Review of ‘Mines, Quarries and Murders in the Peak District’, by Roger Flindall

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 29th September 2005, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

MINES, QUARRIES AND MURDERS
IN THE PEAK DISTRICT

Mysterious deaths and gory stories lie behind the sub-title of this special publication from the Peak District Mines Historical Society, this being A Study of Suspicious Deaths and Human Remains Associated with Past Mineral Working Activities.

Largely derived from an unmatched 30-year trawl through old newspapers, this engrossing compilation is the work of Roger Flindall, who has amassed a newspaper index of more than 100,000 names connected with mining. He has now turned detective to uncover evidence of possible foul play in suspicious deaths from approximately 1700-1900.

Predating forensic science, these cases fall outside the interests of the police - judicial retribution ends at the grave. Roger takes the view that ‘only a local historian can undertake the detective work into these hitherto ignored deaths, having due respect for their memory’.

Victims include itinerants and pedlars who may not even have been missed, their remains only coming to light through later mining and quarrying activities. The author investigates some of the Peak's most infamous cases and suggests likely culprits from highwaymen and footpads to ne'er-do-well family gangs, some named here for the first time. Earlier writers found that memories were long and it was dangerous to ask too many questions, never mind point the finger.

One sensational discovery places the legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin, here in the Peak, where he came off worst in a moorland encounter with ‘a very stout able’ farmer. Strenuous research has unearthed other astonishing facts, not least the veritable collection of skeletons found in a corner of Matlock where ‘years ago, men were missed in a lane that ran nearby’. We learn perhaps why woodland at Youlgrave was once known as Butcher's Wood, and how dirty deeds could be blamed on the Eyam plague.

This book might even fill in some gaps on your family tree - could you have a skeleton in your closet?

Mines, Quarries and Murders in the Peak District is priced £5. Details of stockists from the Peak District Mining Museum: 01629 583834.

Review by Julie Bunting


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