6 October 2017

Arch

Rambling just outside The Peak District national park, yesterday afternoon, I stopped for a moment to look at my map. As I was doing so, something caught my eye up the adjacent wooded slope...
It was an old stone arch, poking above the surrounding foliage. I scrambled up the slope to take a closer look.

It was and is a noble piece of architecture. Behind it, beneath the undergrowth, I could see the foundations of stone walls. Clearly the arched structure had just been the valley-facing facade of a substantial building. But what was it for?
At first I thought it might simply have been a rich landowner's folly but then I spotted a capped hole in the ground. The evidence clicked in my mind. It must have been the engine house of an old lead mine with the engine being used to pump water from the mine and perhaps also to winch miners up and down the pit shaft.
The capped mine shaft at Mill Close Mine
When I got home, I used Google to lead me to the knowledge that it was indeed a Victorian engine house belonging to the most significant and productive lead mine in Britain - Mill Close Mine. This mine operated right up until 1938 when so much flooding occurred that the mine had to be closed for good.

Visitors to The Peak District are often unaware of Derbyshire's rich lead mining history. There are no mines today but the historical evidence is everywhere. It goes way back beyond Roman times. In fact the very reason that Romans came to Derbyshire was to exploit its lead reserves. Large quantities of that lead finished up back in Rome itself.

There are numerous quaint limestone villages in The Peak District but the cute little cottages you will often see were once the homes of humble lead-mining people. Appearances can be deceptive. Once the cramped rooms accommodated large, hard-working families who were often on the brink of destitution but nowadays the same cottages are home to retired people from the city or second homes that are rented out to holidaying country lovers.

19 comments:

  1. A noble building for a modest engine house. Fun for you to discover. Nowadays it would just be a square, concrete cube.

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    1. That's true. In the Victorian era very many industrial buildings were given the classical treatment - as though they might last forever.

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  2. Wasn't the purpose of making utilitarian architecture such as an engine house in the guise of classical structures supposed to be so that workers would be inspired by beautiful forms? It's a nice idea. The only person I know of who still believes that good design has that kind of power was Steve Jobs.

    Looks like you had some good weather. I hope you had an excellent pint of Tetley's (I think that's a beer, right?) after your excellent walk.

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    1. I only drink beer at night-time Vivian. Your point about architecture inspiring the workers was fascinating. I hadn't thought about that before.

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  3. I watched "coast" yesterday evening on bbc2. Neil Oliver was explaining the stone engine houses along the Cornish coast and how they have been copied worldwide.
    Worth a watch on iPlayer.
    Smashing post, as usual.

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    1. You are very kind Christina and thanks for that tip. I always find "Coast" fascinating and Neil Oliver is a presenter I rather like.

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  4. Oh! I would have done exactly the same, first climbing up there to explore the arch and then doing research to find out more about it.
    It reminds me of the former water-driven power plant RJ and I saw in 2012 while hiking near Lake Garda. If you are interested, you can have a look here.

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    1. I will go there soon. You are as inquisitive as I am Meike.

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  5. I wonder what the health hazards of mining lead are? (or were at that time)

    Your comments on the little homes and the difference in occupants between then and now gives one pause for thought.

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    1. Even now some of the land in that area is toxic because of lead waste.

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    2. I wondered exactly the same thing. It seems like lead mining would have been a pretty toxic way to make a living. We're so lucky we're alive now, with all our opportunities and our environmental regulations, aren't we?

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  6. I'd quite forgotten about Derbyshire's lead mining past. Few people, I suspect, also remember that North Wales had its lead mines too. We used to walk along The Leete from Loggerheads to Cilcain and the river often disappeared down into the mines (and still does I think). I don't recall any such magnificent buildings though.

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    1. So much of Derbyshire's lead mining industry was finished before the industrial revolution came along. Another old site is The Magpie Mine at Sheldon near Bakewell. Go here:-

      https://beefgravy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/sheldon.html

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  7. Very interesting YP and it taught me something that I didn't know.

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    1. Glad you found it interesting Derek.

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  8. All my knowledge of lead mining comes from Poldark. Roll on the next series!

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    1. I guess it's the lead mining references you truly appreciate and not Aiden Turner baring his torso.

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  9. That's interesting, Yorkie...thank you.

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