, locals and volunteers dressed in Victorian costume to greet visitors and take them back in time.
Before it closed in 2009, visitor numbers had declined so much that funding was withdrawn. And when the charitable trust that ran the venue, The Morwellham Quay and Tamar Valley Trust, called the administrators, its potential closure came as a huge shock to many. New owners Simon and his wife Valerie are said to have paid nearly the £1.1million price tag imposed on Morwellham by its directors, Grant Thornton, The Herald reported in 2010.
Now the news of the attraction’s reopening has many people excited. The Mine Train Adventure attraction is set to open “June 2022”. You can read more about it here.