Review of ‘Lead Mining in Derbyshire’, by Jim Rieuwerts

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

by Jim Rieuwerts
Published by Landmark Collector's Library
ISBN 978-1-84306-343-8 (hardback) (2007)

... with 'History, Development & Drainage' completing the title, this is the first of a set of three volumes and covers Castleton to the River Wye. Author Dr J.H. (Jim) Rieuwerts is co-founder of the Peak District Mines Historical Society and has been researching the history, geology and development of lead mining for half a century. This major publication is strengthened by his three decades of investigations involving the examination of thousands of documents, more than 1,500 manuscripts predating 1750.

The complete publication is expected to be viewed as the definitive work on lead mining in Derbyshire. Present day on-site investigations are set against a story of risk, disputes and riots, litigation and back breaking labour. The rewards could be rich for capitalist 'adventurers' but a miner's time - and health - took second place in the search for lead ore: the sinking of a 17th- century shaft near Hucklow was 'looked upon to be a very bold and hazardous undertaking' and subsequent mining produced 7,400 loads of lead 'with hand labour only'.

A summary of technological advances along with numerous illustrations, including 16 pages in full colour, confirm that lead workings are nothing short of a marvel of their age. Unsuspected features lie below the very ground we tread, whether shafts, levels and soughs, a spiral stone stairway or a wooden-floored cartgate, all constructed without benefit of power tools and mains lighting, thermal underwear or waterproof outerwear. As for the intriguing question of how the venturers knew where to sink their shafts in the first place, the answer reveals that basic concepts were well understood by the 13th century.

Review by Julie Bunting

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