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Boring Shaft, Winster, Derbyshire.
The Harper - Stanhope Saga


Boring Shaft Winster site arial view

Fig. 1.  Satellite view showing position of shaft, indicated by red circle


The information provided in this article is attributed to the exploration work carried out in the mid 1970’s by the ‘North Staffs mining Club’ and subsequent recent field work carried out by both members of that organisation and the Pegasus Caving Club.

Whilst in conversation with the current landowner concerning the location of Boring Shaft, Winster, Cheg Chester was informed that the shaft still existed but was flooded at the bottom, a fact that proved correct as described in the following report.

An invitation was extended by the landowner to visit and inspect the shaft at a convenient time and accordingly a visit was made on March 1st 2024. On initial inspection of the surface it was noted that the top of the shaft had a partial concrete cap and that the remaining immediate area had been laid with concrete railway sleepers, See Fig. 2.

A photograph taken from between a gap in the railway sleepers revealed dressed gritstone ginging and the presence of a substantially large orange plastic pipe protruding across the shaft, See Fig. 3.

Apparently the pipe had been installed on instruction from the local council in order to drain-away surface water from the nearby B5057, Winster to Elton road and interestingly, when the shaft was first explored on 24th February 1974, the pipe was not present.

Also noted during the March visit was that to the East of the shaft is a large area that has much lower ground level, most probably due to the removal of old lead mine spoil tips for further mineral extraction, because clearly, the amount of ’spoil’ removed, was by far in excess of the material that would have been created from the original sinking of Boring Shaft, leading to the conclusion that other deep shafts must have existed in the close proximity.

In confirmation of this theory, the landowner related that when a small building close by, which had formerly been used as a stable for many years, was demolished, a mine shaft was exposed beneath the flagstone floor and then filled-in during the levelling of the site.

The position of Boring Shaft in relation to ‘Coombe House’ (the ’new house’ mentioned in the report) is shown in the photograph Fig. 4. And on the survey Fig. 7. at a National Grid Reference SK 23881 60664, obtained by GPS, which varies slightly from the Grid Reference given in the report below.



  • The National Grid Reference SK 23881 60664 obtained via GPS, which varies slightly from that given in the report.

  • The Ariel view of the site in Fig. 1. is courtesy of Bing Maps.

  • The photographs for Fig. 2 - 4 were taken January 2024 by Terry Worthington, the occupier of 'Coombe House'.

Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 2. showing part concrete part railway sleeper cap

Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 3. showing the dressed gritsone lining and the new surface water drain pipe.

Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 4. Showing the position of the shaft in relation to 'Coombe House'.

Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 5. David Gough obtaining an N.G.R. using G.P.S. Photo:  Cheg Chester, 2024


After holding a conversation with Mr Ted Dale, one of the inhabitants of Winster, it was learned that there was a shaft beneath a concrete cap situated almost at the top of the small wooded dale that runs towards Winster church from the Plantation Shaft at Placket Mine. This shaft, again according to local information, was supposed to be the main climbing way into Placket Mine. It was decided to mount a search for the shaft and after much difficulty in searching through the undergrowth that abounds in the small dale it was eventually located.

The shaft is located in the centre of a large flat area, on the top of a spoil heap, and is just to the N.W. of a large depression on the same mound at SK 238 607. The new house in the adjacent field to the west is immediately by the side of the shaft.

The position of the shaft, when plotted onto the I768 Nuttal plan, places it as being on Harpur and Stanhope Vein and this vein was part of the Placket Title. Several documents and two plans in our possession relating to the working of both Placket and Orchard Mines during the mid I800's give a little information relating to this shaft.

On the 1843 plan, surveyed by Joseph Gratton, a shaft titled "Harpur and Stanhope or Boring Shaft" is shown on the forefield of new workings heading north out of the Orchard Title, this is the same open shaft found in the small dale and the field that it is in is called Hollow Field on the plan. The term Boring Shaft is interesting as it suggests that the shaft was still being sunk at the time of the plan, and a letter in the Derbyshire Record Office, dated 15th October I842, states that all the Placket work force are at present involved in sinking this new forefield shaft. From this, and other information, it is clear that this shaft was connected with the 19th century workings and not with the more ancient workings of 'proper Placket'. With this in mind and also the possibility of finding a way through into the Orchard Title, we set out to explore the shaft.

Part of the concrete cap over the shaft had previously been broken up and when a mass of jammed rubble and undergrowth had been cleared out of this gap it provided easy access into the shaft. The shaft was plumbed to a depth of 170 ft. and it was flooded with 80 ft. of water. The water level was checked over a period of 3-4 months and it was found that it did not vary by more than 10 ft., which would seem to indicate that perhaps the shaft never was completed down to the 1800’s workings, although it cannot be very far off as the toad-stone should not be much more than 200 ft. deep at this point.

The exploration of the shaft turned into a marathon technical exercise, the first problem (of many) being the fact that the winch, mounted on the Landrover, could not be brought up any closer to the shaft than the bottom of the spoil heap. This point is some 100 ft. to the north of the shaft and apart from the shaft being out of sight from this point, this meant that all communication between the shaft and the winch operator had to be carried out via telephone. The headgear was set up over the shaft and the winch cable was run to the headgear through a pulley slung between two ideally spaced trees and this carried the cable over the lip of the spoil heap, now set up, the shaft was descended.

Survey of Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 6. Side elevation survey with winch setup

The shaft is 4 ft. 6 ins. diameter at the top and is lined with dressed gritstone blocks to a depth of 35 ft. Just below the cap, at the top of the shaft, is what appears to be a walled up level leading off from the S.W. side of the shaft, this could have been a 'walk-in' from a coe, the walls of which are still standing, by the wall separating the new house from Hollow Field, this coe is also shown on the I843 plan. The ginging is sat directly onto thick bedded limestone and after a depth of 65 ft. the shaft breaks into a large stope on the vein, Harpur - Stanhope Vein, with the shaft below the stope flooded with water.

The chamber formed by the stope is 25 ft. high by 8 ft. wide by 30 ft. long, there are two passages out of the chamber, one at each end. The roof of the chamber is horizontal as it is along a bedding plane and this fact later complicated matters no end, to the north the passage leading off is 15 ft. above the sump and a steep scree slope leads up from the sump to the edge of the passage floor which is 20 ft. away from the shaft. To the south, the passage leads off directly below the roof of the chamber and a sheer wall of limestone drops down to the sump from the lip of the passage, which is 12 ft. away from the shaft. There were the remains of a wooden platform spanning the chamber from one passage to the other, but this had to be removed as it hindered access into the passages. A quick assessment of the situation was made and then the shaft was vacated.

Back on the surface a lengthy discussion was held on how to attack the problem of getting into the passages from out of the winch chair. It was impossible to swing into the passage to the south due to it being situated just below the roof of the chamber which, stated, is horizontal. On the other hand we thought that it might be possible to swing into the passage to the north with the aid of a scaffold pole jammed across the chamber to be used as a handrail for leverage and something solid to hang onto, A long length of scaffold was lowered down the shaft on the end of a rope, which was tied off at the surface, the reason for the rope being twofold (A) to prevent the pole being lost in the sump, (scaffold doesn't float; (B) So that the surface party could help to maneuver the pole into position by taking the bulk of the weight. The pole was promptly followed by Alan Steele and 45 minutes later he returned to the surface exhausted after several fruitless attempts to lift the pole into a horizontal position to jam across the shaft chamber. Anyone having experience of trying to work off a winch chair when suspended in the middle of nowhere will understand the problem, in practice one becomes almost weightless and any effort expended on trying to lift, push or pull something into place is met by what appears to be an even greater reaction.

A second line of attack had been decided upon, a horizontal crack had been noticed running round the west wall towards the north passage. Pete Forster now descended the shaft armed to the teeth with what appeared to be a couple of hundredweight of pegs and belays. After the best part of an hour three pegs had been placed in position and the passage was just a jump away, but again it was necessary to have a length of scaffold, this time a short length, the idea was to jam one end into the scree slope and secure the other end to the third peg and this would act as a secure handrail. At this stage another problem had come to light, once the passage had been entered a second explorer would be needed, and when leaving the passage, when the chair was sent down for the second man, it would be out of reach over 20 ft. away. To overcome this problem a 100 ft. length of rope was attached to the chair and the other end of this was secured in the passage where it could be used as a hand line to recover the chair. After quite an exciting moment when Pete Forster lost hold of the scaffold and swung back across the chamber at great speed, in reverse, the passage was eventually entered.

The passage is 15 ft. high by 4 ft. wide and is driven along the vein, which here is only a washed out fissure, and the roof extends up as a rift filled with large boulders that do not appear to be too secure. After 30 ft. the passage closes down to 3 ft. high by 2 ft. 6 ins. wide and the passage ends at a fall after a further 30 ft. Although this passage wasn't expected to go very far (it is shown to end after a short distance to the north on the Nuttal plan), it was still a disappointment, the sum total of 60 ft. of passage that took at least 4 hours to enter and 5 minutes to explore.

The exit from the passage was exciting as the acceleration gained whilst swinging back into the shaft was incredible and care had to be taken not to crack ones skull on the south wall of the chamber.

Survey of Boring Shaft on Harper Stanhope vein, Winster, Derbyshire

Fig. 7. Boring Shaft survey and surface features

During the following week a plan of attack was draughted for entering the south passage and so, the following weekend the shaft was descended by our climbing expert Norman, again armed with pegs and slings. The idea was to attempt to peg a route up the south wall of the chamber and so into the passage but after a short while Norman was brought up to the surface, as there were no cracks. We now had to resort to a second plan, which was quite a technical exercise.

Whilst the gear was being sorted out for the main assault, Pete Forster was lowered down the shaft armed with lump hammer and star drill, his task was to bore a 2 inches deep by half inch diameter hole in the solid limestone to accept a Rawleye, this being placed just above the floor level of the passage to be entered and directly below the shaft. A special technique for boring this hole had to be adopted, due once again to the 'laws’ governing a person suspended in mid air, the method being to swing ‘to and fro' in the shaft, the 'to’ being a period of rapid hammering of the drill while ‘fro’ was a rest period. The Rawleye having been securely fixed, Pete was wound out of the shaft and the tackle for the assault was fastened to the chair, this included numerous belays, waist-lengths and of course a length of scaffold, this time fixed to the chair with a long wire belay.


Norman was now lowered down the shaft again to position the tackle. The scaffold pole was lifted with great difficulty and one end positioned in the passage whilst the other end was secured to the Rawleye, the pole then being pulled back to tighten the belays to the eye and to jam the far end up against the wall of the passage. With the tackle now positioned, Norman was brought out literally knackered. Alan Steele was now lowered down the shaft armed with a length of electron ladder. The ladder was attached at both ends to the scaffold pole, the idea being to step out of the chair onto one end of the ladder, after life-lining oneself to the pole itself, and then to traverse across the pole by standing in alternate ends of the ladder while sliding the loose end along the pole. This was made difficult by the fact that the wall of the chamber hades and this causes one to have to lean out backwards, this became very tiring especially on the way back as some difficulty was encountered in climbing back into the chair as it had swung almost out of reach. Once into the passage it is 5 ft. high by 3 ft. wide, it is again driven along the vein and the passage has a false floor. After a quick reconnaissance of the passage the news was shouted across to the phone hanging on the chair out in the shaft, 'IT DUN'T GO’. The passage ended after 25 ft. at a large fall and so the great Harpur - Stanhope saga ended with the exploration, being a complete anti climax.

During our explorations at the shaft, the owner-of the new house that is adjacent became rather worried as he thought we may have been thinking of reworking the shaft and the thoughts of a headgear and dressing plant by the side of his house didn't quite appeal to him, but we assured him that although at a moments notice we could 'nick' and rework the shaft, we had no intention of doing so. He told us that in recent years, before the new sewage system was installed, sewage was piped down either this shaft or a. shaft under the hollow on the spoil heap, despite this there is no foul smell in the shaft. The fall encountered in the southern passage is below the large hollow at the surface and this is perhaps the site of an earlier shaft onto Harpur - Stanhope Vein that has now collapsed.

Report Ends

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