Wheels Shaft & Bob Pit
2000 & 2019
Alternate name :-
SK 22808 64848
119.66 metres AOD (Shaft collar)
The Wheels Shaft site is situated within the private estate of Haddon Hall. Access is strictly controlled and was only granted after lengthy negotiation with Haddon Estates. At present, only six members are registered with Haddon Estates to visit the site and all visits MUST be arranged with the estate in advance. Please do not jeopardise the Clubs lengthy negotiated permission by visiting the site illegally. Thank You.
Diary of the initial investigation in 2000
The Wheels Shaft site was first brought to the attention of The Pegasus Club in 2000 by Simon Redfern, who was at the time working as a gamekeeper for Haddon Estates, the owners of the site. Simon had joined the mining section of the Pegasus after becoming interested in our activities in the Elton area. Our first visit was on 28th May 2000 and it was immediately apparent that this site needed a full investigation into its construction and purpose. The following logs written by Cheg Chester, outline our initial investigation and findings, creating more questions than answers.
28th May 2000. Pete Forster, Simon Redfern, Nigel Burns & Cheg Chester.
On entering the wheel-pit, a high powered spotlight was used to illuminate the shaft. On this day the distance to the water was twenty five feet from the lip of the shaft, and even though the water was crystal clear, the surface was being disturbed by falling water. You could just make out several dark areas within the flooded shaft, which it was assumed were submerged timbers. On the South side a rough opening had been made in the ginging, but only the top few inches were above water. Using a lifeline it was possible to traverse around the north wall and gain access to the far side of the shaft where a larger opening, mostly above water level, could be seen in the North wall.
It was decided that the whole of the floor area of the pit should be cleaned of any debris as this would enhance the features and improve the appearance for a photographic session. At the open West End, there was quite a depth of soil, which had fallen in over the years, but the rest of the pit had only a thin layer of silt. A “tide-mark” of small debris round the walls, indicates that the shaft can fill completely and rise to a depth of several feet within the pit. Had this structure not had the good fortune to remain on private land, it is doubtful if it would be accessible today, surely being used as a convenient rubbish tip. On clearing part of the floor area, two slightly recessed areas which once held bearing blocks were found, the fixing bolts, (two per bearing) were still in situ and had been “leaded" in.
Showing the recessed areas and fixing bolts that held the bearing blocks that the Eastern angle bob was supported on
After the tidying, we decided to descend the shaft and inspect the openings in the ginging. Pete, Cheg and Nigel took turns to descend, noticing that the North hole opened out into a flooded stope with an upward sloping passage leading off to the rear. To reach this passage would mean a traverse above the flooded stope, and having only dry grotts and wellies, (not ideal swimming attire if you peel off) it was decided not to attempt entry. It was possible to bridge yourself in the hole and look into the stope, to reveal that the ginging consists of dressed curved gritstone blocks, approximately six inches in thickness, with a space left between them and the limestone bedrock. Due to the previous activities the water was now very dirty so nothing could be seen below. The holes in the ginging are not part of the original structure, nor are they caused by collapse. They may have been made at a latter date to give access to Wheels Rake, which passes through the shaft, but for what reason can only be guessed at.
18th June 2000. Cheg, Melvin Bratt, Nigel & Pete.
Two reasons for today’s visit. First, begin taking measurements of the wheel-pit in preparation for a scaled drawing, which we hope will assist in a better understanding of how the wheel was installed and connected to the pumps. Second, descend the shaft with wetsuit, mask and snorkel to determine the feasibility of diving in the shaft at a later date.
After donning wetsuits in the high eighties temperature, we were glad to enter the coolness of the pit. On looking down the shaft, it was obvious that the water was at a lower level than the previous visit. (Measured at thirty-three feet below the lip). Also, there was less disturbance on the surface, allowing a better view into the depths. The dark shapes previously thought to be timbers were in fact apertures in a submerged staging, the silt on the staging reflecting more light. Much to our amazement, the rising main appeared to be in situ just below the surface of the water, with a “clack” valve box fitted to the top. Because the later working of this shaft is said to have pumped water to the horizon of Hillcar Sough, it would be expected that all “pitwork” would have been removed, if not to be used elsewhere, then sold when the Alport Mining Company closed in 1851.
A galvanised steel belay was fixed into the South wall, so alleviating the need to belay from the usual tree on the surface. Laddering down the shaft into the water, with only a small amount of dirt having been dislodged, the visibility was excellent when using the mask and snorkel.
Looking across the shaft to the East after the pit was cleared of silt and debris.
Peering down the shaft, it was obvious that there was a staging, maybe twenty feet below, covering approximately eighty percent of the shaft. From twenty feet (guess) above the staging there was not enough light present to see any detail below the staging, only a deepening green. An inspection of the rising main revealed that it was actually the top section of a pump. The pump rod, which is a round bar, has a joint just above the point where it enters a stuffing gland into the pipe below. What had appeared to be a clack valve box, is in fact the square sectioned side outlet between the internal piston and the top of the pump, which may have discharged into a cistern or been connected to the rising main. Judging distances underwater is very difficult and it is hoped that the water level will continue to drop so the true dimensions can be recorded.
With the water level at a lower horizon, the hole in the North was now a short flooded stope, ending in a vertical stack of unstable looking deads, above which is the bottom of the inclined passage. The hole in the South side was now several feet high and gave access to an open stope, maybe twenty feet high in places, but with stacked deads, some on timber, some on nothing. It was possible to snorkel along this passage looking down into the lower working, all of which looked a bit of a mess. The passage continued but it required exiting the water by climbing over half submerged deads. This was left for another day. After changing it was decided to leave the survey work for a future visit.
Standing on the pump approximately two feet below the surface of the water
The stuffing gland which suggests an earlier use of the pump barrel
22nd July 2000. Cheg Chester & Bob Holland.
Even though this trip was intended only for taking dimensions of the wheel pit and its features, the first thing we did was to check on the height of the water compared to the last visit. The water had now dropped below the top of the protruding pump rod but still remained above the top of the pump. There was very little disturbance on the water, and although this may be wishful thinking, there appeared to be another outlet on the same side, but lower down the pump. With less water to obscure our vision, the staging did not appear to be in a very good condition, but the gap round the pump is larger than was first thought. It would be very easy to lower a C.C.T.V camera through the gap to inspect below the staging. The hole in the South side of the ginging which had been entered by floating in, was now left completely dry, with the ginging below appearing to be intact as far as the staging. The shaft was not descended on this visit.
With the aid of a plumb-bob attached to a fibron tape, measurements were taken from the lip of the shaft, this being the lowest part of the pit floor, which is on the South side. They were: - To water, 38ft, to the top of the pump, 40ft., and to the staging, 49ft.
If you want to dream of the possibilities, try this. Hillcar sough is 80ft below shining Sough. Shining sough is at river level. The lip of the shaft is maybe 6ft. below river level, making the staging 55ft.below Shining Sough. Now, the underground Wheel is reputed to have been 18ft. diameter and must have been situated above, or at the level of Hillcar Sough (Thornehill Branch), making the top of the wheel only 7ft. below the staging. All of this is based on bits off scant information gathered from various articles, mainly in the P.D.M.H.S. bulletins and may be a complete load of rubbish, (My interpretation, not the articles) but I cant wait to see if the water continues to fall.
Having been in cloud cuckoo land for a while, I shall finish this entry by saying that the pit was surveyed, (to the nearest centimetre), so we can now produce drawings which hopefully will reveal some clues as to how the wheel functioned. In-fill below the entrance needs clearing to complete the survey.
The completed Drawing based on measurements taken by the Pegasus Club Nottingham in 2000
10th August 2000 Cheg, Dave Gough & Nigel.
It was decided that if we were to complete the drawings of the pit we would need to remove the in-fill, which had fallen in from the open end. A scaffold pole, complete with pulley and rope, was fixed across the top of the arching just inside the entrance. With one person digging, one pulling, and one stacking, good progress was achieved. At first, the in-fill consisted of dry soil, below which was a mixture of boulders/stones intermixed with clay/silt. The removed material was tipped to the rear of the entrance depression, using the boulders to construct a retaining wall. (Think I'll put in a bill for the rockery). The first thing to be revealed was a bedrock ledge, which protruded at an angle into the pit and formed the foundation for the entrance wall. Eventually, part of the masonry floor was uncovered, to reveal a further two recessed areas, which once held bearing blocks, matching the position of the ones at the far end of the pit. Between the end walls and these bearings, the floor is at a lower level, forming a shallow trough. At the far end, this trough had three large blocks of timber fitted between the back of the bearing base and the back wall. The spaces between these blocks are filled with hard packed debris (Crushed limestone?), but the trough under the entrance had only clean filling, no wood. Nothing of interest was found in the in-fill except a single piece of coal and some bones, which may have been Dog. It was decided to dig out the remaining floor where it slopes down to the lip of the shaft. This was thought to be solid and to reflect the shape of the underside of the wheel, but a quick probe revealed this may not be so. As time was running out, this was left for another day. Water level was still not below the top of he pump.
Looking West at the entrance before the infill was removed
26th August 2000 Barry Sudell, Paul Thompson, Cheg & Nigel.
Multi purpose visit. Nigel used his telephoto lenses to try and get a close-up of the still submerged pump. Measurements were taken of the features that had been revealed during the previous visits digging session, and also filled in a few details missed in the initial survey. Several weeks before, Barry had been asked if he would consider diving the shaft. For him this was his first visit and he was so impressed he agreed to dive the following weekend; work permitting. Because the action of a diver kitting up in the shaft would result in losing the good visibility, a scaffold will be erected within the pit, to allow a free descent. According to Barry this should be a first; a fully kitted cave diver, abseiling down a fifty foot shaft into 180 feet of water.
2nd September 2000, The Dive. Barry, Cheg, Pete, Dave & Simon Redfern.
After transferring all the gear into, and onto Petes Land Rover, we drove down the side of the river to the shaft. Access into the pit was made a little easier by using an aluminium stepladder, instead of electron and halogen floodlights, connected to the generator lighted the area. First job was to construct a scaffold over the shaft, which would enable Barry to descend directly into the water. By positioning the base of two poles onto the lip of the shaft and attaching a horizontal pole across their tops, it was possible to lean them high up against the right hand wall of the pit. A second horizontal pole was placed across the two diagonals and by sliding this up or down, the descent rope could be positioned to hang anywhere in the shaft. Nigel had previously provided a length of steel box section, which had been used as a belay at ground level. The rig was cross-braced to this to reduce flexing. A couple of dumbbell weights belonging to Dave's son were attached to the shot line and lowered into the water. At a depth of approximately 30ft the line went slack and even though the position of the line was changed, no greater depth could be obtained, so it was tied off leaving the rope taught. This weight was to enable the diver to pull himself downward on the line. The SRT rope was positioned for the descent, and an electron ladder was fixed to one side for the divers ascent. All we needed now was a diver who hopefully was somewhere between Pendle and Alport.
The scaffolding arrangement to allow the diver a free descent down the shaft
A pre dive inspection by Barry Sudell of the equipment to enable him to enter the shaft
With the diver in the water, Cheg Chester & Dave Gough await anxiously for his return
Early Saturday morning and I found myself and Ceily traveling down to Derbyshire, full diving gear packed in readiness to undertake a dive in a flooded mine shaft that we had visited the week previously with Cheg, Paul and Nigel. Whether you are into Mining, exploring, geology, or just sheer craftsmanship and long forgotten skills, make no mistake, this shaft and its entrance series will do it for you.
In conversation I had been informed that the total depth of this shaft could be in excess of 180 feet, and at some point should bell out to reveal hopefully a fully intact wheel some 18 feet in diameter at floor level, only the ravages of time, and it’s submersion in water taking it’s toll on the wheels condition. Having said that it was only for us to guess just what had been thrown down the shaft in the de-commissioning process and the ensuing 150 or so years to the present day! What ever lay in wait down there I felt privileged to be invited to dive it, not to mention more than just a little excited at being able to view for the first time in over one hundred years just what the old man had considered not worth the effort in salvaging.
On arrival my gear was quickly and efficiently transported to the entrance, and I duly landed back to earth with a bump on viewing all the scaffolding, belays, ropes, lights and ladders with the generator chugging away in the background providing the power. On inspection the lads had done a magnificent job of rigging the place to make my entry and exit to and from the water as problem free as possible. The plan was to abseil the shaft into the water fully kitted and ready to go, so as to lessen the time spent on surface destroying the visibility.
I was duly kitted up, ably assisted by my batman Dave, who fussed over me like your mother but was an invaluable help! Getting a sit harness over a dry suit is something of an experience, it was as close as I ever want to be to being gelded!
My abseil down the shaft to the water was uneventful, and I wasted no time in positioning my mask and submerging. A quick recce showed me that below the pump a cast iron pipe descended as far as I could see; the shot line lowered by the lads was adjacent to the pipe and followed it down. Below me was an almost intact timber staging with a square hole through it, but nothing else. I followed the pipe down and was able to pass below this staging to the next level. The next section of staging was exactly like the last, again there was a square hole through but this time it was on the opposite wall and a ladder came up through it, the distance between the stagings would at a guess be about 15 to 18 feet. It would have been great to have a swim round but my exhaust bubbles were dislodging lots of debris from the roof which was slowly raining down. I carried on my descent with mounting excitement and was again able to pass through this next section of staging following the pipe. Here all my dreams were shattered, ten or so feet below me the entire shaft was filled with timbers of all sizes, some lay horizontal but most were standing vertical, or at an angle, sections of ladder were also scattered about. The end of the shot line and the dumbbells rested on top. I clipped onto the line and with the little time available before the visibility blacked out I had a go at trying to dislodge the blockage in the hope that it would all cascade down the shaft leaving the way open for another day, but apart from one piece which broke off in my hand all the rest were solid and resisted any attempt at movement what so ever. The shaft itself was intact and in good condition with no change in shape or dimensions and continued downwards. The pipe was unbroken for its entire length, in reasonable condition and continued down the shaft. I returned to surface in worsening visibility and set about de-kitting to exit the shaft. Dive time was 20 minuets with a maximum depth of 40 feet.
The results of this dive posed more questions than were answered! If the shaft did bell out and there was indeed an 18ft wheel at its base, my maximum depth from the lip of the shaft was in the region of approx 80ft, so how could there be all this timber below some empty sections above, some of the beams about 12 inch square were all sticking up vertically or at angle. Speculation would suggest that the next section of the descending staging or possibly two sections had completely collapsed, or had they? If these collapsed sections were all resting on the next section down it may go some way to explaining what was happening, but the sheer volume of timber present was far in excess of what would have been required to construct a complete section of staging. Had two sections of staging collapsed then the distance from the last staging to the timbers should have been far greater than what it actually was, yet logically there appears to be no other explanation. Because of the nature and construction of the in-situ staging the timber could not have been dropped down the shaft from the surface.
Nigel Burns assists Barry Sudell in kitting up. Note the diver has a sit harness for a 40ft abseil to the water
Barry Sudell all kitted up, taking a last minute look before abseiling down to the dive site proper
17th September 2000 Cheg & Bob Holland
Something new; underwater photography without getting wet. Bob had borrowed a 35mm camera, which was designed for snorkelling and waterproof down to five metres. With a built-in flash and a ten second delay, it was just what we needed to try and get some close-up photographs of the pump. Wearing only dry grotts, Bob abseilled down the shaft and locked off just above the water. Having first attached the camera to the end of a six foot pole, and set the timer to ten seconds, he was able to position the camera at various points around the pump and wait for the flash.
Detailed measurements were also taken of areas of the pump that could be reached using a steel measuring tape and these will be used to produce scaled drawings.The resulting photographs were excellent, even showing the pump rod and what appears to be the top of the piston, visible through the pump side outlet. A few of the unanswered questions are, do the fixing bolt for the lid pass into the side outlet or are they studs? Is the stuffing gland fixed with studs or bolts? Is the gasket lead? Length of the lower pipe sections. Exact position of the piston? Etc.
We then proceeded up Shinning sough to continue work on the survey, adding a further 170 feet.
This doesn't seem a great distance, but we still bear the scars.
Under water photo showing the pump rod through the side outlet. We need to know how far down the piston is
Final visit of the initial investigation
28th October 2000 Bob, Paul & Cheg.
We wanted to have another snorkelling trip to check on a few missing details of the pump, which had been highlighted whilst drawing up the plans. After all the rain of the previous weeks, we realised that the water level would have probably risen too far above the pump to allow this. On entering the pit the depth of the water came as a shock, it had risen to a higher level than we had first encountered back in May. We had no tape with us to do accurate measurements but it was approximately five to six feet above the top of the hole, in the ginging on the South side.
In 2002 on the 5th - 8th July the National Association of Mining History Organisations ( NAMHO ) conference was held at Aberystwyth, the subject being "The Application of Water Power in Mining". Myself, along with Nigel Burns and David Gough attended the conference. I took along a copy of the drawings I had produced from the information obtained during the investigation of Wheels Shaft during 2000 and presented them to Lynn Willies (PDMHS) for his appraisal. He showed great interest and within a matter of weeks I received from him the document reproduced below. This is a previously unpublished paper and is the copyright of Lyn Willies.
Stuart (Cheg) Chester
Wheels Rake - discovery of pumps by Pegasus Club in 2000.
Comments by L. Willies on information supplied and an appraisal of documentary information.
The diagram supplied shows the Wheel Shaft as an oval shaft about 10 x 6 feet along the Wheel Rake vein, with, at an angle probably aligned to the river rather than the vein, the slot probably of a pair of angle bobs (at positions indicated by the beam slots) surmounted by an arched roof. There is an opening in the roof for the shaft top.
Whether the building was used at some time previous to the last use for a water-wheel is not clear - though it is generally supposed to have done so. It was, however, an unusual arrangement to have the wheel almost immediately above the shaft. As shown, with no obvious tail-water outlet, it would require discharge of the water down the shaft (or an intent later to do so) either to a sough or another water-power engine. It is difficult to envisage how the pumping arrangements could be organized with a wheel in place. We should thus consider whether the building was, in fact always a bob-house, designed to have a shaft-top area above the water power arrangements, with a separate wheel-pit with the wheel-crank linked by rods to the angle bobs - a fairly conventional layout in many respects.
The top of a section of a pump rod was found projecting above water in the dry part of summer 2000, at a depth of about 35 feet (where was the datum?) [ The datum point is the lip of the shaft at floor level within the pit ]. Kirkham (1964) noted it was 37 feet to the top of the water in the shaft even in a wet summer, so presumably the water was, by 2000, more obstructed. Since Hillcarr Sough became blocked, the water is now near the entrance level. Sough depth is not known, but this presumably suggests it is within some 50 feet or so of surface (the rise of water in Mawstone Mine).
About seven feet below this, permanently below water, the top surviving section of a pump tree was found. The diagram shows a round section rod of 2.25 inches diameter enters what appears to be a stuffing gland surmounted on a bolted down circular plate. This is bolted to the flange of a 10 inch (internal) pipe. The pipe has fitted to it, close to the top, a rectangular side-entry, which is not at all the usual clack box, and would probably not permit entry of a clack. The pipe section is shown as 36 inches long overall, with less than 24 inches below the side entry. This is very short for a pump barrel, but whether the rod terminates in a piston in the "barrel" or, possibly more likely, passes through it to a pump barrel lower down is not known. The suggestion was made to me that the rod is a plunger-piston - which would need such a stuffed-gland arrangement. However, even with a 10 feet stroke, the diameter is so small as to pump only 2 gallons or so at a stroke, which is quite disproportionate to the pipework
The main source available to us is Kirkham's 1964 article on Wheel's Rake - useful as this is; it is not focused on the present problem. My own notes have a few references, mainly however with reference to the nearby Alport Mines, but I do have a copy of the report used by Kirkham (see appendix) which is her main source for the relevant period. There is a clear need for a substantial documentary re-appraisal.
Wheels Rake passes through Haddon, Hartle (Harthill) and Stanton. The wheelhouse is in Hartle. The rake was drained by its own sough at a fairly high level, which might have provided a bolt for tail water. It was later drained by a deeper level to Thornhill Sough and into Hillcarr Sough and also via Hillcarr Sough via the Blythe Mine and the Shining Sough companies workings, which was probably at a slightly higher level. This offered opportunities for underground water engines, though the level seemed dogged by problems, notably water leakage which affected either Wheels rake itself or, worse, the Alport Mines, who, in the mid 1840s took action to block it off.
Ignoring, for present purposes, the existence of pumping arrangements in the late 17th and early 18th century and here and elsewhere on the title in the later 18th, the present arrangements will not be earlier than the mining phase between about 1824 and 1838. The objective was clearly to sink through the toadstone (volcanic lava or basalt). At this period, Stanton Miners had given up an independent existence and a lease of those mines, possibly to be worked in conjunction with Wheels Rake, was made (12 or 14 years) to a partnership dominated by Wyatt, Barkers and Milnes, with Wyatt and friends having the largest (10/24) share. The mine agent seems to have been William Melland, and William Wyatt (age 21 in 1824) acting as the managing agent at Stanton Mines for a time, re-opening the Thomhill Level - the Wheel Rake pumpway. In the mid 1830's James Barker seems to have acted as managing agent at Wheels Rake as well as at nearby Blithe Mine.
The shaft seems to have been sunk (or widened and deepened) by Richard Page - Alport Sough/Shining Sough/Hillcarr Sough engineer, and William Melland. James Barker complained it was too small at about 10 by 6 feet (Kirkham 1964 p159). A small wheel was borrowed from John Alsop (of the Lathkilldale mines) and installed about 1825. It may be that this small wheel was placed in the house but a later wheel was much too large to be put in it. By using the small wheel, the shaft was sunk to a depth of 34 fathoms (204 feet - 61 metres) to a pumping lodge in the second toadstone, about two fathoms deep in the decomposed lava immediately under the Second Limestone. Six inch lift pumps were used, possibly in two stages, which Barker stated had a 5 feet stroke worked at 25 strokes a minute. Levels were driven off north and south at this horizon.
Since Thornhill Sough had been rehabilitated about 1824 by Stanton Mines, under William Wyatt, it is probable that it was used as a pumpway. That a deep level was used as a pumpway is clear from a comment by Barker that a larger wheel might have pumped to surface (for the small wheel output, this would have required some 9 (delivered) horse power so his comment is valid). Pumping up to a level implies the small wheel actually delivered substantially less than this - but efficiencies for pumping are usually low, and rated output could even be substantially higher).
By 1835 the older wheel was too small, necessitating the erection of a new wheel, cited as 14 feet broad and 18 feet diameter. It was working by November that year. Following an inrush of water into the pump-lodge after pumping restarted (originating from 910 yards away at the Wheels Rake forefield at Black Sough or Ladies Vein in Haddon) the 6 inch pumps were, with great difficulty, removed and 9 inch pumps were installed, in two lifts. These worked satisfactorily by mid January, 1836.
However, it was also intended to use water-power for winding, using a chain, and to do this required shaft modifications. The 10 x 6 feet shaft was of a different form (and size?) as it passed through the last ten or twelve fathoms, and had required "fitting" to the new pumping arrangements. Hand winding could be done but, presumably, a vertical haul was no longer possible from the shaft foot. The new wheel was at a standstill for much of the time during the changes, but in March 1836 the new winder was operating well, though at too low a speed.
The mine remained in operation until about 1841. There were very substantial problems of mining in the toadstone, largely from the pressure exerted by the toadstone clay on supports and possibly by it clogging the pumps. There were also a series of disputes over the extent of their title and their rights in Stanton, Hartle and Haddon with both the barmaster and other owners. A probable loss of some £5000 without any return was probably sufficient to cause shareholders to discontinue, "in face of insuperable difficulties", though they continued to maintain the wheel and pay the water rent (see Kirkham 1964 for outline).
The final working?
A proposal to use the Wheel Rake wheel by Alport Mines in 1841 to pump water to surface whilst Thornhill Sough (the pumping level) was repaired came to nought. Then Wheels Rake was apparently revived in late 1843 or early 1844. The agent was John Knowles, who looked to William Wyatt for instructions (DBL Wyatt Letters: 13th and 30th April 1844). Since one of the shares was a thirteenth, it is possible some former proprietor had withdrawn and others may have disposed of shares to Wyatt's friends (shareholding clients) leaving him in control. Wyatt was generally enthusiastic about sinking to greater depths, as at his High Rake Mine and a combination of doing this almost in direct competition with the neighbouring Alport Mines would have substantial appeal for him. There was bad feeling between Wyatt and the Alport Proprietors.
In early April they appeared to have been pumping, since the water in the lodge stayed steady, but the goit needed clearing out (suggesting several years of disuse) and the level required repair. However, by late April, Alport Mines were concerned that Wheel Rake's pumped-water was percolating into Alport workings through the floor of the level. The Alport company took action to prevent Wheels Rake men getting access to the level via Swallow Shaft (which is alongside the Hawley’s Bridge/Winster Road, claiming that the lease of that area had terminated years before, and placed a gritstone and cement dam in the level to prevent Wheels Rake water getting away.
Disputes over the rights Wheels Rake actually held continued, with Alport Mines claiming the (relevant) Wheels Rake leases had expired, including that of the shaft itself. As a result of the dam in the level, the water rose in the pumping shaft 12 to 15 feet above the level (see Kirkham 1964), which would have stopped access to the pumps unless they had previously been drawn. There is no data at present about subsequent events, but working there seems to have continued until about 1851, when closure of Alport Mines probably made further pumping at Wheels Rake too large a task. Two reckonings of a thirteenth share in 1846 and 1847 amounted to a loss of over £130 - equal to an overall loss of some £1700 (DBL.Wyatt letters 24 October 1846 and 15 May 1847), so that activity was clearly still considerable at that time.
Finally, an undated document notes that amongst the sale of pumping materials from Wheels Rake, one of the working barrels had formerly been a hydraulic engine cylinder at Bacon Close Mine, and was 12 feet long with two waterways in it (Kirkham 1964 p168).
It seems possible the structure at Wheels Rake was a bob-house, and never accommodated a water-wheel as is commonly assumed. The present layout of beam slots suggests that this was the case in the last phases of its use, at least.
The new wheel (1835) was clearly much too large to fit into the (surviving) arched house (assuming this belongs to the 1825 phase, which seems the most likely scenario). It was a very substantial wheel, 18 feet diameter and 14 feet broad: it is difficult to see how this could be installed underground and surely such an enormous construction would have been indicated on Barker's underground section of the mine. Wide wheels such as this were normally either undershot, or, by the mid-19th century, breast or low breast. We should be looking for a suitable site - it could even span the river, but more likely would run in a trench alongside, using a goit fed from a weir. The axle arrangement would presumably line-up with the shaft and be connected by rods from the crank connecting to bobs in the wheelhouse (or the axle could project into it).
There is no mention of the earlier water wheel being removed - it is possible that it was adapted to winding, but references are to "the wheel" which suggests, but does not prove, that there was only one operating. It would make sense for winding to be done by the large wheel too. On balance it seems the most likely scenario is the older and smaller wheel was removed.
The pumps found were probably about 9 inch, since a 10 inch pumptree needs to be wider to allow the piston and clacks to be drawn up for repairs.
The shape of the rectangular side entry on the top piece of the pump tree suggests it is an adaption from another usage, for which an hydraulic engine seems possible - the Pages Shaft (Bacon Shaft) at Greenfield came immediately to mind (all others being accounted for), which had a 9 inch engine installed on the Trevithick principles about 1809: reference to Willies, Rieuwerts and Flindall (1977) showed (to my surprise) this engine to have been sold to Wheels Rake at an unknown date. This was mentioned by Kirkham (1964), but further research is needed. The three feet section could, just possibly, be the cylinder of the engine (elsewhere stated as 12 feet), but more likely, it is the connecting piece for the other side of the valve chest, with a gland-plate bolted on.
As shown, further pipes are bolted to its underside, so it is not a remaining part of an in situ, operating water-pressure engine.
In the unlikely event of the rod being a plunger, then a clack would need to be fitted above the box for it to function, with another somewhere in the pump-tree immediately below. The bottom of the pump would be just below this clack sitting or emerging at the base of a cistern.
The rectangular side-entry may have been used as a discharge pipe at that level (is there a sough opening there? - nothing is shown), in which case the gland may have been used to protect against overspill. If so it will not have stuffing in it. It may also have acted as a crude guide to keep the pump rod vertical so close to the bob connection. If the rod connects to a piston, it will be a lift-pump. The piston will have a clack in it, and a further clack would need to be placed below it. If the pump had a two feet stroke (unlikely), then there will be a second clack just below it and the pumping level will be less than about 20 feet below.
A more likely situation is that the pump barrel is substantially further down, in a pump barrel of ordinary size (8-12 feet). A further clack will again need to be installed just below the piston barrel and there will be a windbore below it.
A possible scenario is that Knowles/Wyatt decided to pump water to surface, either to access the pump level at the time of their troubles with Alport Mines, or, relying on the power of the wheel, permanently to do so. Either an existing lift of pumps might be raised, or a temporary set would need to be rigged. This would result in problems with the movement of the bob(s), the connecting rod from which could not accommodate to the near vertical movement needed in the pumps. The use of the water-pressure engine part with the gland could provide a solution to this: allowing the pump rod to be long enough to reduce the sideways movement before entering the pump-tree. By using the gland for the entry it would have been possible to pump water to surface by means of an offset pipe.
The bottom of the set of pumps of which the rod is visible, unless it is just an emergency set let down, will be standing in a cistern into which a lower set of pumps will discharge. Normally two sets of lift pumps would be used for heights of around 200 feet, as here, the top set rather higher than the lower to allow sinking to take place. Two sets of pumps means they can be operated in balance, reducing or obviating the need for a balance bob in the layout.
It is possible the lower lift of pumps was removed, but the survival of the upper lift is a good indicator the others are still in position, as found at Magpie, Wills Founder and Greensward.
Appendix: James Barker's Report (1836-7) - Wheels Rake extracts (DR0.395Z/Z2)
(13 Jan 1836)
A few day's previous to this, a second lift of pumps, reaching to the top of the second toadstone at the Wheels Rake, or within about 2 fathoms into it, were let down and attached to the wheel, but the difficulty has been experienced in making the pumps work efficiently having been left low in the shaft, the bottom of which is filling to the depth of 3 or 4 feet with decomposed toadstone which is almost as bad a substance as clay for choking up the snore holes of the windbore.
We have had nothing but years of disappointments and mortification's in the Wheels Rake ever since its commencement in 1825. These have chiefly arisen from want of boldly commencing the sinking through the toadstone as now by a powerful wheel which might have raised the water to the surface instead of delivering it into the level brought through Priesthill for that purpose. This will be a lesson to the rest ----- concern of this kind -----unless the partners with whom I have joined are determined to enter with spirit as to their intentions and to conduct their works in the most efficient manner without respect for the cost in the first instance as though they were certain of eventual success until he receives back profit or "Adventure" as the Cornish miners term it.
Monday January 18th. Went to the Wheels Rake where I found Mr Melland who said he expected to roll the water in a few hours to the bottom of the lodge.
Tuesday January 19th. (Wheels Rake) where I found the water had been rolled to the bottom of the lodge which is about two fathoms in the toadstone. When the lodge was sunk the water was lifted by a small wheel borrowed from Mr Alsop but as we had much difficulty in keeping down the water we were forced to erect our new wheel which is 18 feet diameter and 14 feet broad. We started this wheel in November last and worked the pumps, which the former wheel had worked and which were only six inches diameter. The pumps with their 25 strokes per minute of 5 feet stroke, and the water fell rapidly in the lodge but having occasion to change one of the buckets, during the operation the water rose rapidly in the lodge and a large quantity of air bubbles came to the surface of the water. We concluded therefore the toadstone had yielded to the pressure of the water and burst somewhere - allowing a freer passage to the water in it, but found the spring was permanently increasing and it was finally accounted for by our discovery the water in the Winchester level, at the forefield of Wheels Rake in Haddon Fields the Black Sough (or Ladies Vein) was entirely gone.
We therefore inferred that the first cross-vein being a fault had so broken the strata as to allow free passage for the water through the toadstone under which and along the Wheels Rake vein, for the distance of 910 yards it came to our lodge.
We therefore decided on (installing?) 9 inch pumps in place of the 6 inches lift, which we determined to draw out as soon as we could. But owing to their being fast in the lodge, by chains and stays we could not accomplish this till the water was got sufficiently low to enable us to set them at liberty. This, with much difficulty, we accomplished and succeeded at length in drawing out the whole pile and at length we got the new ones to work. After many hindrances as before noted, we at length rolled our water On the 18th and found that the new spring came in the sole of a gate driven in the south side of our lodge, about four fathoms from the lodge. The gate was driven in ten fathoms of the toadstone, taking the toadstone in our -----. It was driven in search of a vein which was supposed to be in that side of the shaft ----
In driving both these gates there was very little water and indeed there did not appear to be room for any to come apart from a slight oozing which appeared in each of the gates as the driving proceeded. There is no doubt, however, that the heavy pressure of water (about 34 fathoms in height) has forced a passage through the toadstone as the new spring (which affords more water than all the others) fills up the sole of our south drift about 4 fathoms from the lodge and the drift is carried forward, about 4 fathoms further, but no water comes in that part. I conclude that the vein runs flat in our drift, and that if this be continued we shall find a new vein further up in the 2nd limestone which forms the roof of our drift.
The remainder of our water comes as it did before we tapped the new spring, viz. a smaller quantity at the joints which in the North Drift is two veins which are poor and barren, but the principal part still comes at a thin parting in the limestone in an upper drift 8 fathoms higher than the North Drift and carried in the lim? With the intention of cross-cutting the principal vein, which, I infer?, runs still further north than our deep drift which has been carried about 18 fathoms from our shaft. Should this prove to be the case, we have, I think, proved a ----- ----- communication between all three veins (the Wheels Rake Vein and probably the Amos also which is a possible vein being divided into several joints) in the space of about 30 fathoms. This communication appears to take place in the soft part of the toadstone immediately under the 2nd limestone -----
(A section of the workings is shown (reproduced in Kirkham 1964) which indicates the shaft to be 32 fathoms to the second toadstone (with a further two fathoms in it for the sump. Gates were driven in the top of the lava under the limestone roof).
----- Before sinking our lodge any further -----
January 26th and 27th. (Wheels Rake) ----- examined the whole of the present workings. I find that a new spring of water in the south level does not appear to come from beneath the 2nd Toadstone -----
He cannot at present continue driving of this gate, as the material would have to be drawn by hand until the apparatus for drawing by the water-wheel can be got to work. This cannot be accomplished until the shaft is widened for the depth of 8 or 10 fathoms since the form of the shaft is different from what it is upwards. This shaft was sunk without a plan being previously made and it has now had to be adapted to the site of the new water-wheel; which has been at a standing (with much inconvenience, expense and loss of time). The shaft is also too small being only 10 by 6 feet, which does not allow sufficient room for the purposes to which the shaft is applied.
My wish was to have had the shaft 12 feet by 8 but in this I was over-ruled by Mr Melland and Richard Page who set it out in its present size. They have both discovered their error now it is too late to repair it.
(Proposes inverted stone arch to support tunnels, with provision for ventilation - and a steam locomotive which would be much cleaner and cause less damage to the (invert) arch of the level).
Monday 28th March (Wheels Rake) we have been engaged in completing the shaft and connecting the apparatus for drawing to the water-wheel. This has been at work almost a week and acts very well - but at the present speed of the water-wheel the drawing chain travels too slowly. This is the first apparatus of this kind which has been used in the mines in this neighbourhood and will prove a real lowering in the expense of drawing. The men are now at work in the south drift, which I have not been able to examine on account of the accident to my arm.
Lynn Willies © 2002
A depiction of the angle bobs that were at one time installed in the Wheels Shaft Pit is shown above. Using a scale section of my original drawing of the pit; when laying out the scale for the bobs I took the distance from the right hand bearing block mounting to the centre of the recess in the north wall, which probably held the rising main out to surface. With the bob beams being of equal length, the maximum distance that the bob can travel would have been five feet five inches. The precise distance would be governed by the crank offset attached to the axle of the water wheel.
James Barker,s Report of 1836-7 (see appendix in Lynn Willies article above) states that the stroke of the pumps worked by both the former "small" wheel and then the new much larger wheel was five feet. From this we could draw the conclusion that both wheels were outside of the pit using the same bob arrangement installed within the pit.
Further investigation 2019
23rd February 2019
Simon Halliday, Malcolm Scothon, David Gough, Andrew Walchester & Cheg Chester
After several weeks of negotiations with Haddon Estates to gain permission to revisit Wheels Shaft at Alport, the team met up at the " Peak Shopping Village" at Rowsley. We then drove to the prearranged parking site at Harthill Lodge where after a quick chat with the current tenant Charlie Finney, we set off on foot to the site. Memories of the exact position of the shaft after 18 years were vague and we soon realised that we had walked past it. Without prior knowledge of the site I doubt whether anyone would actually be aware of its existence even though it is very close to the track. Only a small opening about two feet wide by six inches high was visible above the moss covered steel mesh grill that rests against the entrance at the West end of the pit. After pulling back the grill just sufficient to allow a view of the inside, it was soon realised that the condition of the structure had not deteriorated in any way since it was last visited in September 2000. The only difference being that the water level was approximately 45 feet higher, covering the pit floor to an estimated depth of 4 feet. The rise in water level is due to the collapse of Hillcar Sough which has brought the level in the pit to approximately the same as the adjacent river Lathkill. On the next visit it is intended to set up a laser level to determine the relationship between the level in the pit and the river. The scaffolding that was erected to assist the dive by Barry Sudell is still in place, being partly submerged, but will be useful to attach the shot line to, for the forthcoming dives. To conclude, today's findings will be presented to Haddon Estates and hopefully they will grant us further permissions to undertake the intended dives.
The entrance to Shinning Sough was inspected and with little effort access could be gained. It would be worthwhile taking a look in here if time permits as the opportunity to enter it, being on the private estate may not arise again.
Dave Gough, Cheg Chester & Simon Halliday pulling back the steel mesh that protects the entrance to the bob pit
Looking into the pit showing the water level 45ft higher than in 2000
6th April 2019 Dive Report
S Halliday, A Walchester, M Scothon, K Eady, D Gough
Arriving at Wheels Shaft after previous investigations, SH peeled the old netting only to find the water was no longer there!!! As Kelvin was asking how long we planned to dive we stared into the bob house and wondered if we’d be diving at all!
However closer examination showed the water level to have dropped but not disappeared. A 3.5m ladder was lowered into the entrance and SH investigated the proposed dive base. All looked good with water approx 600mm below the floor level, about 3m lower than last time we were here.
Rigging a sling to the existing scaffold a shot line (4kg) was lowered approx 20m. SH and AW then returned to vehicles to kit up whilst MS and KE proceeded with above ground survey.
Back at dive base with 2x7lt cylinders well filled SH entered the shaft after some gymnastics in order to don equipment. Unfortunately this meant disturbing the surrounding silt and the once gin clear shaft was by now decidedly murky.
A steady decent to the pump at -12m was conducted without incident but in limited visibility. continuing the decent the first timber stagings were encountered at -17m, in now zero vis, SH decided to return to surface and discuss dive plan with surface support. A plan was decided where SH would continue with decent AW surface feeding line to a series of pull signals.
SH noticed some workings going off from side of shaft slightly higher than pump head. A brief look in without leaving the line, left for future exploration.
SH returned to first staging, leaving 2x2kg lead blocks on pump head to aid later operations, and began a very steady decent feet first in zero vis through a labyrinth of old timber. A bit like playing jenga blindfolded, steady but slow progress was made until the line ran out with the diver at -37.7m. Approaching Deco and only having a thin line reel SH decided discretion was very much the better part of valour and a tentative return was made, leaving the line in place.
The shaft was duly ascended and with a reverse of the previous aerobics to dekit.
Sufficient gas remaining in these cylinders, AW then kitted up and in similar fashion perched on side of the shaft.
AW first dived to the pump head to familiarise himself with the layout and then returned to base to retrieve preloaded line reel. AW again descended to the pump head and after some rejigging of the lead weights lowered them down the inside of the pump to try and ascertain distance to next valve. (Measured at 2m, however see later for further info).
AW returned to dive base and all exited the shaft and made safe, leaving shot line in place.
Looking east over the shaft showing the accumulated silt since the pit was cleared out in 2000
Looking down into the crystal clear water before the silt above was displaced as the diver entered the shaft
Simon Halliday ascending from his dive in Wheel’s Shaft using a fixed line attached to scaffolding
Andrew Walchester preparing to dive to the pump in Wheel shaft with Simon Halliday looking on
7th April 2019
After consultation with rest of the team, a plan was made to dive to pump head again, conduct some further measurements and investigate the workings noticed yesterday off the side of the shaft. A line reel was duly loaded and marked at 5m intervals.
SH dived on 2x7lt, Without the activity of yesterday vis at the staging was considerable better and SH decided to descend again. As yesterday a steady descent through the timber work, to end of line. Today making -40m before reaching end of line., By now vis had gone completely. A search of the locality by feel gave the impression that the shaft continued in a similar fashion.
During the descent a careful inspection of the shaft, as best as possible in the limited visibility, was made. The pipe work continues as above with laddering in place which appears to be both iron and wood.
Ascending back through the stages to the pump head zip ties were placed on the shot line at the pump head, the next lower flange and then bottom of the next section of pipe. These were later measured at 620 and 2560mm respectively. This obviously means the 2m measured distance above was to an obstruction. Allowing for errors with method of measuring and flange thicknesses, it is the divers opinion the said pipe lengths will be 2 and 8’ respectively.
A new line reel was then tied in and an investigation of the aforementioned workings were undertaken. Proceeding with caution, belaying the line in a couple of places the workings were investigated to approximately 20m. At this point an area of deads was encountered supported on ancient stemples. With thoughts of hanging death, a prudent diver reversed to enable a turn before removing line and exiting.
SH then ascended the shaft and with assistance dekitted in the shaft. SH and AW then proceeded to “garden” the top of the shaft in the hope that any future diving would be assisted.
Shot line was removed but leaving the sling in place to mark our point of descent.
All equipment removed from site and mesh replaced, before tiding up and a return to the van.
Many thanks to all concerned a great couple of days with some very useful information gained to add to the growing project file.
6th April 2019 Surface Survey
• Equipment used Leica CS20 and Leica GS18 antenna (Borrowed with thanks from Professional Remediation Ltd)
• Leica Jogger level and staff (Own equipment)
The purpose of this survey was to accurately locate the entrance to Wheels Shaft and determine the water level in the shaft compared to the River Bradford some 22m north.
In the wooded valley, GPS signal on the £20k borrowed kit was iffy at best but we did (just) manage to get accurate coordinates and levels for a reference point (Concrete weir pillar) and a water level a few metres up river. The GPS system would not keep any accuracy adjacent to the shaft entrance due to trees/ hillside, so it was back to the car to get the Jogger level, tripod and staff and do things the old fashioned way. With the help from Dave (Cave God) Gough acting as my chain man (staff holder), the Jogger was set up and back bearings taken to the two surveyed points to locate ourselves and then bearings and levels taken on the shaft entrance.
From the surveyed information, the river height was 119.22m AOD and the water height in the shaft was 116.03m AOD, some 3.19m lower than the river and 0.67m lower than the stone floor inside the shaft entrance.
Using some interesting maths, the coordinates for Wheels Shaft entrance are:
E:422808.676 N:364848.387 (SK22808 64848).
The level for the stone floor inside the shaft is 116.67m AOD. I think these coordinates compare fairly well with those obtained by Dave G (SK22804 64842) which I presume were obtained using a hand held GPS.
Next Entry for the Wheels Shaft Project