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Part 1
Raithe Mine & The Western Workings



References to 'Raithe Shaft' refer to the Shaft which is adjacent All Saints Church, Elton, located at N.G.R. SK22235 - 60994 being the main access point for Raithe Mine.

Alternative Names for Raithe Shaft are:

Elton Mine, Cowclose Shaft at the Deep Sough Forefield, and cited in the Pegasus Caving Club logs as Elton Shaft.

Brief History


Exactly when Raithe Shaft was sunk is difficult to determine, but mine workings in this area were certainly in existence in the seventeen hundreds and probably much earlier, because in 1805 Elton's All Saints Church, which is very closely situated to the shaft, collapsed due to extensive mine working beneath it.

A Vein of ore (Coast Rake?) was worked in the Town Street and through the Chapel Yard in the last years of the 17th century. Following a request from the Chapel wardens, in June 1695 the Bishop gave permission to three of the villagers to search for the vein, but all benefits were to be applied to the Chapel. The mining caused damage to the Church foundations, finally in 1805 the steeple fell down. The Church was rebuilt in 1812. [ref. Cox. I877].

From the above reference it is logical to assume that the workings mentioned were situated in the region of Raithe Shaft, it being so close to All Saints Church. However, I would suggest that the reference to ‘worked in the Town Street’ more likely than not refers to Smithy Shaft, aka Bowling Green Shaft which is situated west of the church and at the side of the main road. [see Fig. 1 below].

Fig. 1 is an undated plan of Coast Rake and shows Raithe Shaft but records it as 'Cowclose Shaft at the Deep Sough Forefield', the 'Deep Sough' being a reference to Yatestoop Sough. Yatestoop Sough reached Portaway Pipe in 1774 [ref. Warriner 2000] and was continued from Portaway Mine to Elton Mine by E.M.Wass, owner of Millclose Mine. [ref. Kirkham 1962] So it seems probable that Raithe Shaft was sunk only with the intention of giving access to Yatestoop Sough and workings along Coast Rake.

Raithe Shaft is in fact situated within the Cowclose title, which terminates 414 yards west of Raithe shaft and signifies the start of the Raithe title heading west towards Gratton Dale.


Coast Rake Map Bag C 587-39-1 Cropped.jpg

Fig 1. Part of the undated plan of Coast Rake.

Notes on Fig. 1,  Plan of Coast Rake.

  • The plan has been drawn looking Southwards, i.e. east and west are transposed.

  • 'Bowling Green Shaft' is an alternative name for Smithy Shaft.

  • 'Elton Church Yard 82½ Yards' is the distance from Raithe shaft to the western boundary of the church yard.

  • The plan probably dates from about 1800. [ref. Rieuwerts 1981].

At a depth of 233 feet during the sinking of Raithe Shaft, a coffin level which is a branch level off Cowclose Sough, was virtually bisected. Cowclose Sough reached Coast Rake in approximately 1712 [ref. Rieuwerts 1987]; Given that progress in hand picked coffin levels would have been around three inches per day, with this branch being 513ft in length, a possible date for it reaching the area of Raithe Shaft would be 1720. Physical evidence shows that this coffin level was in existence before Raithe Shaft was sunk to this Horizon.

Fig 2. below is a plan of Raithe Mine dated 1880 and shows the extension of Yatestoop Sough being driven westward from Coast Rake Mine to just beyond Raithe Shaft but surprisingly not connecting with it!.

1840 survey.JPG

Fig 2. The survey entitled   Raithe Lead Mine    Working Plan   1880

Notes on Fig. 2,  Plan of Raithe Mine.

  • What is referred to as Raithe Mine is shown in purple.

  • Although called Raithe Mine it actually shows the extension of Yatestoop Sough to Elton.

  • The shaft at the eastern end is shown on the 1877 Ordnance survey map as 'Coast Rake Mine' but it is actually situated on 'Little Rake', Coast Rake being 300 feet to the North.

  • The Shaft at the western end is Raithe Shaft, adjacent to All Saints Church, Elton.

  • 'Dump' is the site of Stevens Shaft.

Raithe Mine was re-opened in 1871 by E.M.Wass, the owner of Millclose Mine. Production ceased in 1885, [ref. Rieuwerts 2010]. From the tables compiled by A.H. Stokes, H.M.Inspector of Mines for the Midland Counties in his Report for 1896 he states that the mine was still in the ownership of Wass & Son, Lea Lead Works, Matlock, but workers, both underground and surface was recorded as zero.

In 1920 the miners strike at Millclose Mine resulted in Raithe Mine being reopened by the Derbyshire Miners Association. The miners had intended to drive forward from the old forefield of Yatestoop Sough towards Gratton Dale, but the scheme never materialized. [ref. Willies, et al. 1989 & Willies 1995].

Raithe 1920.JPG

Raithe Shaft after the strike was over with men who refused to return or were rejected by the management of Millclose Mine.

(Photo donated by the late John Milward to The Miners Standard Inn, Winster).

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The person shown descending the shaft is not attached to the stowes being operated by the two men but presumably the crab winch shown in the photo above. Note the small child looking on from the school playground. Photo: Courtesy of PDMHS photographic collection.

CC 3 snip.JPG

View of Raithe Shaft looking north east over open fields, now totally obstructed by modern buildings.  Photo: Courtesy of PDMHS photographic collection.

After the closure of Raithe Mine by the Derbyshire Miners Association fifty years would pass before the next descent of Raithe Shaft was undertaken by 'The North Staffordshire Mining Group'. On their first descent the shaft was found to be obstructed by coils of old steel cable which had to be cut away before a complete descent could be made.

For many years this shaft was left virtually open, with only a token crude cover of materials taken from whatever was found lying around the immediate area. It is surprising that the shaft was never totally filled in, being situated in the centre of the village and only some 20 feet from the local infant school playground.


Around 1970, the local council approached the landowner for permission to divert the surface water from the village's main road directly into the shaft. and this was agreed upon with the understanding that the shaft would be properly capped. In 1971 a trench was dug from the main road, along Joules Croft at an ever-increasing depth towards the shaft. When it finally reached the shaft, a hole was punched through the gritstone blocks of the ginging and a 9-inch pipe inserted, the point of entry being 12 feet below the surface. The top of the shaft was then covered with heavy gauge steel piling sheets, arranged to leave a small hole in the centre of the shaft, directly in line with the drainage pipe. A 17inch diameter manhole cover was then positioned over the hole and the entire surrounding structure concreted to a depth of 8 inches. Presumably the manhole was fitted to allow access to the pipe in the event of a blockage, but it would have been a very brave council worker who dared to entered through the tight 17inch manhole with a set of drain rods with a 300ft drop immediately below him.

Around 1995, during a conversation concerning Raithe Mine, between Cheg Chester, et al. and the late George Carson, father of Alan Carson the current owner of Homestead Farm and on who’s land Raithe Shaft is situated. George stated that one-day he had been approached by a local spar miner by the name of Eric Fisher who informed him that he intended to re-work Raithe mine via the shaft. George’s reply was very curt and he told Eric Fisher that in no uncertain terms would he allow such a thing to happen and as a consequence, and to prove his point, the next-day he cut-down all the headgear and associated structures and dropped them down the shaft.

George Carson also elaborated on a building, since demolished, which was located directly opposite (to the east) of the shaft and at the side of Joules Croft. The building had a distinctive patch in its corrugated iron roof where at one time an opening for a chute, which ran directly from the shaft head and across Joules Croft carried the mined ore for processing. Within the building there were foundations constructed of concrete for heavy processing machinery, possibly a crusher and buddles, to stand on. See Fig. 3.

The above historical account compliments well the description given in the ‘Managers Report’ Fig. 4.

Ariel Elton Building White.JPG

Fig. 3. Showing the building with it's patched roof where once the chute had entered to carry the ore for processing and the relevent position of Raithe Shaft. Photo: Lynn Burnett, with her kind permission.

A New Lid

When the North Staffs Mining Group and the Pegasus Club started winching this shaft as a convenient entrance to access the workings on Coast Rake and the lower reaches of Cowclose Mine, members cursed the manhole opening. Having only a 17inch diameter, for a descent, it was necessary to initially pass the winch seat vertically through the manhole opening, reach down and make it level, and then carefully lower it down the shaft a further 6feet. Then using a short length of electron ladder, you entered the shaft via the tight squeeze of the manhole opening, descended the ladder to reach the free-swinging seat and then tried to manoeuvre your rear end, as best possible, onto it.
Not only were these antics considered quite dangerous but it also increased the amount of winching time required per person to make a descent, especially if an individual had gear clipped to the underside of the seat.

A short video showing the contortions necessary to gain access onto the winch seat can be seen here.


Therefore, a club decision was made to replace, during the winter months, the 17inch manhole with something larger and more easily usable. Paul Thompson managed to source a suitable sized manhole cover and this was then shipped down to Nigel Burns in Bristol who fabricated and fitted the necessary locking bars. When this work was completed all was ready to simply remove the old 17inch manhole cover and fit the new one. Simple enough job, use an angle grinder to cut out the old manhole cover and expand the size of the hole, cut away the unwanted areas of steel piling sheets, drop in the new manhole cover and finish off with a bit of concreting. Job done what could be easier !

Work on the project started on the weekend of February 5th 2000 with a small team of volunteers consisting of Bob Holland, Nigel Burns, Pete Forster and Cheg Chester. In reality, the simple work that we had anticipated to do as outlined above, turned out to be far more of a trial, to say the least. We were equipped with a fairly large electric percussion drill and angle-grinder, the plan was to drill a sequence of holes around the edge of the existing 17inch manhole cover and chisel out the concrete in between. This proved to be a very slow and painful process as the existing concrete aggregate consisted of quartz based pebbles and not limestone as we had expected.


Pete Forster, Cheg Chester & Bob Holland slowly nibbling away at the extremely hard concrete which held the old 17inch manhole in place.

Photo: Nigel Burns

It took four people, numerous cutting discs, nearly one hundred drilled holes and plenty of blood, sweat and beers before the old manhole cover was finally extracted. Cutting out the final dimensions required to fit the new manhole cover was only achieved on the day thanks to Dave Gough and Paul Thompson who arrived late afternoon and provided fresh hands and hearts, the original workers being all but destroyed by the efforts of hours of chiselling. Darkness caused work to cease after eight hours of committed graft and with the new manhole cover still not in place as originally planned. For safety, the open top of the shaft was covered with several hundredweight of gritstone blocks and the weary team retired to Magpie Cottage, Sheldon for the Saturday evening; well, in truth, most of the evening was actually spent in the Bulls Head at Monyash.


The old manhole cover finally extracted and the new one ready to be placed in position.   Photo: Nigel Burns

Sunday morning and the weather was still fine, so Pete Forster, Nigel Burns and Cheg Chester decided to try and finish the project. The new manhole was placed in the hole above the shaft, resting on the steel piling plates that had given support to the original manhole cover and concrete surround. It was then levelled to the original concrete surface using pieces of broken brick in the corners for adjustment. We had to use some sort of shuttering for the proposed fresh concrete pour to prevent it running through. An old length of soggy hardboard that was lying around the site proved just the job, Folding it around the inside edge of the manhole frame and wedging it in place with a few bits of timber offcuts took just a few minutes to accomplish.


The 'Soggy Hardboard' wedged in place ready for the concrete pour.

Photo: Nigel Burns

With Pete Forster mixing and Cheg Chester pouring, the concreting task was soon completed, although the new manhole cover could not be fitted to the frame due to the raised hardboard shuttering. Therefore, using large gritstone blocks and timbers, which were to hand, a temporary shaft cover was put in place. The following Monday evening, Simon Redfern who lived in Elton village, walked over, removed the hardboard shuttering, fitted the new manhole cover into the frame and locked it in position.


The finishing touches.  Photo: Nigel Burns

Saturday morning 19th February, Dave Gough and Cheg Chester arrived armed with an assortment of cutting discs in order to try and remove excess metal from the piling sheets which were restricting the dimensions inside the newly fitted manhole cover.

Simon Redfern had been asked to leave the new lifting handles and key outside the back door of his house in Elton for collection if he was not going to be around, however he did not receive the message which resulted in the working party having no means to open the new cover. Fortunately, an urgent phone call to Paul Thompson’s wife Judith revealed that the super-efficient ‘Tomo’ had clearly labelled a spare key which was amazingly hanging on the house key rack (strange).


David Gough & Cheg Chester completing work on the new manhole.

Photo; David Gough (is this a selfy)

In order to reveal the steel piling a few inches of concrete had to be carefully drilled and chiselled out down one side then using an angle-grinder the excess piling was cut off and edges ground smooth to ensure that there were no sharp areas for Pete to get caught on. Final task was to grind off the name cast into the metal lid of the manhole cover and this was in order to prevent a sudden increase in vacancies for meter readers…..

Many Thanks’ are due to Alan Carson, not only for turning his farmyard into a car park at times and granting permission in the first instance allowing us to change the lid, but also for access to mains electricity at a very low rate (i.e. Zilch).
Also, Thanks’, to the new resident of the corner cottage for the donation of a bag of aggregate.


Cutting out the excess steel piling sheet to the internal dimensions of the new manhole.

Photos: David Gough

Raithe Lid Oct 2022.JPG

The new manhole cover photographed October 2022. The last time this was opened was 2002 but the bronze Yale padlock opened first time!

Photo:  Malcolm Scothon

Raithe Shaft, The Facts

  • In the past has also been referred to as ‘Deep Sough Forefield Shaft’ and ‘Cowclose Shaft’ [Bag C 587.39.1].

  • It is situated in the centre of Elton Village at N.G.R. SK 22235 60994.

  • The depth of the shaft, which was last reworked circa 1920, is recorded to have been 345 feet. [Willies L. et al. 1989].

  • The current measured depth of the shaft is 288 feet being blocked with debris and infill below this level.

  • Was sunk directly on the surface of Coast Rake.

  • Although vertical throughout its total accessible depth of 288 feet, because Coast Rake hades in a Southerly direction by approximately 5 degrees, this results in an offset of an estimated 30 feet from top to bottom of the shaft.

  • It has rough dressed gritstone ginging for the first 50 to 60 feet from the surface with an average diameter of 6 feet which may indicate that Coast Rake has been worked extensively to this depth.

  • Below the gritstone ginging the shaft takes-on a more rectangular shape and has one or two small workings leading from it which extend for a short distance only.

  • At a lower depth, and with Coast Rake hading to the South, the Rake becomes lost at around the 150 foot-level and from this point the shaft then becomes cut through solid limestone.

Video of descending the shaft will go here

Excavation & Exploration

At a depth of 233 feet, on the south side, the shaft intersects a coffin level running east to west. On the west side, the shaft has been enlarged to create a small working area. From here a narrow ledge formed by the sole of the coffin level, traverses the shaft and allows access into the coffin level heading east.

From the small cut-out working area at the 233ft level in the shaft, the western extension of the coffin level was nearly blocked off by a concrete dam, where only a small gap had been left over the top for access. The dam had obviously been constructed as a reservoir having a metal outlet pipe encased in its base. Reference to the 'Raithe Mine Managers report' dated October 7th 1921, Fig. 3, shown below, gives the probable reason for the dams construction, 'to provide water for machinery and ore dressing'.

Raithe report.jpg

Fig. 4. Managers report for Raithe Mine dated October 7th 1921

On exploration beyond the dam much silt was found and at a point approximately 30 feet along the widened coffin level, it was back-filled to within a few inches of the roof. In order to remove, excavate-out this blockage it was proposed to construct a small 6 inch gauge railway on which a pushed handcart could run. However, the big problem was the dam, as the space between the roof of the coffin level and top of the dam was insufficient to allow substantial amounts of spoil to be removed (passed-over), so it was decided to remove or reduce in-size the dam.

Removal of the Dam

This was a task easier said than done because the dam was at least 10 inches in thickness with a width of 30 inches and was constructed of concrete.
A ‘well-swung’ fourteen-pound sledge hammer just bounced off, so it was decided to try a ‘Jack-hammer’ and a very kind offer of free mains electricity from Alan Carson at Homestead Farm and a 250 foot extension lead enabled work to begin.
However, the concrete proved to be extremely tough and the only way to make any progress was by drilling a series of holes through the dam and then follow-up by hand-chiselling away the remainder. Eventually, we managed to produce a gap down one-side and along the bottom thinking that work with a hefty sledge hammer would then break it from the wall, but despite much effort, all to no avail. Finally, after removing enough from the top and allow the use of a four-ton hydraulic jack to be inserted, it succumbed and we now had open access to install the railway and begin digging.

The initial Cut.  Photo: David Gough

Chiselling out the final bit of the bottom cut. Photo: David Gough

Dam 1.JPG
Dam 3.JPG
Dam 4.JPG
Dam 2.JPG

Prepared ready for the hydraulic jack to break it from the wall.

Photo: David Gough

Gone, and railway finally under construction.

Photo: David Gough

The first section of the rail track was laid on raised timber supports to bring it level with the top of the concrete step which was formed after removing most of the dam wall. Then on moving forwards, once the back-filled section was reached the track was laid on wooden sleepers which rested on the level floor gained by removing the spoil. The rails for the track were constructed from 3 foot lengths of ¾ inch diameter round-conduit piping which had been drilled and counter-sunk at each end to allow them to be secured down by screws to the wooden sleepers. A small metal-plug was inserted inside each end of the joints to form a union to keep them aligned.
The small four-wheeled truck, surmounted on the rails, carried a removable galvanised steel container which could hold approximately two cubic feet of spoil.

West 3.JPG

The truck with its container ready for use.

Photo: Nigel Burns

West 2.JPG

Wooden sleepers spaced 3 feet apart to match every rail joint.  Photo: Nigel Burns

West 1.JPG

Spoil infill used to raise the floor level just below the rails.  Photo: Nigel Burns

West 4.JPG

End of the laid rails at the breakthrough point.

Photo: Nigel Burns

On initial digging, the removed spoil was tipped into the spaces where the track was laid on high timber supports to enable the floor level to be raised to just below the rails. Then when no more space was available, the container, on arrival at the end of the track, was lifted from the truck and the spoil tipped down the blocked shaft.

Historical Find

During digging out the back-filled material an old sledgehammer was unearthed with just a small stump of the broken wooden shaft remaining. When this sledgehammer was brought to surface and cleaned, it revealed the initials C M C stamped into it. It was eventually fitted with a new shaft by Terry Wright and is now in the ownership of Nigel Burns.

Hammer 1.JPG

The hammer head recovered from the spoil with the stamped initials C M C

Photo: Nigel Burns

Digging and Draining

After several digging sessions over a period of weeks a breakthrough was finally achieved. However, the backfill had been damming back a considerable amount of water and after removing the final few feet of debris there was an almighty deluge caused by an estimated depth of 2 to 3 feet of water held back for a distance of several hundred feet. As the escaping water rushed along the level and down the open shaft the noise was deafening.
On this occasion and with the diggers thoroughly soaked, it was decided to allow the passage to fully drain to its own level and the exploration of the newly opened passage would have to wait for another, drier, time.

As previously mentioned, it is assumed that the dam was constructed during the brief re-working of the mine circa 1920 as a reservoir, the back-filled material being deposited before the dam was constructed. Because the back-fill produced an efficient dam in itself, the usable storage area between the dam and the back-fill was very small. It is conceivable that originally a drain did exist beneath the accumulated spoil but this had silted up at some stage during the intervening seventy-five years, thus forming a dam and causing the water to back-up.

Exploration of Newly Exposed Passages

The extent of the workings in a westerly direction from Raithe Shaft at this level was not known, but the possibility existed that they could extend as far as Gratton Dale.

The passage that had now been made accessible beyond the dam was very old, being a continuation of the coffin level driven from Cowclose Sough which commenced driving in 1702. The coffin level along this section has been widened at a later date with only the roof and a short length below it (upper walls) being left untouched.. It seems unlikely that Raithe Shaft was actually in existence at this time, but cut the coffin level when it was sunk at a later date. What is reported to exist however at this early date is Smithy Shaft, which has also been referred to as Bowling Green Shaft [ref. Bag C 587.39.1]

Smithy Shaft was presumably named due to its very close proximity to a Blacksmiths Shop in Elton village. It is situated 475 feet to the West of Raithe Shaft at N.G.R. SK 22090 60964 on the North side of Main Street and very close to the road. Today there is no indication of the actual shaft opening on the surface but a clue exists in the drystone boundary wall between the pavement and a small allotment garden behind, where at this point the wall displays a very prominent ‘dip’.


From the appearance of the ‘dip’ it can be assumed that Smithy Shaft ‘ran-in’ at some stage and that the remaining depression it caused on the surface was filled-in, which at a later date after ‘settling’ caused the ‘dip’ in the wall.
Had Smithy Shaft been fully filled-in, then ‘settling’ on the surface would have only been observable as a typical shaft shaped depression, located not so close to the wall and would have been periodically levelled with soil.

Smithy Shaft.JPG

The assumed site of Smithy Shaft showing the dip in the boundary wall.

Photo: Malcolm Scothon

As both Raithe Shaft and Smithy shaft had been sunk on Coast Rake we were hopeful that our newly opened passage would connect the two. Progress beyond the breakthrough point was initially through waist deep water being held back by the remaining spoil. This gradually reduced in depth until a cross-cut passage on the south side was reached 160 feet from the dam. This had been driven in barren ground for a distance of 70 feet to a forefield. The main passage continued for a further 250 feet to a collapse which totally blocked off the passage. The material causing the blockage consisted of small deads which had fallen out of a packed stope on the north side of the passage. Trying to remove this material resulted in it being continually replaced from above. The trip was concluded at this point until some sort of support system could be devised to pass this obstruction.

The following set of photos represent a gentle stroll west from the end off the rail system with the passage averaging around five feet in height. The last photo in the sequence is taken where the roof was supported to aid in the removal of the total blockage. Photos: Nigel Burns



Armed with a good selection of timber, wooden wedges and hand tools on our subsequent visit to the blocked passage, we were able to provide support to the loose (deads) material to roof height. After removing the material directly causing the blockage a way through to the passage beyond was established.
However, after only a further 100 feet yet another obstruction was reached in the form of several large blocks of stone but fortunately a way through was quickly found over the top of them by removing a small amount of material.

Beyond the ‘blocks’ obstruction, the passage soon opened up into a high stoped out area having a large amount of precariously stacked deads on its north side. This walking sized passage continued in waist-deep water for 240 feet to a forefield in barren ground. A short cross-cut passage was entered 10 feet from the end of the main passageway which headed in a South East direction and again had been driven through barren ground and ended in a forefield.
The total distance traversed in a Westerly direction from dam was calculated at 750 feet.

On the next visit, with a good selection of timber, wooden wedges and tools, we were able to support the loose material at roof height. After removing the material causing the blockage a way through was soon established. After a further 100 feet an obstruction, consisting of several large blocks of stone was encountered but a way through was found after removing a small amount of material. Beyond this the passage soon opened up into a high stoped out area having a large amount of precariously stacked deads on the north side. The walking size passage continued in waist deep water for 240 feet to a forefield in a narrow un-mineralised vein.  Ten feet from the end, a short cross-cut heading south east is driven in barren ground to a forefield.  The total distance traversed in a westerly direction from the dam was 750 feet.

west forefield.JPG

The West End Forefield, 750 feet from the dam and Raithe Shaft.  Photo: Nigel Burns

West end crosscut.JPG

Looking East from the forefield showing the south east Cross-cut on the right.  Photo: Nigel Burns

On returning to the high stoped out area it was just possible, with the utmost of care, to climb up, avoiding the precariously stacked deads. Progress was made in a northerly direction for a short distance where the stope closed down. However, more workings could be seen at a higher level but all efforts to climb up to these failed. On a subsequent visit, equipped with a set of aluminium scaling poles access to these small higher working was gained. Here a short passage was entered but found to be blocked by very wet, soft material and digging away at it just allowed more of the same to replace it from above. One theory is that this very wet material could be the infill from Smithy Shaft which according to the survey should be very close to this position.


At this point our exploration of the western workings accessible from Raithe Shaft concluded, having shown that no further workings existed on this horizon.


The dig into the infill from Smithy Shaft.

Photo: Nigel Burns


Cheg Chester in the Smithy Shaft Mud-Bath.

Photo: Nigel Burns

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