Review of ‘Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire : its Mines and Miners’, by Dr. James (Jim) Rieuwerts

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 4th December 2000, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

LATHKILL DALE, DERBYSHIRE
*  its Mines and Miners  *

Published to its trademark exacting standards by Landmark Collector's Library of Ashbourne, this title is a considerably revised edition of the 1974 original, enhanced by a number of additional photographs. Author Dr. James (Jim) Rieuwerts has been researching the history of Derbyshire lead mining for over forty-five years and is a co-founder of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. His geological expertise and his close involvement with mining conservation bring a communicable enthusiasm to this history of lead mining in the valley of the river Lathkill.

Here, throughout many centuries, soughs and levels were driven and shafts sunk at a pace unimaginably slow by today's standards, such as the mere 20 fathoms (1 fathom = 6ft) driven between January 1810 and March 1811, or the engine shaft begun in 1814 which took four years to reach 50 fathoms.

Front Cover

Today the area is hardly likely to be thought of as having been spoilt by mining activities for it has reverted to a place of quiet beauty, but the visible industrial remains hold a clear fascination to visitors who can be seen peering into a sough tail, running their hands over the stonework of the old aqueduct or pondering by the tumbledown ruins of an old building, one which hides a remarkable secret.

Underground investigations - and photography - have naturally been left to specialist explorers while documentary evidence has been made possible by generous access to mining archives at Chatsworth, Belvoir Castle and Melbourne Hall. It is known that in 1287 a Jury met at Over Haddon to consider lead mining matters and the Mandale Mine is specifically mentioned in the 'Quo Warranto', the inquisition into lead mining rights held at Ashbourne the following year. Dr. Rieuwerts takes the story on through bonanzas and 'barren and unprofitable' undertakings, i.e. profits and losses; en route it features adventurers, engineers and optimistic new miners, Barmote court cases - and the Lathkill Dale gold rush of a century and a half ago. Names appear in abundance, certain to be of interest to anyone who can trace local lead mining blood in their veins. Reference is also made to the Dakeyne disc engine, the subject of an article in the Peak Advertiser of 17 July 2000, on which several readers sought further information.

In line with its forerunners in the Landmark Collector's Library this title merges valuable research with a story of great appeal to a non-specialist readership.

Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire, its Mines and Miners by J.H.Rieuwerts is on sale at the Peak District Mining Museum, Matlock Bath, DE4 3NR, or through book shops, £16.95 (ISBN 1-901522-80-6).

Review by Julie Bunting


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