EMIAC 81: The Impact of Leading Mining on the Peak District Landscape

Matlock Bath, 21st May 2011

Conference Details


This conference explores the impact of lead mining on the Peak District landscape both underground and on the surface.

The conference venue is the Pavilion opened in 1910 as The Kursal a German name, which was changed as a result of the Great War. It is now home to the Peak District Mining Museum, which was set up in 1979, and is maintained by members of Peak Ddistrict Mines Historical Society. PDHMS was founded to conserve the mining heritage of Derbyshire and the surrounding area.


Organised by the Peak District Mines Historical Society, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, and held on Saturday 21st May 2011 in Matlock Bath.

The conference programme:

09:30 Registration with tea/coffee

09:50 Welcome

10:00 Using Steam to Mine Lead - Archaeological Excavation at Engine Houses in Derbyshire

10:45 Hidden History of the Archaeology of Mine Drainage

11:30 break

11:45 The Hollow Hill - The Story of the Ecton Mines

12:30 Questions ...

12:45 EMIAC Business Meeting

13:00 Buffet lunch

14:00 Site visits

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Magpie Mine near Sheldon
Magpie Mine near Sheldon.
Bacon Close Mine, Youlgreave
Bacon Close Mine, Youlgreave.
Coal Pit Hole Mine, Sparrow Pit
Coal Pit Hole Mine, Sparrow Pit.
Winding gear
Winding Gear.

Images courtesy of the Peak District Mining Museum.

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Conference Report

Dr John Barnett

A professional archaeologist and member of PDMHS Conservation Team, Dr John Barnett introduced three sites excavated by the team.

In 2000 work started at High Rake Mine near Great Hucklow at what had been a 'state of the art' lead mine of the 1840s. The findings included the impressive basement of a Sims pumping engine house and a separate winding house nearby.

On completion of this in 2008, they were invited to excavate the nearby Silence Mine exposing the remains of the building for a 1870s dual-purpose horizontal engine.

Currently the team are excavating the remains of an 18th century Newcomen pumping engine house at Watergrove Mine.

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Dr Jim Rieuwerts

After a brief explanation of the geology of the area, Dr Jim Rieuwerts, one of the founder members of PDMHS, presented a history of lead mining in Derbyshire.

Opencast trenching lasted from at least the 12th century to the late 16th century. Limited underground mining started in the late 13th century, but by the mid-15th century was well-established in the Matlock area.

During the latter part of the 15th century pumping engines were to be found at several mines and in 1594 work was begun on the earliest recorded 'sough' or drainage level. By 1650 the technique was well established in Derbyshire and during the next two centuries over 400 drainage levels were driven to mines in the orefield. As the water table was lowered a complex pattern of ever deeper levels was produced.

It is believed that gunpowder blasting was first used in the area around 1662. Steam power in the form of a Newcomen pumping engine was first introduced at Winster c.1716. The more powerful Cornish engine made its appearance in the area during the 1830s.

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David Webb

David Webb, who specialises in the filming of underground exploration, screened his film The Hollow Hill, which was specially commissioned by the Ecton Hill Field Studies Association, to record the history of the Ecton Mines.

Initially these were important for the mining of copper and later for zinc and lead, they were one of the most productive mines in the mid-18th century.

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Additional material

The following websites provide additional background to the papers presented:

Please note: Although checked at the time of writing, NIAG cannot be held responsible for the validity of these links or the integrity of these sites.

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Images taken during the visit

No images were available for the trip to the local mine.

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