Mines and Soughs of Alport, Derbyshire
Laurence Hurt (Nottingham Mines Research and Exploration Group) – 2021
[Dedicated to the late June Kemp and the late Nellie Kirkham]
The following illustrated, hitherto unpublished, article is the result of over twenty years research and exploration, mainly during the 1960's and 1970's. Essentially carried out by myself and David Epton, members of The Nottingham Mines Research and Exploration Group, with occasional help from the following to whom we express our gratitude for their dedicated help without which the project would not have succeeded.
The late Mrs June Kemp, who helped me with research visits to Archives held at the Derby, Sheffield and the British Museum London; also, visits to various landowners, farmers and Mining Companies.
The late Nellie Kirkham (1896-1979), illustrator, author, poet and broadcaster, (Peak District Mines Historical Society), for help with much historical information throughout the twenty years of the project.
Doug Nash (Operation Mole) who enabled the initial exploration of Danger Mine and my descent of Prospect Mine.
The Pegasus Caving Club, Nottingham and in particular Stuart ‘Cheg’ Chester, Paul Thompson and Dave Gough, who loaned and assisted over two weekends with their winch and telephone systems for the exploration of Mawstone Mine.
Haddon Estate Office.
C.E. Gilini (Derbyshire) Ltd.
The many farmers who kindly allowed us to explore the mines on Millfield Farm and the Broadmeadow mines, including T. Omerod and Mr & Mrs Walker.
Note: To view a marked-up copy of the Ordnance Survey 6" map of the area, dated 1897 - 1898 & Published 1900, (compiled by Nigel Burns) showing the relevant locations referred to in this article, plus enlarged copies of the surveys and sketches Click Here
Guy Vein and Mine to Conqueror Mine
Wheel Rake and Wheelhouse Shaft
Leewall Vein Shaft
Old Cross Shaft
Millfield Farm and Railway Close Mine
Sutton Wood Shaft
Kirkmeadow Mine on the Stanton Estate
Mawstone Mine, Youlgreave
Mines situated South of Millfield Farm, Alport
Doug Nash at Hillcarr Sough Tail 1959
Hillcarr Sough was driven from the River Derwent approximately one mile north of Darley Dale bridge in 1766. It had reached Greenfield shaft by 1783. From here it was continued along Black Shale Pitts vein to Pynet Nest shaft and along Mawstone vein to Mawstone mine. A branch was also driven along Guy vein where Guy shaft housed the largest of five hydraulic engines. Centre level was the last branch level to be constructed (The level was along Old Cross vein) as far as Broadmeadow mine .The main shaft was also an engine shaft. The network of levels drained all the workings of the Alport Mining Co.
Exploration of the sough was first recorded by the Derbyshire Pennine Club in 1908. They explored the sough in three stages (i) Sough tail to Brown Bank Shaft (ii) Brown Bank Shaft to Greenfield Shaft (iii) Greenfield Shaft to Pynet Nest Shaft and Mawstone Vein.
Doug Nash (Op-mole). descended Pynet Nest shaft onto a pile of rubbish and the rotting carcass of a sheep. It was not possible to go down stream owing to water levels. Up stream along the Mawstone vein was explored but I am not sure if they got into the Mawstone mine. I got the impression from Doug that they got stopped again by lack of air space.
1961. Myself and a small group from Op-Mole did a recce of the sough from the tail for approximately half a mile before turning back because of bad air.
1962. Margaret Howard also entered the sough at the tail with a small party and they managed to reach a blockage. (collapsed section of the arching and shale from above) at three quarters of a mile.
1963. David Epton and myself obtained permission to explore the mines and soughs on Haddon Estate. With this permission we decided to explore Hillcarr sough. We entered the sough wearing wet suits and breathing apparatus and made our way up to the blockage which was caused by the collapse of the gritstone arching (approximately 10ft in length) and a large area from above. This had completely blocked the passage, (the rubble was higher than the continuing archway) but the water pressure had built up and was forcing the water over the rubble with great force.
We set about clearing some of the larger slabs of shale and gritstone blocks, with these we built additional walls to support the arching downstream of the blockage. The smaller bits of shale and silt we spread along the floor of the passage. After an hour our air supply was almost used up so we made our way out.
On the way out we noted several bulges in the gritstone walls of the sough and also stone wedges in parts of the arching, also that two additional arched ribs had been built to strengthen the arching. These were obvious repairs carried out to maintain the sough. Also noted were timbers that were stretched across the sough passage approximately 18” below the top of the arch. On closer examination it was noted that holes had been left approximately 6ft 6” apart, the full length of the sough. This would allow for additional timbers to be placed at regular intervals. We discussed this with Nellie Kirkham who suggested that they were possibly to lay boards the full length of the sough to enable lead air pipes to be carried along the sough. She said that she had read in documents that lead air pipes were used for ventilation .
After this first visit we began regular digging trips (approximately every 2 or 3 weeks). We used a canoe to carry tools, extra air bottles and lamps making it easier to carry our gear. It took a year to lower the blockage to a level where further exploration could take place. During this period of digging we noted that some weeks no gas was detected and on other occasions the air was foul. We put this down to the outside temperature influencing the air flow within the sough.
Once through this blockage we found ourselves with a second collapse. This was much smaller than the first and only took a short time to clear. Having cleared this second blockage it was only a short distance to where the passage took a sharp left hand turn. At this point it was noted that a small arched passage carried on in line with the sough. This arched level was below the waterline which was chest deep at this point. Records state that the sough was intended to carry on in this direction, but the soughers hit hard ground and decided to follow the shale and miss the limestone.
Turning left on a shallow curve the arching was supported by five additional ribs to reinforce the gritstone arching as it turned the corner and continued south-westerly. These ribs were known as Crown Arches in the old records. Up to this point the sough had followed a westerly direction. Just after the bend we entered a stable (the widening of the arched passage to approximately 18ft wide and 50ft long) before carrying on as a 6ft wide arched passage. The stable itself was gritstone arched but on a much shallower scale than that of the main sough passage. This stable was the first of many and was used as a passing place for the boats used for removing spoil from both the sough and mines it drained, they also carried the gritstone blocks used for the arching of the sough. (the boats were flat bottomed, 35ft long and 3ft wide).
From the stable we passed through several small collapses and a second and a third stable. After this stable the sough continued for a short distance to a third blockage. After digging we managed to lower the water build up by 18” and then we carried on up the sough but started hitting pockets of gas in the passage up to the 4th stable. Before reaching the stable two off shoots were noted on the right hand side of the passage, these were both silted up to the roof of the arches. After the 4th stable four springs appeared out of the silt which was approximately 3ft deep.
We next reached Thornhills sough some 6ft high and 2ft 6” wide. This passage gave way to a stope working with many packs of dead's supported on rotting timbers and many collapsed packs and hanging timbers. This was too dangerous for us to explore further.
Passing the Thornhill branch of the sough we soon encountered another spring welling up out of the floor. Crossing this spring the passage continued for a short distance in limestone, but soon after the gritstone arched passage continued before opening out (possible 5th stable). The gritstone arch was no longer, but a gritstone almost flat roof some 20ft wide and 50ft long. The silt in this area was so deep it left us with only 3ft of space and 12” of this being water to continue. We had left the canoe at the third stable so we were carrying our air bottles. Before entering this low section we had passed a shaft on the left of the passage but it was sealed up with gritstone blocks with just a small opening to allow air to flow into the sough. Was this Brown Bank shaft ? we were certainly in the right area.
We pushed on along this very low section laying on top of the silt. We passed several sections where the blocks in the roof hung down giving very little room to pass. Our air bottles were now becoming a hazard and almost empty, so we said that was as far as practical to explore from the sough tail.
Back at the entrance and on dry land we decided to continue with the exploration of the Alport Mining Company mines with the hope of getting into the sough. We had already got into the sough on Mawstone Vein (see the chapter on Mawstone Mine).
We also managed to get onto Centre level (see the chapter on Broadmeadow Mine).
Dave Epton, Hillcarr Sough on the way to the blockage showing support ribs and timbers to carry air Pipes
Some of the larger blocks excavated and used to shore up the walls of the sough downstream
Dave Epton with the canoe about to enter the continuation of the sough after a period of one years digging
Dave Epton at the close series of ribs supporting the arching known as 'Crown Arches' , where the sough changes direction
Dave Epton in the first of the many stables reached
Exit from the stable and continuation of the sough passage
Guy Vein and Mine to Conqueror Mine
Guy Main Engine Shaft, a brief history of the engine
Estimates for the Guy engine were received in 1841 and a small hydraulic engine by the Milton Iron works was erected in the Guy Shaft the same year. The engine had a 18” cylinder with a 7ft stroke and worked whilst preparations for the larger engine were made. The shaft had already been enlarged to 11ft 4” x 10ft 4” and to a depth of 12ft below Hillcarr Sough level, (Centre Level).
On April 15th 1842 the new larger engine was reported to be working. This engine had a 50” diameter cylinder and was single acting with the water being fed to the underside of the piston. The piston rod passed through the cylinder and was fixed to the plunger pole of 42” diameter. The plunger is said to have weighed 5 tons.
Both engines were sold by auction in 1852. The 18'' Hydraulic engine was sold by Messrs Graham and Co., said to weigh 15tons 13cwt and 25lbs it was bought by a Mr Price for £81-0s-8d. The 50” Hydraulic engine complete, but without the plunger was said to have weighed 37tons 12cwt 21lbs and was sold to J. Johnson esq. of Allen Smeltmill, Haydon Bridge. The plunger and case was sold separately.
Mr R. Bacon of Youlgreave, stated that the plunger was being raised and still attached to the headstocks, when the shaft ran-in during the night of Dec 14th 1852 and was later filled in and made safe by Mr Joseph Johnson & Oldfeld.
The site of the shaft remains as a depression, part filled with water and has been used by Mr Johnson and Mr A Rocharc as a washing area for Fluorspar.
The depression left by the collapse of Guy Main Shaft with the mine building and washing jig used by Mr Johnson and later by Mr A Rocharc
Sketch map of Millfield Farm showing Veins, Mine Shafts and Soughs. Drawn by L. Hurt 1969 (Not to Scale)
Approximately 100yds North-westerly along the Guy Vein, a shaft appeared overnight where once stood a small mound with a shrub growing out of the top (NGR SK639-221). I made the first descent of the shaft supported by Doug Nash and other Op-mole members. The shaft was laddered down the gritstone lining for some 70ft. At this point the shaft opened out into a large open cavity, and the gritstone ginging was supported by an arch spanning the South-westerly side (Clarkes Vein) and the rest was built directly off the limestone. The gritstone arch was supported on a timber centre comprising of 9” x 9'' timbers i.e. a horizontal base plate and a vertical central pillar and two set at an angle forming a triangle. On top of the angled sections to form the arch were wedges of varying sizes thus forming a perfect arch. Once into the open chamber I continued down, landing on a heap of debris 165ft from the surface. Here the Guy Vein, running between Guy Mine and Conqueror Mine running Northerly and Southerly, Westerly a vein had been worked running beneath Railway Close towards Pages shaft. This working was followed for approximately 15ft to a 20ft deep winze. At the bottom was a short passage with two packs of deads forming a blockage, crawling over the packs for some distance we reached a point where we could make no progress. These workings are no longer accessible owing to the shaft having been filled in by A Rocharc and Tom Ormerod the farmer at Millfield farm.
However, the vein running to Guy Mine and Conqueror Mine was followed and after the shaft had been filled in we still had access to these workings via the Conqueror Mine workings. From the shaft infill, Southerly, following the vein towards Guy Mine until a winze was reached, crossing this and climbing up it was possible to get into some high level workings. These working proved to be very unsafe, but were explored. Descending the winze we were able to get into a much larger type passage which suddenly closed down after only 60ft. At this face it was possible to climb a 36ft raise into a passage still on the joint through some bad looking workings to another winze and a great sludge heap entering above us (Guy Shaft). Descending this winze/shaft for 36ft a passage ran Northerly and terminated at a pool of water, also at the foot of the winze it was possible to enter a worked out pocket containing water (only the collection of water from the Guy Shaft infill).
Back at the now infilled shaft we followed the worked out joint Northerly towards the Conqueror Mine, after 100ft the old man had sidestepped the joint and shortly after a small hole gave access back into the the joint. It had been worked as a confined stope working following a very lean vein of Galena. The old man had re-joined the vein further along and we were able to make progress by climbing up into the joint and into a high level passage. This in turn brought us to the foot of very old and rotten wooden ladders (thought to be the foot of the Conqueror climbing shaft, although no direct connection had yet been made). Turning westerly at the ladders and passing through water falling from the joint above with a very strong smell of sewage. After a distance of 200ft and two small climbs we reached the foot of a run-in shaft (thought to be one run-in at the edge of the wood)
Returning to the rotten ladders we followed the passage Easterly, into some very large workings which became a series of well worked out mineral pockets; also a small winze which dropped us into a tunnel of gritstone slabs. (it was later that we discovered that this gritstone tunnel was more than likely part of Shining Sough which was being protected from the workings above the mineral pockets). From this gritstone slabbed passage which was blocked by a collapse some 10yds in, we returned back up the winze. Easterly on the same joint at 120ft from the surface we passed beneath the second shaft on the climbing route and also passed over the top of another winze to a second winze. This was descended and followed back towards the gritstone slabbed passage but we were stopped by a blockage just yards before reaching it. We returned on this level Easterly, following the main workings which had been mined extensively and was by far the richest mineralised area in the mine. (Galena, Fluorspar, Barytes, Calcite and Malachite).
Back at the winze which dropped onto the gritstone slabbed area, it was possible to climb up into a high level passage in a Southerly direction which led into two large caverns with connecting pockets and a rubble heap at the foot of the collapsed main shaft of Conqueror Mine (this shaft had run-in many years previous). However on the surface the climbing shaft was located only 10 yds from the collapsed main shaft.
The climbing shaft was gritstone lined for 65ft through the shale to a short passage running back to the main Conqueror Shaft, now blocked. The climbing shaft had notches chipped out of the gritstone blocks, these had been cut out on opposite sides of the shaft thus forming a means of climbing the shaft from top to bottom. At the bottom, the shaft was supported on one side by an arch of gritstone built off the shale, unfortunately the other sides were not supported, having been built off the shale. The shale had now eroded under the gritstone and was now only supporting the rear edge of the blocks. Once on the bottom a short passage opposite the one leading back to the main shaft opened out into a large stope working. It was possible to climb down the stope to the lower levels previously mentioned. It was also possible to climb up into another stope working running Northerly towards the River Bradford. The workings were very tight but we were able to follow these at most levels but they became very restrictive. These workings were on the Leewall Vein.
Sketch Plan of Mines in Guy Wood. Drawn by L. Hurt 1970 (Not to Scale)
Doug Nash (Op Mole) had been asked by Mr A Rocharc Snr. if they could do an exploration of the workings in Danger mine and to enable him and his sons to also make the descent into the workings. This was to enable them to ascertain whether it would be viable to extract fluorspar.
We arrived at Millfield Farm and met with Tom Ormerod the farmer and Mr. A Rocharc Snr. at the farmhouse. From here they pointed to a very large spoil heap 100ft long, 35ft wide and 5ft high. The top of the spoil heap had been levelled off and the shaft was at the Southern end. Inspecting the shaft and removing some of the surrounding debris it was most likely that a gin wheel and headstocks were once used during mining operations.
Our winch was erected over the shaft and I made the first descent, approximately 180ft to the apparent bottom. (The shaft now known as Danger Mine was known as the Seven Meres Shaft and was sunk on the junction of New Building Vein and Old Cross Vein). This shaft was dressed gritstone lined (5ft in diameter) through shale for 100ft, directly followed by an odd, part walled up heading on the east side of the shaft. At 140ft the shaft widened to 10ft diameter until reaching a pile of debris at 180ft.
From the rubble a climb up of 10ft led to a wide worked out pocket and a passage heading North-westerly along Old Cross Vein, in highly mineralised ground worked as a pipe working.
Type:- mineralised joint up to 20ft wide, predominantly Iron (siderite) Barytes, Calcite and Fluorspar; no concentrated deposits, all general intermixed in mineralized assemblage, Galena only one minute stringer vein seen, marked efflorescence of Gypsum needles noted (calcium sulphide), (Comments made by Doug Nash).
To the South the rather large heading gave way to a smaller passage by-passing a 10ft diameter pitch leading to a lower level some 20ft below. Soon after, the workings opened out with many well worked out pockets on the most Southerly wall and in the roof. The floor was very uneven and steadily rose until after approximately 350ft a dark grey infill blocked the way for further progress. (it is almost certain that this is the Old Cross Shaft, filled in by Mr A Rocharc in about 1952).
Returning to the main shaft a small heading in a northerly direction (New Building Vein) had been back filled after only 15ft.
After digging on the North-easterly side of the main shaft bottom, access was made by a 6ft slither down a rubble slope into the continuation of the lower level of the mine, again a wide heading along the Old Cross Vein but it terminated at a face of very large limestone blocks, 300ft from the main shaft. This completed the exploration of the mine on this occasion.
Colin Witton and another member of the party were hauled up to the part walled up level in the main shaft and they reported that the level was 6ft High x 3ft wide with 1ft of water on the floor of the passage. The drift (passage) ran Northeast and Southwest. It was followed South-westerly, driven wholly in shale, though it may have had a limestone floor. They followed an almost straight course for 435ft passing the odd pile of shale (the bitting off of the shale) other than this, the passage was reported to be clear. At this point the drift swung round at an oblique angle then another beautifully dressed gritstone wall was encountered. This came out of the shale wall slightly circular then straight for some 15ft where the level ended. The level at this point reached a fold in the beds where the limestone had been pushed up some 20ft. The Oldman had apparently been driving through the shale for ease of working and on hitting the limestone had probed for the shale by a 20ft stope working along a narrow joint. Shale and rock on the floor suggests a fallen pack from the latter. There was no way on from here, the wall did not block the passage but merely followed the right hand wall. It is possible that the wall skirts another shaft (Leewall) similar to the one at Danger Shaft. Having no tools this was not probed into.
They returned to the Danger Mine Shaft and then followed the passage in the opposite direction, again in an almost straight line for 850ft. At the furthest point reached, the passage turns sharp left and ends at what looked like a run-in shaft. This passage had a section 300ft Long where the roof had bitted down so bad that progress was made by struggling over triangular shaped blocks of shale almost blocking the passage. Apart from this bad section the passage was clear. There appears to be no doubt that this drift was the one driven to Guy Mine Shaft as a branch from the drift taking water from the River Lathkill to the Broadmeadow Engine Shaft. The blockage must be close to the intersection of the two.
Water was carried down the drift in pipes, so it is possible that a pipe could have been carried on through the walled up section at the Leewall end. Unless access is made available for a further probe, the mystery of the wall will be unsolved.
Note:- Danger Mine Shaft was filled in by Mr. Rocharc one week after the exploration had taken place. He, at Tom Omerod's request used the spoil tip to fill in the shaft and leave a flat field.
Wheels Rake and Wheelhouse Shaft
There were two soughs on Wheels Rake. The first now lost was on the North bank of the River Lathkill. The second being much deeper, and was in fact the continuation of the Thornhill Sough, a branch of the Hillcarr sough.
North West, the sough drained the Ladies Vein or sometimes known as the Great Cross Vein. From here the vein was drained to the Southern parts of Haddon Fields, by way of Black Sough.
South-east the sough ranged approximately 1,500 ft, joining up with Thornhill Sough which in turn drained into Hillcarr Sough.
Several mentions are made in old documents concerning engines and water wheels and certainly the wheelhouse shaft did house a wheel for pumping and drawing water. There is mention of a wheel being 18ft in diameter and 14ft wide. This is assumed to have been underground.
A more detailed report on the history of these mines and soughs may be found in PDMHS Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 3 Wheels Rake, Alport by Youlgreave.
A detailed investigation of Wheels Shaft by The Pegasus Club Nottingham was carried out in 2000 & 2019. It contains a full survey of the pit & the pump and records on video diving in the flooded shaft. Wheels Shaft and Bob Pit
The Wheelhouse Shaft
Situated on the South bank of the River Lathkill at NGR SK2281-6485, the shaft itself is in a large mound, the top of which is covered with limestone, in the form of a cairn. Entrance to the shaft is by way of a gritstone arch leading to the South side of the shaft. Entering the arch a 6ft drop gives access to a platform which is also continued on the opposite side of the shaft. At this level grooves, channels and notches have been formed in the gritstone ginging and arching, presumably to house fixing for the wheel and pumps etc. The shaft is 10ft on the long axis and 6ft on the short. The depth from the ledge to the water level is approximately 27ft with a rubble filled bottom which is estimated to be 10ft lower. Also at this point of descent the remains of a pump was noted; the shaft of the pump was 4” x 3” timber with metal sheaves and a 12” plunger at the base which was just visible out of the rubble on the bottom.
At water level North-westerly, an arched level could be seen but not entered. Directly above the arch a hole chopped out of the ginging gave access to the vein. Again at water level the passage could be seen to continue, this time with 3” of air space but the floor was some 20ft plus below the water. The passage was a wide joint and several packs were noted (the water being very clear). Owing to the depth of water this passage was not explored.
Climbing out of the water and directly up the joint and over a pack of deads, a cross cut was noted to the right and was part back filled. This was explored along a tight crawl for 12ft, to a vein running parallel to the main one. This had been worked for about 30ft. The passage being 6ft high and 4ft wide, a small stringer vein was noted running the length of the roof. Much of this passage was now covered with a calcium deposit, including a rather fine clay pipe laying on a low level shelf now completely calcreated in.
Returning to the main vein and climbing almost to the surface level, a high level passage was entered. The passage appeared to end in a purpose-made blockage just before going beneath the river. Slabs and arching in the roof suggested that this may have been an inlet (very well hidden on the surface) for water, although no apparent provision had been made to make use of it once below ground. This completed the exploration underground North-westerly.
Back at the main shaft, directly opposite (South-easterly) the gritstone ginging had also been chopped out to give access to the vein; with difficulty this was entered. The joint had again been worked almost to the surface and had been packed with deads. Most of which are now unsafe and many now lay on the apparent floor of the workings and at 35ft a complete collapse blocks the way on on this level. Very little mineralisation was apparent, but the vein appeared to have consisted of Barytes and galena.
Further exploration of this shaft/pump and underwater levels has been carried out by the Pegasus Club Nottingham of which details are available Here
On the surface, just behind the Wheels Rake Shaft a level was driven along the wheels rake workings. The entrance being an adit into the hillside follows the line of the flooded workings below. The first section of the passage has a false floor covering the flooded workings below which can be seen through sections of the floor. This section of passage is approximately 6ft high by 2ft 6" wide and the floor has been sealed with clay. The passage follows this line until it is intersected by another, thus forming a cross road. Straight on the passage soon ends with a run-in shaft (Pump Vein?). At the crossroads the level to the right also ends after a short distance, but to the left the passage is backfilled and can be seen to continue.
The Eccles Caving Club started their dig along this passage by removing the infill and putting the debris into the blind headings. The level turned out to be a dressed cross cut level some 40ft long before it joined another level forming a “T” junction. The left was heading back to the River Lathkill and the right was heading South-west; both ways were back filled. The Eccles group followed the latter for another 30ft before the passage turned to the left again, still backfilled but the group was now finding it difficult to get rid of the infill, and abandoned the dig.
Situated at the side of Wheels Rake Shaft, this entrance gives access to Shining Sough, Photo Nigel Burns
Shining Sough was recorded as being driven in 1756 by the Shining Sough Company and became one of the principle companies working in the area, before the consolidation of the Alport Mining Company in 1839. The sough was driven from the River Lathkill, just downstream adjacent Hawleys Bridge. The first section was driven as a bolt (an open ditch and then slabbed over) then followed the Oldfield Pipe, Old Cross Vein and then Guy Vein.
Unable to locate the sough tail, we decided to look at the Wheels Rake level dig which Eccles had given up on. We followed the level to the dressed level (almost a coffin level) and through to a point where Eccles gave up digging. We decided to continue the dig, but this time instead of carting out the rubble, we dug a hole and then replaced the stone that we had dug out but in an organised way to enable enough room to crawl over. By doing this we were able to make slow progress along the passage. The roof over our heads as we progressed was slabbed with gritstone. After digging for two separate days we reached a point where one of the roof slabs had broken and was hanging down into the passage.
Continuation of the Shining Sough dig carried out by D. Epton and L. Hurt from where Eccles Caving Group had to give up digging
The broken and loose slab of gritstone that formed the roof of our continuation dig. The slab was removed by David Epton
The slab was removed by Dave Epton to enable us to get into the void above. This enabled us to see how the Oldman had formed the false roof of the passage and used the space above to stack the waste rocks (miners deads). We were fortunate that he had not backfilled at our point of entry, and we were able use this space and continue without a lot of digging.
The other side of the dig after removing the roof slabs showing the backfill above our dig
We were concerned about the safety of continuing, but David noted that there was space above and set about easing out the two sections of broken slab. Poking his head through the hole he realised that there was more room above than in the passage we had dug. We both managed to get into the space above and move sufficient debris to enable us to get into a cross vein and the foot of a run-in shaft. On the wall at the side of the shaft was the graffiti J W and U E
The Oldmans Graffiti, U E and J W found at the dig breakthrough point
The shaft was on a cross vein (Castle Vein?) but the way on was by way of the draughting passage (Oldfield Pipe). The passage was now much larger and the roof much higher with the roof resembling the large flat slabs we had seen in the birthday series of Broadmeadow Mine. It soon became clear that it was the same bedding plane we had seen in Broadmeadow. Our passage soon came to an abrupt end at a wet sludgy infill and we soon began pulling down the debris and managed to squeeze through into a large open space. We now knew that we were in Broadmeadow and had reached the run-in main shaft.
Dave Epton at the breakthrough point from Shining Sough into Broadmeadow Mine at the side of the Main Shaft
Having entered Broadmeadow as we did, we realised that it may be possible to get behind the main shaft. A frantic dig soon gave us access to a small open space, with a hole in the floor taking water from a mud filled passage, the water disappearing down through the infill of Broadmeadow main shaft.
Looking at the mud infilled passage, we realised that this was indeed a continuation of our exploration of shining sough but left it for another visit.
Returning to the mud infilled passage we began our dig, i.e. pulling out the mud into the pit where the water was escaping down the Broadmeadow shaft. We soon opened up a distinct passageway, although not very high (approximately 3ft). We had managed to dig out approximately 20ft plus and could see the passage continued but with only 6” of air space above the mud and nowhere to put the mud we were digging out. I noticed that as I was digging and disturbing the mud/silt, the water we were releasing was making the silt infill very liquid. Realizing this I set about stirring the mud into liquid, and was able to push forward through it making good progress. After approximately 400ft we reached the foot of a run-in shaft. The debris consisted of the remains of a wooden ladder, rocks and sludge, all entering our passage from the right and only partially blocking our way.
We soon cleared enough to continue, bypassing the run-in shaft (an old climbing shaft). The passage now became much wider at 6ft and we continued along this for another 1000ft to a very large shaft. Water was pouring down from above and down another 30ft. At this point in the passage there was an old wooden ladder laying on the floor and I now realised that we had reached Prospect Mine Shaft. This was the one that I had been down a couple of years before. I had made the descent via Op-moles winch, thanks to Doug Nash. (See the chapter on Prospect Mine).
Very little remains on the surface, only a row of cottages, the most westerly being much taller than the others, also a small barn and several small out buildings. The farm house is relatively new, built in the 1970’s.
On the Westerly end of the cottages and out buildings there is a large depression and mine hillock. This was said to be the site of the Broadmeadow Mine pumping shaft which ran-in just after the pumping engine was removed and sold. (this is the engine now in the PDMHS mining museum at Matlock Bath which was discovered by The North Staffordshire Mining Group and recovered from Wills Founder Mine in Winster). The engine shaft at Broadmeadow was also known as the Blyth engine shaft; this was confirmed to Nellie Kirkham by Mr G. E. Bacon who had been a miner prior to the disaster in Mawstone mine. He was also the father of Mr Roger Bacon who also mined in the Youlgreave area and gave me a lot of information relating to the area and the Alport Mines. Mr G. E. Bacon also confirmed that the cottages were all part of the Alport Mining Companies Buildings. My thoughts are that the smaller, Easterly cottages were used by the manager and engineer and also an Office in the early days, because the barn on the opposite side of the road facing the entrance was in fact an office. This was confirmed by Mr Albert Rocharc Snr. who stated that in his younger days he used to get into the office on the upper floor. The office in those days was lined with oak panelling, with a desk and corner cupboard. In the cupboard was a reckoning book of the Alport Mining Company. When I looked into this everything in the Office had been stripped out by persons unknown. I think that this office was used whilst they were mining in Prospect Mine, being the last mine to be worked. The Westerly end cottage is much taller than the others and was possibly built on the site of the Blacksmiths shop. Although I believe, that many other smaller out buildings have been demolished and removed, just my thoughts.
The row of hillocks crossing the field North-west of the cottages are on the Croshaw Pipe. The Oldfield Pipe runs North-easterly towards the River Lathkill and South-westerly through Broadmeadow Mine and onto Danger Mine. Sutton Vein also runs South-easterly from Broadmeadow, crossing under Lawn Lane and the wood. On the surface at the point where the Sutton Vein passes under the lane and the start of the wood is where the two storey barn previously mentioned stood. The barn had a 4ft wide door at ground level facing the lane. To the right of the barn a flight of stone steps gave access to the office area. When we visited the barn in the late 1950's, it was obvious that there had been cladding on the walls because of the amount of timber plugs set into the stonework. This barn no longer exists and it has been replaced by a much larger building.
In Alport village, just up the road from the bridge is a packhorse bridge which crosses the River Lathkill and gives access to a footpath through the wooded area. Following the path uphill it passes an open adit which was the entrance to the level which carried water from the river. The river was diverted from upstream of the village, then carried over the village in a timber aqueduct to the level entrance and from here in pipes along the level to Broadmeadow Engine Shaft. Before reaching Broadmeadow a junction was made taking the water to the Guy Engine Shaft, passing past the Danger Mine Shaft and Leawall Shaft before reaching the Guy Engine Shaft. (See the chapter on Danger Mine).
Broadmeadow cottages, once Alport Mining Company Buildings.
Photo taken 2020
The site of the Broadmeadow Engine shaft (run-in) and spoil tip and also the line of Croshaw Pipe. Photo taken 2020
Building Opposite Broadmeadow Cottages Once used by the Alport Mining Company for their office whilst mining Prospect mine.
This is the level in the wood overlooking Alport village, and carried water to both Broadmeadow and Guy engines. David and I had made half hearted attempts to dig out the infill blocking the level, but had left it until later. However the Eccles Caving Group did undertake to dig out the level, but decided after spending time at this blockage they would try digging from the surface to by-pass the blockage. Having taken measurements under ground, transferred these onto the surface and added extra footage they began a dig at this point. After digging for some time they realised that they were digging in a square gritstone lined shaft. They dug out this shaft of 5ft square for a depth of approximately 20ft. They located the gritstone arching of the level where they had abandoned the initial dig and they had succeeded in passing this blockage. They continued digging down until they reached the continuation of the level which was no longer gritstone lined but a low level filled with water which they tried the bale out but it kept filling up. It was some time later that they came to ask for my opinion. I knew that Nellie Kirkham had told me that she had read in documents that whilst driving this level the miners had to sink a shaft to allow for the level to pass under the road.
I went to their dig and was impressed with the work carried out. Having made the descent into the dig, I looked at the problem and suggested that we tried to lower the water by baling out as much as possible. This we did and I had a closer look and was able to see through the air space, that the level seemed to rise giving a larger area of airspace. Digging out a little more of the debris on the floor, I was then able to dive through the restricted space in the level. Once through, into the continuation of the level, I found myself in a passage some 6ft high and 3ft wide in solid limestone. Reporting back my findings to the Eccles lads, they dug out some more of the floor in the shaft and soon several members joined me in the newly found section of level which carried water to the pumping engines of Guy and Broadmeadow Mines. Thanks to the hard work and effort of the Eccles Caving Group The following report can be written.
The top section of the entrance shaft is of dressed Limestone and oval shaped, being 5ft. on the long axis and 3ft 6" on the short. After 6ft the shaft becomes almost square and is lined with dressed gritstone and cemented with a lime mortar. After another 8ft on the North-westerly side of the shaft the gritstone arched level was noted being the opposite side of the blockage in the entrance drift. It was not until we were a total of 30ft from the surface did a passage on the Southerly side appear, but flooded. This was the sump that I explored, and entered a small open area and a passage 6ft high and 3ft wide. The passage was driven in part through shale and limestone. After approximately 100ft knee deep in water, we passed over a flooded shaft estimated to be some 20ft plus deep. We continued along the passage, passing under an insecure roof until we reached the foot of a run-in shaft. The debris from this collapse consisted of broken and rotted wooden ladders which were holding back the limestone rock and shale from the shaft. A short dig and we were able to continue until we reached a large open space having been dug out of the shale. The cavern it created was estimated to be 30ft long and some 15ft wide. At the furthest end of this cavern a dressed gritstone wall had been built across the width of the cavern, forming a trough 3ft high and 5ft from the back wall. This was the extent of my exploration but Eccles did provide a survey of the passage.
I am not sure of the reason for this trough because each end was sealed with shale; this could have been a collapse of the shale but gave no indication of any passage in either direction. I can only assume that this was some sort of connecting point to divide the water between Guy and Broadmeadow Shafts. According to the Eccles survey, this area was almost at the Broadmeadow Engine Shaft. I am not sure what sort of connection there would have been to enable a split to the water supply, but would have expected to see some sort of sluice at the junction. I believe that the two ends of the trough would have been open, so that it could have been used to carry water pipes. I also expected to see some indication of fixings to secure the pipes somewhere along the passage up to this point. A copy of the Eccles Groups survey is shown below.
Survey of The Broadmeadow Shale Gate produced by The Eccles Caving Club 1970
Copyright © Eccles Caving Club, reproduced here with their kind permission
Broadmeadow Mine Shaft, adjacent to the west side of the cottages was an engine shaft also known as the Blyth Engine Shaft. The engine was similar to that of the Trevithick's Hydraulic old engine and may have been modified by John Darlington (see Recovery of the Wills Founder water pressure engine, by Lynn Willies in PDMHS bulletin Vol. 6, No. 5). The engine was sold by the Alport Mining Company at auction on Monday 26th July 1852 and was installed in Wills Founder Shaft in Winster.
We Therefore knew that we would not find the engine but hoped to find the engine site and Centre Level (a level driven from Hillcarr Sough at Guy Vein but at a slightly higher level). We assumed that this was to prevent water being pumped from Guy Mine flowing back to the Danger Mine and Broadmeadow workings.
We had access to Broadmeadow Mine via the climbing route which is under the cottages. The shaft is dressed gritstone lined for 20ft onto limestone on three sides, the fourth side is not fully supported and had to be passed carefully. The shaft continued down until it reached the apparent bottom of the climbing shaft. Here a passage ran both in an Easterly and Westerly direction. Both passages dipped steeply, the Easterly one onto Crowshaw Pipe, and Westerly the passage ran Southwest and onto Old Cross Vein.
Following the Old Cross Vein we immediately passed the debris of the run-in Broadmeadow Shaft and on towards Danger Mine. The level had been worked extensively, leaving very little sign of mineralization. The height of the level was approximately 7ft. but varied from 6ft to 10ft high and the width from 8ft to 12ft. Within a short distance of passing the run-in shaft we noticed a series of holes in the floor of the passage adjacent to the Southerly wall. Upon closer inspection it was found to be a worked out stope working and flooded almost to the floor of the passage we were in. Through the water we could see timber stemples and packs of deads in the stope. We also worked out that the floor had been mined out some 4ft to 6ft and that we were on a floor levelled off with mining debris, thus forming an almost level and straight passage. It ended at a pile of huge boulders blocking the way on. This was similar to the blockage reached in Danger Mine. (See the chapter on Danger Mine).
We retraced our steps and started to investigate the various side workings (worked out mineral pockets). One we looked at was a small working running parallel to the main passage and back towards the blockage. The old man was following a small stringer vein (less than 1” wide within a calcite infill) until it pinched out. It was possible to see that the vein was still open but less than 6” wide continuing for some distance. We decided to try and widen the working by taking out the calcite on the walls. With a lot of effort we managed to make sufficient room to squeeze through and continue along the vein and on into Danger Mine, bypassing the blockage. We are not sure if the blockage is where the Old Cross Shaft entered the workings on this level, and the blocks were fractured limestone at the bottom of this shaft, which collapsed prior to the shaft being filled in. Mr A Rocharc filled in the shaft many years before we were interested in the mines of Alport. On the surface the shaft was sited in the corner of the field to the right of the entrance gateway to Millfield farm. (the exact location for the shaft is not visible on the surface).
In the 1970's, the weather was exceptionally dry and water levels low and we had made great progress in Hillcarr Sough. With this in mind we decided to check out the flooded stope workings previously mentioned. When we arrived at the stope (great no water) we dropped a ladder down approximately 40ft. Climbing down we dropped on to a gritstone paved floor and followed the passage along the Old Cross Vein towards the Danger Mine. We were stopped by a collapse of several packs of deads in the stope working. We think that the area we were in must have been under the large boulder blockage in the passage above. We returned to our ladders and followed the passage towards the Broadmeadow Main Shaft. On reaching the shaft bottom there was no sign of anywhere for a pump housing so we assume therefore that this would be on the other side of the blocked shaft. From the shaft bottom a level was followed along the line of Sutton Vein, but ended at the foot of a run-in shaft. We returned to our ladders but on the way out we noticed two areas where metal plates had been inserted into gritstone slabs on the floor. The metal plates 15” x 9” had been housed into the slabs; lifting one we found that the slabs were laid over a channel carrying water along the passage. We believe that these metal plates were access points where routine works could be carried out to enable the channels to be kept clear and the passage kept dry. This confirmed that we had reached Centre Level.
Back at the foot of the climbing shaft, the Easterly passage dipped steeply in a Northerly direction to a large worked out area with a central area of deads stacked from floor to roof, making two passages leading onto Crowshaw Pipe running East and West. Westerly along the pipe working, the level was limestone arched. A passage in a Northerly direction was Oldfield Pipe and on each side of the pipe workings the walls were lined with packs of miners deads. It was one of these packs that we removed the top layers from to enable access to a flat bedding plane. The bedding had been worked out extensively and many packs of deads had been built floor to roof, forming a maze of passages most only 3ft high by 3ft wide. This area was not surveyed. We called this area the birthday series because we found it by accident on my birthday. We estimated that in this small area, approximately 1000ft of passage had been formed. It was possible from this area to see into an open joint approximately 4ft wide and possibly 10ft deep. It was not possible get into this open joint but in later explorations of Shining Sough we realised that this open joint was indeed Shining Sough just before reaching Broadmeadow main shaft. Beyond the birthday series, back in Oldfield Pipe, the workings proved to have been worked out extensively. The sides of the passages were stacked with the waste limestone (miners deads) on both sides of the passages. We noted that there was very little mineralisation, only the odd very lean stringer vein of Galena. This just shows how much work the Oldman did to get Lead.
The second passage off Croshaw Pipe was along Sweeting Tree Vein. This soon opened out into two large pockets each side of the vein. After these were passed we entered another limestone arched area. After the arching we crossed over three blind winzes and the passage ended at the foot of a run-in shaft. Back in Croshaw Pipe we continued westerly in the limestone arched passage, into a large worked out area with the debris of another run-in shaft. Making our way around this the pipework continued with most of the passage being lined with packs of deads on each side. In this section there were a number of pockets and short levels. The passage ended at a very small pocket and the foot of a run-in shaft consisting of a very wet infill and small rocks. We tried to dig in the rubble but it was too fluid and each time we removed the rubble it ran past us like a river of mud. It was considered too dangerous to dig owing to the restricted exit from the pocket. Back in the large worked out area, with the foot of a run-in shaft, another passage ran in a Southerly direction. This passage followed a small stringer vein to a “T” junction. At this junction we followed the passage in both directions and both ended in a backfill.
Section of Broadmeadow Mine drawn by E.L. Hurt, Nottingham Mines Research & Exploration Group
Broomhead Shaft at NGR SK2220-6443 is sited on the Eesterly side of the lane running South from Alport to Elton, approximately 300yds from Alport village. It sits on the top of a spoil tip rising some 6ft above the adjacent field.
The shaft is covered by a limestone cairn and is also ginged through the spoil and shale for approximately 24ft with limestone blocks. At about 16ft down, a 2ft diameter hole is passed and it is possible to see that there is nothing behind the ginging and nothing supporting the ginging above. Passing past this hole with care to the foot of the ginging, the shaft opens out into a wide shaft for another 20ft, to a pile of rubble and the main workings on Abbots Hole Vein. The passage here is an average width of 15ft and runs in a North-westerly direction for 250ft towards the River Lathkill, and South-easterly for about 300ft to the junction of Croshaw Pipe. On the North-easterly side of the pipe working a thin stringer vein has been worked along the vein running parallel to the main pipe working. This is accessed by a short passage from near the main shaft.
At the junction of Abbots Hole and Croshaw Pipe a short passage Easterly follows a vein for about 50ft and ends at a run-in shaft. Westerly the vein has been worked for about 250ft before ending at a run-in shaft. This Westerly level from the junction with Abbots Vein starts as a narrow passage about 7ft wide but soon widens out to 20ft and then reduces in width gradually until it reaches the run-in shaft. (this shaft was in the field known as Millfield on the opposite side of the lane to Broadmeadow). The workings explored were very untidy with large boulders and deads strewn along the passage floors. We did not survey this mine because we considered the main shaft was not that safe. I did mention this to the Eccels lads whilst with them when they were digging the Broadmeadow shale gate. (See the chapter on Broadmeadow surface). I did not know that they later did a survey of Broomhead Shaft. A copy of my sketch plan is shown below.
Sketch plan of the workings accessible from Broomhead Shaft.
Drawn by E. L. Hurt 1965
It was Mr Albert Rocharc the miner who was working on Millfield Farm, extracting the Fluorite from the spoil heaps who asked Doug Nash if he could provide a report on the condition of the Prospect mine shaft and of any mineralization within the mine. Doug set about making sure that we had all necessary permission from the Farmer Tom Ormerod and Haddon Estates. At the next meeting of Op-Mole he put forward a proposal for the group to carry out the exploration of this mine. It was at this meeting that I offered to make the first descent of the shaft.
The following weekend the group arrived on site and Tom Ormerod came over to see how we were going to carry out the exploration. Once he was happy that we would leave the site safe after we had finished, he left us to proceed. We quickly removed the shaft covering and exposed the shaft top (a very fine gritstone lined shaft approximately 8ft diameter). We plumbed the shaft to approximately 300ft, then set up the winch. All the gear was then checked i.e.;- Cable, ropes, telephones and lights. I was now kitted out to make the descent. John Oakley worked the winch, Doug Nash was operating the phones on the surface, with the other end of the phones fixed onto the winch seat, then I was next on the seat and ready to go.
The shaft was approximately 8ft diameter and lined through the shale for 80ft, and was now 6ft diameter at this depth. The dressed gritstone was built off the bedrock (limestone) for 2/3rds of the shaft and the other 1/3rd was supported on timbers which were in reasonable condition. Although, at this depth the shale had continued down below the timbers for several feet, hence the timber supports. The shale below and behind the timbers had broken down and had formed a large cavity some 6ft back from the timbers and another 10ft to the limestone bedrock. The shaft was now increasing in diameter and continued for another 100ft plus. As I descended the water percolating into the shaft was getting greater and at this level, some 180 plus feet, a level ran in a Westerly direction where more water entered the shaft.
This level was not entered, because the roof of the level where it entered the shaft was limestone rubble being held up by rotting timbers which protruded into the shaft. Speaking to Doug on the phone, he insisted that I did not try to enter this level because of the danger of catching the winch cable on the two packs and causing a collapse while I was in the shaft. Continuing down, I noted bad air in the shaft, (Sulphurous) and after telling Doug this he insisted that I kept talking to him as I continued down so that the surface knew everything was OK. John on the winch was now letting me down much slower in case of problems as I passed through the bad air (this was only a small pocket of bad air in the shaft). After another 90ft from the first level I reached a second level, this one was much larger than the first. but I decided to continue down.
The water was now falling as though I was under a waterfall and I was having to bend my head and breath into my boiler suit; after another 40ft I reached the bottom. The water was getting away through the rubble floor with no definite route. I got off the winch and tried to see if I could find a way through, with no luck. The shaft at this level was about 12ft diameter with visibility through the water only about two feet. I told the surface that I was ready to go back up to the level above which I had put on hold. Back on the winch seat I was lifted up to the passage and swinging into it from the shaft I explored the level. First I noted the remains of a wooden ladder and a shaft going up a possible climbing shaft to the level above. Continuing along the passage I reached the foot of a run-in shaft. It was at this point where we later dug out from Shining Sough level. Returning back to the Prospect main shaft and looking down, I noted that a wooden ladder was in place for part of the shaft down to the bottom which I had not noticed on my way down because of the amount of falling water. I was now hauled up to the surface and considered the exploration completed. (all depths are only approximate, being worked out by John whilst operating the winch). The winch was packed up and the shaft was re-covered, leaving the site safer than we had found it.
The Prospect powder house; the main shaft lies in the wooded area at
the top of the field. Photo taken 2020
The site of Prospect shaft top. Photo taken 2020
Leewall Vein Shaft
Site of Leewall Vein Shaft. Photo taken 2020
Note: In the documentary sources both 'Leewall' and 'Leawall can be used.
The shaft is situated in Guy Wood adjacent to the gateway from Millfield Farm into the Northeast wall of the wood. The shaft is partially covered by gritstone slabs and a boiler plate and was laddered by myself in 1962. The shaft had had a few gritstone blocks removed from the ginging approximately 6ft from the top to allow surface drainage to clear away. The shaft was gritstone ginged for 60ft through the shale and then through limestone for another 100ft plus, to a pile of debris. This consisted of metal corrugated sheeting, tin cans, parts of cars and rotting rubbish. Getting off the ladder at this point I made my way down the rubble slope. Partway down, the rubble under my feet moved and Jagged metal and sharp iron sheets brushed against my legs. Noting a blank wall in front of me I assumed that any workings would be under the rubble.
However it proved that a passage did exist, with a small passage on the Northerly corner which connected with the Leewall Vein. This in turn connected with one of the larger workings of Conqueror Mine. In this cavernous working the remains of a small ore truck was found. The total depth at this point from the surface would be approximately 180ft. Back at rubble filled shaft, there appeared to be no workings in the Southerly direction (unless deep under all the debris). Since this descent I have heard that a car body had been thrown down the shaft and wedged part way down. If that is true and if it could be released, it may be the only way now to get into the Conqueror Mine workings.
Back on the surface, the Leewall Shaft to which the drift carrying the water pipes from the Lathkill passed, this on the way to the Guy Engine Shaft, is sited in Thistley Close Field adjacent to the wall of Guy Wood. Some of the spoil from the shaft can be seen in the wood, but the shaft was filled in long before any interest in the mines.
The only other mine on Leewall Vein is situated in the Southeast corner of Guy Wood. We named this David's Shaft because David Epton was first to explore it. The shaft was gritstone ginged through the shale onto the limestone bedrock (total depth 200ft.) At this level a hading joint off the Easterly wall of the shaft continued for another 40ft. At the 200ft level a worked out pocket could be reached by a 6” wide ledge edging the open rift (hading Joint) on the Easterly wall. The pocket proved to be a 10ft Long level which ended at the foot of a climbing route (no sign of a climbing shaft on the surface). Back in the main shaft and part way down on the Westerly edge of the hading joint, a worked out level 8ft high was noted, but at the bottom of the 40ft joint was a sludge filled level. The level was driven Easterly along the Leewall Vein and ended at a none to safe pack of miners deads. Passing this pack it gave way to a sludge filled pit with a level continuing east. There was nothing to suggest that this level went any further but it obviously flooded at times.
Back at the foot of the 40ft joint a level also ran South-westerly towards Guy Shaft. This level was about 4ft high with at least 1ft of sludge, the roof of the level was stempled up with packs of deads. Passing beneath this to a much wider and higher section of the level more stemples supported a great mass of deads. Passing these into another narrow section of the passage and again back into a much wider section. Here the stemples were rotting on the floor and a mass of rocks stopped progress.
In old documents it was stated that a sough was driven along Leewall Vein from the River Bradford, the tail was a bolt ( a shallow channel covered with slabs) but lost years ago. Any mining would have taken out any sign of a sough underground. The vein nearest to the River Bradford can be reached from Conqueror mine and followed along a well worked out stope working, but stopping short of the river.
Old Cross Shaft
Old Cross Shaft is situated between the Danger Mine Shaft and Conqueror Mine Shaft and adjacent to the field gate between Guy Wood and the field in front of the farm house. It was descended by Mr A Rocharc in the 1950,s who gave us this information. (he was a Fluorspar miner who was exploiting hillocks on the Millfield farm).
The shaft was beautifully circular and gritstone ginged for the first 80ft through shale, followed by a band of toadstone where the shaft bellied out at about 150ft from the surface and into the limestone, reaching the bottom at approximately 230ft. Here at the bottom the shaft opened out forming a large cavity. This was the limit of their exploration but they were able to plumb a small shaft of 15ft to a dry bottom.
Mr A Rocharc made the descent by way of an iron horse from a crane and estimated all depths. He thought that the Alport Mining Company had been getting lumps of Galena, Fluorspar and calcite. After his exploration he decided that it would not be economical to set up a rig to mine from this shaft. He then filled in the shaft at the request of Tom Ormerod (the farmer). For a description of the workings accessible from this shaft and their exploration (See the chapter on Danger Mine) and (See the chapter on Conqueror Mine). The base of this shaft is the only connection between the two mines, but we were unable to dig through the infill to complete a connection.
The limestone slabs covering Mole Shaft at NGR SK219-639
Photo taken 2020
The shaft top was covered with limestone slabs (as above and still is ) once we had removed the slabs a limestone ginged shaft was revealed. This shaft and workings must have predated the Alport Mining Companies mines in Guy Wood as all mine shafts worked by the company were gritstone ginged and this shaft was ginged with undressed limestone.
The shaft was found to be ginged for 55ft and supported on rotting timbers. At a depth of 80ft, two passages on the joint, running Northwest and Southeast, both ended after 15ft at worked faces. The Oldman had followed a lean stringer vein of Galena no more than an inch wide. Back at the main shaft we descended another 20ft reaching the bottom of the main shaft at 100ft. Here the vein had been worked South-easterly but ended after only 10 feet. North-westerly the vein had been followed for 25ft and the level had passed over a winze about 15ft from the main shaft. The winze was sunk down a clay filled swallet and we descended it for 20ft. At the bottom a small natural passage ran in a North-easterly direction but was too tight to follow. North-westerly the level was partly blocked after only a short distance by a limestone wall built across the passage. Here we found two clay pipes and the bowl of another. This bowl was of interest, as on one side a square and compass was depicted. I am wondering if this has any connection with the pub in Darley Dale. On the opposite side of the bowl a bird is depicted but I cannot find any reason why this should be. Climbing the wall we entered a series of worked out pockets (mainly of fluorspar). Shortly after the pockets the workings ended. We did think that this mine would have connected with Conqueror Mine on the Old Cross Vein but it runs in a different direction.
Millfield farm and Railway Close Mine
The land of Millfield farm has been extensively drained by a series of clay land drains set at two different levels. The deepest set at approximately 5ft and the top set at 2ft 6” below the ground surface. All the drainage diverted the water into Guy wood where two dams had been built to store the water for use by the mines worked by the Alport Mining Company. The water was diverted to the Pages Shaft and the Engine Shaft, both on the Bacon Close Vein and also to the shaft in the field known locally as Railway Close. (possibly because the Alport Mining Company had a rail track from Guy Mine to the Bacon Close Mines).
The shaft is situated on Clarks Vein, in Railway Close near to the bridle road used by the adjacent farms. The shaft itself was covered with a Limestone cairn and was also ginged with limestone, (this was unusual because most of the Alport Mining Companies mines were Gritstone ginged i.e. lined ) The shaft was ginged through the shale for 40 ft to the limestone bedrock and continued for a further 60ft to a solid floor. From here a passage ran Easterly back towards the Tree Shaft in Guy Wood, but stopped short of this shaft at a blockage. Returning back along this passage driven along Clarkes Vein, and passing beneath our entrance shaft for another 150yds to another shaft. The shaft was the South Forefield Shaft driven down from the Bacon Close caravan site, and continued down for another 80ft. The shaft at the point of our entry was some 8ft X 6ft and beautifully dressed limestone. On the opposite side of the shaft, a channel had been cut out of the limestone wall approximately 12” wide and 5” deep, running from above and down to the bottom. (we queried the reason for this channel with Nellie Kirkham and she suggested that it may have been for pipework carrying water, possibly to run an air pump for ventilation purposes). At the bottom of the shaft we were still on Clarkes Vein and at no point did we find any signs of fixings to help indicate what the channel was for. We continued along Clarks Vein for 200ft in a Westerly direction to a junction. At the junction, South-westerly the passage ended at a forefield. Back at the junction in a South-easterly direction we followed the Bacon Close vein for some distance to a point where the passage appeared to side step the main vein. Here we entered a passage with slime on the floor and thinking this was only inches deep I carried on, but sunk into the slime some 3ft deep. Once In the slime I was encouraged to see where it went, but after only a few yards it was obvious that we were at the foot of shaft. We had no doubt that this was Pages Shaft, the one that Reg Howard had laddered a few years previous and had reported that the shaft bottom was blocked and had a rotten carcass of a cow on top of the debris.
Note: The shaft in Railway Close has been filled in by the farmer Tom Ormerod.
Sutton Wood Shaft
The shaft is situated on Sutton Vein, positioned at the top of the wood adjacent to the miners track NGR SK227-642. I believe this shaft to be Lawne Mine but not confirmed. It is situated below the water boards reservoir, in the wood situated at the rear of the building used as the Alport Mining Company offices whilst mining Prospect mine, the last mine, mined by this company. Tom Ormerod said that he thought Lawne Main Mine Shaft had run-in six years previous, but again we have not had it confirmed. However the mine shaft we explored was on the Sutton Vein and it was hoped that the workings would take us down to the Broadmeadow Mine and onto Centre Level, which ran from Broadmeadow, along Sutton Vein and through the Lawne Mine workings. (Centre level was an extension of the Hillcarr Sough).
The shaft was 6ft diameter, although slightly oval shaped and was gritstone ginged for 50ft through the shale, and was supported on heavy timbers (15” x 8”). After the ginging the shaft opened out to 10ft x 12ft. Shortly after, at about 65ft from the surface a passage ran Easterly to the climbing shaft. Back at the main shaft we continued down another 70ft to a large heading running in an Easterly direction and gave way to a smaller passage driven in the shale back to the climbing route, although the climbing shaft was blocked at this level. Here a level was driven parallel to the main vein running Northerly. It was cut completely through the shale and in a very bad condition. This was followed for approximately 100ft to a winze, crossing over this the passage led to a small raise. This was looked at and it was thought that the Oldman had been probing the area looking for the vein; also he had driven the main passage on a steep incline through the shale and into the limestone. Once in the limestone the passage followed a very tight stringer vein but ended at a worked face after only 50ft.
Back at the main shaft we descended it for a further 40ft through toadstone and into limestone and descended to a depth of 250ft from the surface where we reached water. The shaft continued down approximately another 25ft. No apparent way off at this level could be found but 10ft above the water the vein ran Northerly along Sutton Vein. It was mined on two levels, the bottom level dropped back to water and the higher level was followed for a further 200ft following a small stringer vein of lead. Further progress in this mine would be under water. Minerals noted in the workings were basically, Barytes of poor quality, Galena and traces of Malachite was also noted. No workings were found to extend in a Southerly direction along the Sutton Vein.
June Kemp and John ? at the climbing shaft on Nictor Vein
The photograph above shows the climbing shaft on Nictor Vein and close to Sutton Vein where the surface party wait for the exploration team to return. The Shaft proved to be a limestone ginged climbing shaft. We were able to get to a total depth of approximately 120ft with several passages leading off following small stringer veins but not one passage led back to the Sutton vein workings. The surface team were June Kemp and John ? No actual notes were taken on this exploration.
Kirkmeadow Mine on the Stanton Estate.
The shaft is situated at the North end of the 277 enclosure, NGR SK2332-6420 and is the most southerly open shaft on Wheels Rake Vein. Documentary evidence gives us no definite name for this shaft, although references are given relating to a Kirkmeadow Shaft, as being the one which housed an engine in the 1700’s. Local information gives us, that Kirkmeadow is in fact the field name for the enclosure 271, but it is not impossible that the field called Kirkmeadow was much larger and has been split into several enclosures.
The shaft is 10ft in diameter and is ginged with gritstone blocks through the shale to the limestone bedrock. From the surface an arched level can be seen entering some 50ft down on the south side of the shaft. This level proved to have been driven to a reservoir sited some 150 yards south of the shaft. We believe that this was driven to carry water from the reservoir to the mine to fuel an engine. A preliminary descent was made in late November 1968 and it was estimated that the shaft was about 200ft deep, and was laddered accordingly. The ladders were fixed onto a concrete post and put down the South-easterly side of the shaft.
The descent was made to the arched level entering at 50ft and just right of our ladders. A few acrobatics and the level was entered. The level proved to be 5ft high and 3ft wide and only 4ft into the level the remains of a sluice was noted. Shortly after the sluice the level had been sealed with a shale backfill. (later we followed a level from the reservoir back to this blockage). The descent was continued down the shaft through the ginging and into the limestone bedrock. At this point the ginging was supported on two nine inch beams stretching 3ft.across the worked out vein. Just 20ft prior to reaching this support a gritstone block had been removed from the ginging and it was possible to see that the vein had been worked out up to this level and left a great open cavity behind the ginging. It was not possible to continue without swinging on to the stemples which supported the wall our ladders were resting on. The exploration was terminated at this time.
The shaft was not laddered again until December 1968. This time the shaft was laddered with 300ft of ladders, down the South wall of the shaft. The ladders were belayed back to two iron bars driven 3ft into the spoil heap of the shaft. The descent was made direct to the bottom passing the gritstone level on the left. Andrew Hurt made the descent on this occasion and reported that he had landed on an island. The floor had some 9” of water apart from the island he had landed on. This consisted of debris that had been tipped down the shaft. To the northwest a level could be seen continuing, but the roof was under water. The level appeared to be gritstone arched and at the commencement of the level a flooded shaft was noted. This shaft was 6ft on the long axis and 4ft on the short axis. A gritstone arched bridge allowed him to cross this shaft and enable him to get a better look into the flooded level.
To the Southeast the large worked open section was looked at and reported that the floor was no more than a rubble slope with no other working leading off. In discussion later, we assumed that the large cavity could have housed an engine. In fact the rubble was packs of deads that had collapsed from the roof. This then accounts for the large cavity noted behind the ginging. We feel that Thornhill Sough must either lay under the rubble or a branch off the flooded level previously mentioned. We feel sure that this shaft did house an engine and it was the passage with the sluice that carried water from the old mill dam (the reservoir mentioned above). The passage passes close to another shaft which is sited in a rough section of enclosure No. 271 (Kirkmeadow) If it is possible to get permission to descend this shaft it may be interesting, Mr Thornhill at Stanton Hall is reluctant to allow this at this time. However a further descent of our shaft carried out in dry weather may be interesting because both these shafts lay over the Thornhill Sough which in turn enters Hillcarr Sough. Since this report was written we have located Thornhill Sough in Hillcarr Sough but the Thornhill level is in a very unstable condition at Hillcarr. Also having reached Brown Bank Shaft on Hillcarr Sough and having received information that several blockages have occurred by collapsed sections of the arching and shale in Hillcarr which in turn has raised the water table in the Alport mines. (these blockages happened in 2010.) I now doubt that it will be possible to get back to the sough levels.
Mawstone Mine, Youlgreave
A full report of our (Nottingham Mines Research group) can be found in the PDMHS Bulletin Vol. 8 No. 3 Summer 1982. The following article is a brief account of the exploration of the mine carried out in 1971 by David Epton and Myself (Laurence Hurt) It took over a year to get the necessary permission to get access and be able to carry out the exploration of Mawstone Mine. We already had permission from Haddon estates to explore the mines on their estate which the Alport Mining Company had worked extensively in their heyday, as long as we had permission from the farmers and those who were holding the mineral rights at the time. Bill Marsden had the rights at Mawstone Mine using the site for a washing floor. He was in the process of winding down his operation and gradually clearing the site. It was not until he had cleared the site that C.E. Giulini (Derbyshire) Ltd. took on the rights of the site and we were able to get permission. Now my next problem was that my hand winch was out of action, so I approached Paul Thomson & Cheg Chester to see if we could borrow their winch (one which Paul had bought off Op-Mole and one which I was happy with) They said yes and went one better by offering to work the winch and be a support team.
The weekend we chose was dry and warm and David and myself set about clearing all the debris from the top of the shaft including the metal sheets, leaving the headstocks wheel covering the shaft. By this time Cheg, Paul & Dave Gough arrived with the winch and in no time it was in place over the shaft.
The winch in position with David Epton inspecting the rig and members of the Pegasus Caving Club, the surface support team
David Epton on the winch seat taking instructions from Cheg Chester on using the phone system
I had made the descent possible after removing one of the spokes of the winding wheel which covered the shaft. We were lucky to have the winch in this position because all the air pipes and landing platforms had collapsed and formed an obstacle course in the shaft.
A sketch of the shaft showing the maze of pipes etc. that we had to navigate past on the descent
Once down the shaft we were aware that we may have a problem with bad air but we also had air bottles on the surface should we have needed them, but the air seemed fine and we commenced our exploration. A copy of our survey below shows the extent of that exploration.
Survey of Mawstone Mine, Youlgreave NGR SK212-634
Drrawn by E. L. Hurt 1971
We first explored the Southerly workings driven in shale as far as Timperly Vein where we detected hydrogen sulphide gas. It was here that we terminated our preliminary exploration until the following weekend.
Saturday the following week, David & myself arrived at Mawstone Mine and was soon joined by Cheg Chester and several other Pegasus members. They were all eager to help on the surface whilst David and I prepared for another descent of the shaft. June Kemp was next to arrive with the Air Cylinders that we were going to use on this occasion. As soon as we were both kitted out, the winch checked and the phones were in good order we made our descent.
At the bottom we landed on top of a great pile of rubble and silt and the remains of an old cage used when the mine was being worked. Descending the rubble we were able to reach a junction of three passages. Southerly was the passage we previously followed to Timperley Vein, but this time we were carrying air bottles. Progress was made by walking on the rail lines which had been put on raised sleepers. This helped us because we were able to continue without having to contend with other obstacles hidden in the water filled passage up to the height of the rails. Passing Timperley Vein we continued to a worked face. The passage we had followed was mainly in the shale and was an average height of 8ft and some 10ft wide.
Returning to the shaft bottom, North-easterly the passage was a crosscut leading to the Wenley Hill Vein. North-westerly the main passage continued passing another crosscut to Wenley Hill Vein, we continued until we reached the Cundy Winze on the Wenley Hill Vein. From this junction we followed the vein Easterly passing the two crosscut passages and several collapsed area’s and passed over a 20ft winze and on into the shale again. The passage ended at a shale face and nearby was an old sledge.
Back at the Cundy Winze, we followed the Wenley Hill Vein in a North-westerly direction to a junction known as the Wenley Hill Turn. Straight on the vein continued but soon turned left and then right forming a dogleg. The passage was now much smaller, on average 5ft high and 3ft wide. The passage ended shortly after the dogleg at a face and adjacent to an unworked vein.
Back at the Wenley Hill Turn, North-easterly we followed Clay Vein and Mawstone Sough leading to Hillcarr Sough. The passage had water 4ft deep but it was followed until the air space was non existent (we estimate that we were very close to the Pynet Nest shaft where Doug Nash (Op-Mole) had descended some years previous). On returning back up the passage we passed a backfilled passage on the left and a short distance past this another passage was noted but considered to be too unsafe to explore, opposite this on the right hand wall was a concrete wall. Continuing up the passage we passed Porter Vein (a short working to a face) and later another backfilled passage, and then a stope working was passed before another worked out passage was reached. After a quick survey the exploration was concluded.
Goes out to the Late June Kemp, without her continued support and work helping to put the right permission into place, this exploration could not have taken place.
Also to Cheg Chester, Paul Thomson, Dave Gough and other members of the Pegasus Caving Club who attended on the two weekends.
Also to all the land owners, farmers and in particular the mining companies who granted permission to carry out this exploration.
Mines situated South of Millfield Farm Alport
Sketch plan of mine locations South Of Millfield Farm, Alport.
Drawn by Nellie Kirkham
The text that follows are of some of the mines explored by David Epton and myself. Records of our explorations have been lost through a break-in at the address where they were stored. However, with letters from Nellie Kirkham and odd notes in my possession and also my memory I have managed to produce the following:-
Index of shafts in the sketch and reports not covered in my previous reports of the Alport mines.
(1) Pages Shaft.
(2) South Forefield Shaft.
(3) Mr Birds Farm.
(4) Shafts on Bacon Close.
(5) Climbing Shaft.
(6) Lockyers Shaft.
(7) Climbing Shaft.
(8) Railway Close Shaft on Clarks Vein.
(9) Guy Mine Engine Shaft.
(10) Tree Shaft.
(11) Shaft on Leawall Vein (used as a rubbish tip) but access to Conqueror Mine.
(12) Conqueror Main Shaft (run in) and Climbing Shaft nearby.
(13) Mole Shaft.
(14) Run in shaft. The extent of explorations underground on Old Cross Vein..
(15) Site of Leawall Vein Main Shaft and possible climbing shaft to the main shaft.
(16) Site of Old Cross Shaft (filled in by A Rocharc).
(17) Danger Mine Shaft.
(18) Shaft on Fisherman's Vein & Old Cross Vein.
(19) Shaft on Fisherman's Vein & Old Cross Vein.
(20) Shaft on Blackshale Pitts Vein possibly Crash Purse Engine Shaft the second site that the engine was moved too.
(21) Daggletail Close Shaft near farm.
(22) David's Shaft on Leawall Vein in Guy Wood.
Lockyers Shaft (No.6) Climbing Shaft.
The shaft was gritstone ginged to 40ft with the remains of a platform just 10ft lower, the bottom was reached at approximately 100ft. Here the passage ran North-westerly and South-easterly (We thought at the time this could be a section of Shining Sough). South-easterly the passage ended after 216ft at the foot of a run-in shaft (Lockyers Main Shaft. No.5). North-westerly the passage ended again at a run-in shaft (No.7). Here a passage ran in a Westerly direction for approximately 200ft. At the end of this passage was a worked out face with a very tight lead stringer vein, and the remains of a brush, similar to a lawn brush. The floor of this passage was almost flat and clear of any debris.
Back at the climbing shaft (No.6) we were able to descend a further 90ft. Here passages radiated Northerly to the foot of a run-in shaft and Southerly reached the foot of a hading shaft (No 4). Here the ground is very rough and uneven and East the passage is part flooded and ends in a backfill.
Shafts 18 & 19
These two shafts are on Old cross Vein running in a North to South direction and Fishermans Vein East to West is close by. Both shafts are separated on the surface by a farm track and a wall each side of the track. We had hoped to get to the workings of these shafts without opening them up because of their position with the boundary walls. However with no luck with our underground explorations we decided to open up shaft No.18. We carefully removed the Limestone cairn and opened up the shaft. Having plumbed the shaft at 100ft to water we lowered our ladders down with the hope of finding access to workings or even connecting with shaft No 19. I started the descent of the Limestone ginged shaft, but after only a few feet I realised that limestone above me was supported by rotting timbers and cantilevering over to support the base of the boundary wall. I decided not to explore further because of the instability of the rotting timbers and loose limestone. We rebuilt the cairn and strengthened the boundary wall. We also decided that it was not worth trying to uncover shaft No.19 because of its location being close to the opposite boundary wall.
Shaft No 20
The shaft is situated on Blackshale Pitts Vein in a field South of Mr Birds farm and north of the lane leading to Daggletail Farm. The shaft was some 10ft in diameter and limestone ginged. We had information that this shaft had been widened and because of the strata being on a slope, the ginging was strengthened by use of chains. We were not sure how this was done but both chains and wires were fixed back away from the shaft and hung down the shaft. We decided to ladder the shaft and I made the first descent. At 50ft down I could see the end of the ginging sitting on 9” x 9” rotting timbers hanging on the chains. The bedrock was some 18” to 2ft behind the rotting timbers, I again decided that this shaft was not worth the risk to explore. It was obvious that this shaft had been a very important one and had possibly been an engine shaft. It also probably pre-dated the Alport Mining Company, Most of their shafts were gritstone ginged (lined) and not with limestone. (I think that this shaft was the one that the Crash Purse Engine was moved to). The engine was a hydraulic engine designed by R. Trevithick and installed in Crash Purse shaft in 1805. It was later moved to Old Engine Shaft and was working for approximately 40 plus years. The high pressure water acted on 24” pistons on either side by a rocking beam, lifting water from 50ft below sough level.
Shaft No. 21
This shaft was situated on Shack Vein and adjacent Daggletail Farm and had been an engine shaft. We approached the farmer at Daggletail Farm but was refused permission to even look at the shaft. We were told that the shaft was dangerous and had been used as a rubbish tip, including the resting place for two cars.
Shafts in Millfield
Millfield is situated West of the farm, between the farm and the River Bradford. This field was where A. Rocharc was exploiting the mine hillocks for Fluorspar when we first met. The field had had numerous shafts and spoil hillocks and when we arrived most had disappeared. We did however manage to explore a couple. Both shafts were only 50ft deep and ginged for 20ft and both had only one level of 100ft, each following a very thin vein of lead with very little other minerals noted. Although, A. Rocharc was getting a good yield of fluorspar, possibly from the pipe workings that lay under the field i.e. :- Croshaw and Hartle Dale Pipes including the many veins. A year after we had arrived at Millfield Farm this field had been landscaped and no signs of the mines existed.
All photographs and diagrams in this article are the copyright © of Laurence Hurt, unless otherwise credited.
Edwin Laurence Hurt, Nottingham 2021