The Lead Mines of Stanton in the Peak
Walk down Stanton, past all the houses, past the park wall and just before Pennystones Corner in the field to your left you will see a large mound of earth. Peer over the hedge to your right and you will see a roughly circular stone wall. A hundred metres or so across this field is a noticeably flattened area of ground. These artefacts are the most visible remnants of Stanton’s once thriving lead mining industry.
The mound of earth and the circular wall mark two shafts on the Amos Cross lead vein. The walled shaft was also, I’m told, once a disposal point for Stanton’s sewage. This must have made life interesting for the explorer I saw, years ago, being lowered down the shaft!
Of much more interest is the levelled patch of ground. This marks the site of the Kirkmeadow Shaft, which has now been capped and made safe, although, unfortunately, at the same time the little sandstone “coe”, or miners’ hut, which stood by it, was demolished. I remember, as a teenager in the 1970’s, dropping lighted newspaper down the wide open, 2.7 metres in diameter, shaft to reveal the impressive stone lining, or “ginging”. Kirkmeadow Shaft once held an underground water pressure engine, which was fed by water from the Ivy Bar brook and pumped into a drainage level called Thornhill Sough (pronounced “suff”) which joins the shaft at a depth of about 50 metres. Water pressure engines use a small volume of water falling in pipes through a large distance to move a piston within a cylinder, which in turn operates pumps deep down a mine. The engine worked from 1848 until 1851, when the Stanton mines had to be closed because of flooding, despite the efforts of the engine.
To gain an impression of the possible size of this water pressure engine, I recommend a visit to the Peak District Mining Museum, in the Pavilion at Matlock Bath, wherein there is a preserved water pressure engine, dating from early 19th. Century and recovered from a mine near Winster, but originally installed in a mine near Alport.
The Stanton mines were part of a larger enterprise, the Alport Mining Company, formed in 1839 and which ran 7 water pressure engines, many based near the offices of the company at Broadmeadow, just off Lawns Lane (the left turn for Harthill, off the road to Hawley’s Bridge – the triangular structure is a loading platform for the lead ore carts.) You can’t miss the old spoil heaps in front of the offices, which are now cottages. The story of the Alport Mining Company is fascinating in itself, but I would need a much larger article than this to tell their tale.
The Alport mines were drained by the longest sough in Derbyshire, the 7km long Hillcarr Sough, which runs from the Alport mining field, under Stanton Moor, to the River Derwent in Darley Dale, about 2.4 km south of Great Rowsley. The sough tail is an impressive sandstone arch, large enough for boats to enter to remove spoil. The boats were able to travel as far as Alport. In its heyday the sough was discharging in excess of 27,000 litres per minute into the Derwent. Much of Hillcarr Sough is now blocked, but water still flows from the sough tail. Hillcarr Sough was started in June 1766 and completed in 1787. The driving of the sough included the first known strike in Derbyshire, by Stanton Lees men, over Sunday working. The miners lost the dispute and were sacked. Unfortunately, they may have been the lucky ones as, shortly afterwards, some of their successors were killed in an explosion in the sough. This was not unusual; the fatality rate in lead mines at that time was around 30%. The arrival of the sough in Alport was marked by a celebration in April 1787, during which an ox and two sheep were roasted and ale was provided to the 400-500 celebrants by the Duke of Rutland.
In 1791, Bache Thornhill agreed that Thornhill Sough could be driven to join the Hillcarr Sough. It was intended that Thornhill Sough would drain the Stoney Lea mines, situated 450 metres left from the junction of the Stanton road with the road to Hawley’s Bridge, near to the lay-by. The sough never reached Stoney Lea mines and was diverted instead about 700 metres further up the road in the Winster direction, where it was linked to the surface by the Brown Bank Shaft, now sealed and partly under the road, although a small hole in the wall on the east side of the road sometimes exudes air from the shaft. The Stoney Lea mines were the site of a steam driven Newcomen Engine, installed in 1751 and a waterwheel.
Evidence of earlier, smaller scale workings is dotted around the woods adjacent to Ivy Bar brook and the fields near to Bowers Hall. There is still a visible miners’ path in the woods alongside and opposite Lawns Lane. Lead was mined in Derbyshire in Roman times, although evidence suggests that mining around Stanton was concentrated in the 17th to the mid 19th centuries; most extensively during the time of the Alport Mining Company. An early enterprise was Stanton Sough, begun around 1680, on the River Wye, opposite to Wye Farm and reaching the Stanton orefield early in the 18th century. Even earlier, in 1612, Thomas Eyre filed a Bill against several individuals relating to illegal mining within the Manor of Stanton.
I can’t finish this article without a mention of the magnificent Mill Close Mine, for a time one of the most important lead mines in the world. Begun in Clough Wood, near Birchover, where you can still see the remains of a steam engine house, which my family partly excavated in the 1970s, it eventually extended as far as Picory Corner. In the 20th.Century, the surface buildings were concentrated on the site of H J Enthoven, where, for a time, 3 huge steam engines pumped out huge volumes of water; so much, that it is said that the level of the petrifying well in Matlock Bath, rose and fell in time with the stroke of the pumps. The white gravel dumps opposite H J Enthoven are the remains of the spoil heaps to this mine, which produced 400,000 tonnes of ore in its lifetime. Mill Close mine always battled against water and was doomed in 1938 by a shot firing which flooded the mine. Harry Webster, who used to taxi me and other children to school from Stanton Lees, was a miner at the time and he told me that he picked up his boots and ran as fast as he could for the lifts when he heard the water enter the mine. All the men escaped.
This article is just a brief summary of lead mining in and around Stanton-in-Peak. If you would like to find out more, visit the mining museum at Matlock Bath and try reading:
1) “Lead mining in the Peak District”; by T.D. Ford and J.H. Rieuwerts; ISBN 1-901522-15-6
2) “Lead mining in Derbyshire: history, development and drainage”; by J.H. Rieuwerts; ISBN 978-1-84306-344-5
Dr. Andrew Warren