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Lead Mining in Matlock & Matlock Bath
The lead mining industry was important in the development of the Matlocks
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Historical Records | The Wolley Manuscripts

Since ancient times miners had claimed cutting rights for wood and timber for use in their mines, as pit-props and as fuel. Matlock and Matlock Bath would have had plentiful supplies of timber at one time but eventually miners went further afield for their wood (see In more recent times).

Smelting, or extracting the lead from the ore by melting it, was carried out in a small open hearth. Lead was cast in layers as each batch of ore was smelted; the blocks of lead thus produced were referred to as "pigs". Examples of early smelting-hearths found within the county were stone lined, with one side open facing the prevailing wind to create the draught needed. The hilltops of the Matlocks would have provided very suitable conditions.

Woman washing ore at the Guildereye Mine in a Swilling Tub,
about 1770. She would also have had a Riddle or iron wire
sieve. Females were hired by the miners and paid about sixpence a day for their work.
Etching from Henry Moore's 1818 Guide[1]

Lead mining in Matlock and District is discussed under the following sub headings:

Roman "Finds"

Three pigs of lead, ranging in weight between 37kg and 78kg, and dating from Roman times were found in Matlock in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Pig of Lead found on Matlock Bank in 1783 and now in the British Museum 
          It is the '(Product) of Lucius Aruconius Vericundus from the Lutudarensian mine.'

The first was discovered on Matlock Bank in October 1783[2] and is now in the British Museum. The pig was found close to the remains of an old smelting hearth and was only a few inches below the surface. The face carries an inscription, shown above.

It reads as:
L(uci) Aruconi Verecundi metal(li) Lutud(arensis)

This translates as:
"(Product) of Lucius Aruconius Vericundus from the Lutudarensian mine".

Vericundus was one of the private lessees in the Derbyshire area. Lutudarum was presumably the administrative centre of the Derbyshire lead mining area, but its location is unknown[3].

Top length 19" & width 3½". Bottom length 20½" & width 4½". Weight 84lbs.

This pig of lead was preserved by Adam Wolley and given to the British Museum in 1797[4].


The whereabouts of the second pig, which was found on Matlock Moor in 1787 and dated from between 41-54 A.D., is unknown. The face also carried an inscription, which was recorded, and this time was rather more cryptic.

This translates as
Ti(berii) Cl(audi) Tr(ifernae?) Lut(udarense) Br(itannicum) ex arg(entariis)
"(Product) of Tiberius Claudius Triferna: Lutudarensian British (lead) from the lead-silver works"[3].

Top length 17½". Bottom length 20½". Weight 173lbs. It consisted of 30 layers.

Before this pig disappeared it had been in the possession of a Mr. Molesworth[4]. Interestingly, four others with the same inscription were found on the estates of the Earl of Egremont at Pulborough in Sussex in 1824[4]..

Pig of lead found in good condition in 1894 on the Portland Grange estate
            It is the (Product) of Publius Rubrius Abascantus from the Lutudarensian mine.

The third pig was found in good condition on Saturday 24th March 1894 on Mr. Daniel Hurd's estate at Portland Grange when a labourer was trenching some moorland to a depth of two feet and struck the pig of lead, which was lying face down, with his spade. It was found probably less than half a mile away from the Wolley pig[4]. At the time of its discovery it was described as the finest pig in existence.

The inscription stands for:
(moulded) P(ubli) Rubri Abascanti Metalli Lutudare(n)s(is)
This translates as:
"(Product) of Publius Rubrius Abascantus from the Lutudarensian mine"[3].

Top length 19⅝" & width 3½". Bottom length 22¼" & width 5¼". Weight 15lbs.

A pig from the same mine was found on nearby Cromford Moor in 1777; it shows the name of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, so can be dated to about 130 A.D. It was preserved by Peter Nightingale of Lea and given to the British Museum in 1797[4].

More Recent Times

From 1550 to 1692, between the reigns of Elizabeth I and William III, Derbyshire miners and those of "Matlock in particular continued to work under the articles embodying their customs and privileges, until they became spoken of as laws". It became established that any man could dig for lead by right in the "King's Field", the mountain limestone district of Derbyshire, so they could search without being accountable to the landowner for the surface damage caused! When a searcher found a possible vein it was marked temporarily with a cross on the ground. The King had rights over the strip of land on each side[5]. William Madder of Hasker (Asker/Hascar), the owner a mansion house who died in 1576, was a lead burner in the parish in the sixteenth century (see details of his PCC Will - Pre 1858 Wills & Administrations, Surnames M).

The Barmote Court for Matlock, dating from at least 1653, was held at nearby Wirksworth twice a year in April and September. It was this court that dealt with lawbreakers, settled disputes and determined claims and insisted upon the lore of the miners being upheld. Punishments for law breakers was severe.

Thomas Manlove, a Barmote Steward of the mid-seventeenth century, summarised the mining laws and accepted customs in verse[5]:

"By custom old in Wirksworth Wapontake,
If any of this Nation find a rake,
Or sign, or Leading, to the same may set,
In any ground, and there lead ore may get :

They may make Crosses, Holes, and set their Stows,
Sinks, Shafts, build Lodges, Cottages and Coes :
But Churches, Houses, Gardens, all are free
From this strange Custom of the Minery."[6]

The miners defended their customs[7] but accepted that their customs could cause problems, especially where the way the land was used had changed (e.g. by Enclosures). On 23 April 1823 Mr. Gilbert, of the Heights of Abraham, found a lead miner called Thomason digging up the shrubbery in the Fountain Garden, citing ancient mineral customs about his rights. The case was heard at the Lent Assizes of the County Court the following year and it had to be decided whether the land was, at the time of the trespass, a garden or not. The miner was fined[8].

In 1852 Charles Clarke of Matlock Bath was barmaster; his Matlock deputy was Michael Cardin, also of Matlock. Benjamin Bryan, who knew Mr. Cardin, wrote that "a more just and upright man ... there could not have been"[5]. The pair were in office when the Wirksworth Mining Customs and Mineral Courts Bill of 1851 became an Act of Parliament and the mining laws were codified[9].

The miner used a tool called a mattock or a pick, and hammers and iron wedges in harder veins, to loosen the ore. They threw the ore onto ridges on each side of the vein, going deeper where the ore proved richer.

Many mines were very shallow and, once opened, proved too poor to develop. Benjamin Bryan cited the example of "Ember Hill, on the shoulder of Masson, above Matlock Bath" where there are hollows in the surface showing where there had been fruitless searches for lead[5].

There were small buildings, called "coes", near each mine shaft which were used for tool storage, to provide shelter and as places for changing into working clothes. It was here that the lead was smelted and stored until ready for sale.

Lead is, of course, very poisonous. As miners washed lead-bearing material, great care was taken with the washing vats, which had to be covered. If cattle accidentally drank the poisoned water they would die from something called "belland" (see next but one paragraph below)[5]. The disposal of the used water was, therefore, strictly controlled.
In the reign of James I nine local men complained to the Duchy of Lancaster about their cattle being poisoned.

The nineteenth century Mineral Surveyor John Farey, who surveyed Derbyshire over a two year period from 1807, tells us that the miners had the right to cut timber from all the Wastes and Forests within the King's Field, and also from any other of the King's Forests. He reported that there were still people living "in Matlock who had assisted in fetching timber, under this privilege, from Needwood Forest in Staffordshire" to use in their Matlock mines. The practice - "free-booting" according to Farey - was by this time considered prohibited in Matlock and the Forest of Dean[10]. He also suggested that the mining laws need to be changed.

Cornish and Welsh miners introduced the practice of buddling for ore into Derbyshire[11] about 1747[10]. In 1789 James Pilkington mentioned that lead was becoming scarce and also more valuable and described buddling involved washing the heaps of rubbish in the slag heaps that "had been formed [since] times immemorial" to search for more lead[11]. Sometimes the washing was done in a buddle. There were Jagging-Buddles and Trunk-Buddles which sloped away to enable waste water to disperse. John Farey explained Buddling as "the process of separating the very small particles from the dirt and Spar with which they are mixed, by means of a small stream of water". This method of extraction was a major pollutant, affecting farmers and their animals (poisoned by Belland from drinking the waste water), the brooks and streams and even the River Derwent[10]. The White Lion at Starkholmes, opposite the Bath Fields where lead mining had taken place, was referred to as "Buddles" at one time[12].


Etching of a carving of a medieval lead miner, with his pick and "kibble". Originally in Bonsall church, the carving was moved to Wirksworth in the 19th century by Mr. Marsh, the high bailiff of the County Court, to save it from destruction[13].
Some of those mining for lead on Masson were from Bonsall.

Matlock Bath & Scarthin Newspaper Cuttings, 1838.
Death of an earlier Barmaster, Mr. Francis Hursthouse.

Old shafts were covered with a pile of uncemented stones to protect the entrance to the mine but over time these fell in. They become a danger to grazing cattle and the disused mines eventually had to be securely fenced. I remember being warned as a child to avoid the dangers of the various excavations that littered the top of Masson Hill. There had been an unfortunate fatality in October 1887[14]. George Limb and Frederick Bunting of Matlock walked over Masson to Bonsall one Sunday afternoon. On their return journey, after a few drinks at the King's Head, they strayed from the path as it was by then dark and Limb fell head first down an uncovered mine shaft. In recent years attention has been given to capping the shafts to make them safe for the unwary wanderer.

Nineteenth century lead mines

This list of lead mines within the parish in the early nineteenth century (below) is from Benjamin Bryan's extracts from Farey's "Derbyshire". Bryan notes that "according to Farey the productiveness of the mines was declining in 1808"[5]. The decline had already been noted by James Pilkington in 1789 who commented that lead production had been falling off for twenty years in Derbyshire, although it wasn't then clear if this was because the more prominent veins of lead ore had been exhausted. He also mentioned that both water and bad air were major problems for Derbyshire's lead miners[11].
See the Wolley Manuscripts Vol. 6669 ff.256-258 | Vol. 6671 ff.310-313 | Vol. 6679 ff.1-4.

In 1829 there were about two thousand two hundred and eighty miners employed in getting ore in Derbyshire[15]. By 1899 the only working lead mine in the Matlock area was Mill Close at Darley, one of only three in Derbyshire.

List of Lead Mines in the Matlocks, 1807-09
  • Coal-hole Rake and Pipe, Masson.
    This is "The Devonshire Cavern", Matlock Bath of more recent years [roof fallen according to Farey[10]].
    The immense cavern was discovered and named Devonshire Cavern in early 1825.

  • Cornel Rake, Matlock Bath.

  • Crichman Pipe, Masson Hill.

  • Cross Rake, High Tor.
    In 1829 Glover mentioned that the "Cross-rake mine in Matlock High Tor abounds in lead and calamine. It is in the limestone stratum"[15].

  • Cumberland Mine, Matlock Bath. See Further information, below
    Then and still a cavern, though not longer open to the public.

  • Dimple, Matlock Bank.
    According to Farey, the only mine steam-engine in the county was going here in 1809[10].

  • Gentlewoman's Pipe, nr. Matlock Bridge.

  • Granby Shaft, Matlock Bank (a trial).

  • High Tor Rake, near Starkholmes.

  • Knowle's, Masson Hill (large caverns).

  • Lady-gate, nr. Matlock Bridge.

  • Mullet-hill or Stoney-way, Matlock. Farey noted "corrosive water"[10].

  • Old Nester's or Nestus Pipe, Masson Hill.

  • Nether Hay, Matlock.

  • Old Nester's or Nestus, Masson (above Matlock Bath).
    Farey commented that it was "a very old Mine"[10]. It was formerly very rich, probably referred to in Domesday and mentioned in the account of the Manor.
    See Further information, below
A rake vein
is a straight and vertical crack or fissure in the limestone strata filled with spar and ore etc.
A pipe vein
is a cavity, often nearly horizontal, between the beds of limestone, similarly filled, having a narrow rake leading from it to the surface of the stratum.
Sizes and quality of lead ore
(from Pilkington and Davies[11])
- Bing, the largest and good quality
- Pesey [peasy], smaller but almost as good quality
- Smitham, which passes through the sieve when the ore is washed
- Belland, inferior because of what is mixed with it. The particles were "as small as flour" and were caught by very slow stream water.

Bing and Pesey were subject to a toll and the last two were exempt for a long time. They were also subject to the charge by Pilkington's time.
Measuring the lead
was done with a dish or hoppet.
In the High Peak it was a peck or sixteen pints but in the Low Peak only fourteen pints[16].
  • Seven Rakes, nr. Matlock Bridge.
    Animal bones and teeth were found there.

  • Side Rake, nr. Starkholmes.
    The "Side Mine" was approached by crossing the Derwent in Matlock Dale "under the High Tor".
    "On 1 July 1769 the Lords of the Manor granted to John Barber, gentleman, and George Goodwin, miner, leave to erect water wheels and other machines on the east side of the river Derwent for the purpose of unwatering the mine", with a 21 year lease"[5]. There used to be another weir opposite Whittaker's house and pop works which David Palmer Pearson believed drove the wheel to drain the Side Mine. Barber and Goodwin came to operate mines on both sides of the river from Cawdor to Artists' Corner and from the Dimple to Matlock Bath, right down to Bullestree near Cromford Station[17].
    Also see the Wolley Manuscripts Vol. 6671 ff.310-313 (Manorial deeds and papers ... water wheels on E. of Derwent adjoining High Tor Wood and near Matlock Bridge for unwatering mines 1769).

The Rutland Cavern Guide of 1818 stated that in the Cavern's Roman Hall "is the mining Apparatus for washing, separating, and preparing the Lead Ore ; the Apparatus is supplied with streams of water from the fish ponds, where Gold, and Silver, and River Fish, are living in perpetual darkness"[18]. The equipment was left over from previous working of the mine and was eventually removed[19], though it is not known what happened to the fish.

The Derby Mercury, 27 July 1836

ACCIDENT. - Tuesday se'nnight the principal of the engine belonging to the London Lead Mining Company, working the High Tor lead mine at Matlock, was broken and other damages sustained, by which the company will be subject to great loss, as well as the workmen being deprived of work. The accident is supposed to be owing to some malicious person having introduced a piece of limestone amongst the gearing, as a quantity was found crushed among the works.

Another important mine was the Bullestree (Bullace Tree) or Mole Trap mine slightly to the east of Cromford station. It was worked for many years, with large sums of money raised from shareholders[5] and share sales[20]. The plant was sold at the end of the 1860s. Everything was offered for sale, from scaffold planks and 40 ton waggon rails, to chains, drawing barrels, wheelbarrows and a 60-horsepower 3-valve pumping engine[21]. The hillock where it had stood was subsequently partially levelled[5].

On 1st September 1857 the Stoney Way Mining Company of Matlock was registered for raising and smelting lead ore within the county. Twelve people signed the memorandum of association, taking 360 shares[22]. The company was still operating in 1864, when the nominal capital was then 2000l. in 2000 shares with a total of 70 shareholders[23]. When the company was first formed they erected an engine-house and tall chimney; they had to put a 16-horse engine to pump the water out their mine (not named) and believed they would be able to unwater it without much difficulty[22]. At the same time the Cawdor Mine was involved in draining a large area on the east of Masson hillside with the aim of successfully reaching their vein[22]. In 1882 the Stoney Way Mining Company was struck off the register of Joint Stock Companies[24].

Some of these mines are also listed under caverns in Matlock Bath. More information can be found in:
Gem of the Peak (1840).

James Croston, in "Days in Derbyshire" of 1868 mentions visiting the May Dale Mine, a working lead mine not far from Matlock Bridge, although it is unclear where this was.

Description of the miners

Firth[25] quotes Defoe's "Tour Through Britain"[26], which was written in the early eighteenth century. Defoe described one miner he had seen emerging from a shaft, wearing a leather suit and cap, as "lean as a skeleton, pale as a corpse, his hair and beard a deep black; what little flesh he had was lank and, as we thought, something of the colour of lead itself". Apparently, Defoe needed an interpreter as he could not understand the dialect! He also observed how narrow the shaft - at that time called a groove - was with narrow steps made of timber leading straight down into the mine. He says that the lead miners were "highly esteemed in the British army as sappers". During the English Civil War, and acknowledged in a letter dated 12 June 1643, some 1,100 soldiers were enlisted as bodyguards for the King - "raiseing the Derbyshire minors for our life-guard"[27].

Women also worked in the mines and Firth, quoting an unattributed account from 1829, says: "The head is much enwrapped, and the features nearly hidden in a muffling of handkerchiefs, over which is put a man's hat, in the manner of the paysannes of Wales". He also describes their gowns, usually red, as being "tucked up round the waist in a sort of bag, and set off by a bright green petticoat". They also wore a man's grey or dark blue coat and shoes with 3" thick soles that were tied round with cords. The 1829 writer called them "complete harridans!"[25]

A great deal of money has been made and lost in the mining of lead and, although the example he gives is not about Matlock inhabitants, Firth quotes Bray as writing in 1777 that miners in the Ecton mine earned one shilling (twelve pence) for six hours work; women earned between fourpence and eightpence a day; boys and girls earned between tuppence (two pence) and fourpence a day. In comparison, the mine's owner, the then Duke of Devonshire, was receiving £10,000. The duty deducted for mines in the King's Field differed widely within the Wapentake of Wirksworth. No tithe was paid in Matlock but half liberty of Matlock every thirteenth dish was due and in the other half every twentyfifth[11].

In "Peak Scenery",[28] Rhodes describes passing a small lead mine called Mouse Hole that was between Willersley and Matlock. He found a "poor solitary individual, apparently about eighty years of age, industriously pursuing his daily avocation". The old man had a bucket for the ore which he let down, went down into the mine himself to fill and then raised when it was full. He placed "the produce ... in his little hovel at the mouth of the mine". Rhodes also remarked on the natural cheerfulness of this man, who was clearly very poor.

Between the villages of Winster and Bonsall, on Bonsall Moor, there are lots of tiny derelict one-room miners' dwellings still to be seen.


Inevitably, accidents did occur. Roger Flindall records a John Cardon suffocating in the Guilder-Eye Old Sough on Masson and later being buried at St. Giles in 1779[19]. A search of the parish register shows a John Carline buried there on 8 June. Another accident, involving one man from Upper Wood and another from Bonsall, occurred near Wirksworth in 1797[29].

The nineteenth century saw further accidents, not all of them fatal. In May 1836 William Wheatcroft (son of Mr. William Wheatcroft, mine agent, residing on the spot) was working in the Side Mine under High Tor with his father. As they were drawing up their ore, the chain that helped pull it up broke and the kibble, with its contents, fell on the younger man. He was severely bruised around his head and died a few hours later. He was buried at Wirksworth on 2 June 1836, aged 24[30].

On 17 May 1847 three experienced miners, George Britland, Henry Henstock, sen., and his son Henry Henstock, were working in a small lead mine called the Bacon Rake near the top of Masson when loose earth and rubble, later described as mine rubbish, fell on top of the two Henstocks, killing them both. The miners who retrieved the bodies worked in great danger. Following an Inquest at the Queen's Head, Bonsall, both were buried at St. James's Church on 21 May 1847. The younger Henstock was 28 years old and unmarried, whilst his father, who left a wife and family, was 59[31].

During the 1850s there were a number of accidents at the Cawdor Lead Mine. The first, in 1853 was fortunately not fatal. Jonathan Phillips, an employee of the Bowling Foundry near Bradford, was engaged to remove a steam boiler from the Water-grove mine at Cawdor. It weighed 12 tons. All went well until a drug, "a very heavy and double-shafted vehicle", became upset. Unfortunately, Phillips was stuck violently on the head and was knocked under one of the wheels. His bones were crushed and a joint dislocated[32].

Almost two and a half years later, in 1856, four more men had a lucky escape when there was a serious accident to four miners who were engaged in lowering the shaft at the Cawdor mine. The men, James Kirkland, James Young, John Wood and Henry Kirkland, were ramming powder down a hole in readiness for blasting. It unfortunately exploded and caused five or six barrels of stone to become dislodged. Amazingly, none of the four were killed: James Kirkland suffered from a broken leg and the other was severely crushed, Henry Kirkland was badly bruised and one foot was crushed, James Young suffered severe concussion whilst John Wood was crushed and bruised. He also suffered spinal injuries. The Matlock Bath surgeon, Mr. Brown, attended the men, with the subsequent help for local surgeons Adams, Cantrell, Sims and Cash. Perhaps it was because they were attended to quickly, but a few days later all the men were said to be progressing favourably[33].

However, a few months later there was a fatality at Cawdor when Benjamin Gratton, a married man aged 49 from Bonsall, drowned at the mine. He had been mending a pump at the bottom of the shaft when his foot slipped from a piece of wood he was standing on. He unluckily fell into the water beneath him[34]. He was buried at St. James' Church in Bonsall on 17 Oct 1856.

Smelting Mills & Furnaces

Once the lead ore was properly cleaned and dressed it was taken to be smelted[11].

There appear to have been three lead smelting mills operating in Lumsdale in the eighteenth century; archæological sketch maps drawn by the Arkwright Society about 1987[35] indicate that one was in the upper part of the Lumsdale Valley, whilst an older building was lower down, just above the waterfall. The third smelting mill was close to this mill and had been built by the Trustees of Bonsall School in 1770. Their mill wheels were powered by water from the Bentley Brook, then known as Lumms Brook. During the 1780s a series of advertisements published in "The Derby Mercury" show that the owners were considering a change of use for their smelting mills; the mill in the upper valley became a bone mill (no date) whilst the older building eventually became a paint mill and the Bonsall School Mill was used for grinding corn. The top smelting mill was sometimes called the Offspring Mill, whereas the one lower down was known as the Lower Lumms Mill.

The Derby Mercury, 18 October 1781

THE LEASE (of which two Years were un-expired at Lady-Day last) of the Lumms Smelting Mills, situate upon the Lumms Brook, in the Parish of Matlock ; subject to the reserved annual Rent of 5l.
Also the necessary Implements and materials for smelting Lead Ore.
The above Mills are well situated for carrying on the smelting Trade, or any benefits of Manufactory where a Stream of Water is wanted.
Applications to be made to Mr. GEORGE EVANS, Cromford-Bridge; Mr. John SIMPSON, Bonsall ; or Mr. EVANS, Attorney, Derby, who are empowered to treat for the same.
October, 24th, 1781.

One of several advertisements published in the 1780s advertising
the Lumsdale Smelting Mills Lease (copy of)

Cupolas were also used for lead smelting in the Matlock area. A cupola-furnace was a furnace for smelting metals and Willis & Parker state that "from around 1735 the cupola-type smelting works developed using coal as fuel. A few new works were built, but since the older mills were usually close to coal, they were often adapted"[36] although this does not seem have happened in the case of the water powered Lumsdale mills.

Glover mentioned that in 1829 the cupolas for smelting ore in the district were at Lea and in the Via-Gellia and that the Messrs. Alsop, of Lea Wood, were the greatest smelters of lead ore in the county; they frequently smelted thirty tons per. week[15]. Bryan described the Lea smelting furnaces as "just outside, and abutting upon, the stream which divides Matlock from that place"[5].

Following the deaths of Luke and John Alsop in 1830 and 1834 respectively[37] the business of John Alsop & Co. became solely owned by their brother-in-law, Joseph Wass[38], whose family trustees still owned it in 1903[5]. It was kept open by the supply of ore from Mill Close mine, bought by Mr. Edward Miller Wass in 1859[39]; the ore would have had to pass through Matlock on its way to be smelted. There were three reverberatory furnaces and four Scotch hearths at Lea. There was also a slag furnace, where the slag was re-smelted to extract any remaining metal[5]. In 1936 the Mill Close lead smelting works at Lea still employed a fairly large number of men[40]. Mill Close Mine finally closed in 1940[36].

From 1910 to the 1940s

Arthur Beck, a Matlock stone merchant who was based at the stone yard at Matlock Station, was also involved with lead mining. By 1915 he had become one of the Grand Jury of the Barmote Court at Wirksworth[41] and continued to be involved with the Court until shortly before his death. Amongst other Matlock and Matlock members of the Court in the first half of the twentieth century were Job Hall Cardin (whose ancestor Samuel had been a foreman in the early eighteenth century), Benjamin O'Dowda, Herbert Buckley, Guy P. Pearson and E?. Buckley.

In 1920 Mr. Matthew Henry Herd - a draper of Wigan and Blackpool - claimed for ten lead mines between Matlock and Cromford. The Barmaster explained that the Barmote Court records for the liberty of Matlock only began in 1792. "The Moletrap Mine was first mentioned in 1825 and was then worked by the Derbyshire Mineral Association". Between 1839 and 1877 the Moletrap Mine Co. worked this mine and the price of a one-twenty-fourth share varied considerably, from a high in 1845 of £400 to a low of just 5 shillings in 1873.

Once Mr. Herd had made his application (on 31 Mar 1920), notices were placed on 10 mines, extending from Ladygate mine at Pic Tor to the Bulstree Mine at Cromford Station, a length of five miles. Only one, the Pasture mine, was not on the east side of the Derwent. Arthur Beck and George Alsebrook (of Bonsall) were two members of the Grand Jury who were present in addition to George Eagle, the Barmaster, when the claim was agreed[42].

In 1923 Arthur Beck purchased five fields at Bonsall (11a. 2r. 7p.) that were approached from Ember Lane; they had been part of the estate of Col. H. A. Hubbersty. He also held the lease of the Lowe Mine at Bonsall[43], which was part of the Great Rake (Bacon Rake) that linked to Masson Cavern[19]. The previous year three local men attempted to find a way into the High Lowe mine from the Masson Caverns. They only had candles to light their way. Although they discovered nine different routes, they lost their way and it was fortunate that eventually they struck an outlet. One of the trio was Guy Pearson who had lived at Matlock Bath before moving to Bonsall[44].

There was a severe shortage of lead ore in 1925. Engineers from a London syndicate were reported to have been estimating the value of all the mines in the Derwent Valley, including the ones registered to Mr. Herd[45]. In 1926 Matthew Herd informed Matlock Council that he intended to examine several shafts in the vicinity of the High Tor ground, adding that he would pass any royalty to the them[46].

The next time he surfaced in the Matlocks was in 1942 when he submitted a scheme to reopen the High Tor Grotto. This had been kept by Mr. J. H. Carding before the first war. Herd wished to erect a footbridge over the river to provide quick access, also believing that it would make a magnificent air raid shelter[47]. Whilst the Council didn't disagree with the comment, nothing seems to have come of the idea. Mr Herd passed away at St. Hellier in 1955.

The Starkholmes Project

In 1950 the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company, in association with Derbyshire Stone, proposed to carry out an examination to see if lead ore could be found in sufficient quantities in the area. They were to use geo-physical and boring methods. They surveyed the site at the end of April and it was hoped to begin drilling in the September[48], with a statement the following month that "results were not too bad".

John Hadfield, of Derbyshire Stone, told his company's directors in 1955 that "the programme of exploration over areas in the vicinity of Matlock in relation to lead and zinc ores has been continued vigorously during the year". A new company (Matlock Lead Mines, Ltd) has been made responsible for the large-scale prospecting for lead and zinc ores which has been in progress from a base at Bath Fields, Starkholmes, for the previous two or three years[49]. During this period workmen were said to have discovered two Roman lead mines[50]. This was followed by a second discovery, a wooden water pump that was thought to be more than 500 years old, that was found whilst tunnelling through "ancient workings" in the Starkholmes mine in 1956. It was found 60 feet below the level of the River Derwent[49]. Around the same time a Derbyshire paper predicted that large scale developments in Derbyshire's lead mining industry were likely to follow drilling of the Great Rake by Matlock Lead Mines. Their "electric drills and other modem machinery", had driven a shaft over 800 feet into the Starkholmes hillside. They had hit the vein 1,000 feet below Riber Castle and 60 feet below the level the River Derwent as a result of 6 years' work. The lead was being transported to a crushing plant and its value was said to be £100 per ton[52]. Nevertheless, Willis and Parker believed the Riber mine was "a minor venture"[36].

Slag heaps on the hillside behind Matlock Bath station, 1958.
They were just below Starkholmes.

At the company's AGM in 1958 Derbyshire Stone announced that the heavy fall in the price of lead had affected the profitability of the lead mining activities of their wholly owned subsidiary company, Matlock Lead Mines Limited. Despite this setback the removal of ore and development at Riber Mine was to continue.[53] An extraordinary General Meeting of Matlock Lead Mines Limited was called in early 1962 and passed a special resolution that the Company was to voluntarily be wound up and that Mr. John Stanley Collinge of Bank House, The Bridge, Matlock, was appointed Liquidator. The company was wound up on 23 February and its property disposed of [54].

Over 20 years later there was a major problem.
The Big Hole of Starkholmes by the East Midlands Geological Society

Further Information

Elsewhere on this web site:

Matlock High
Torr &C, 1751
and 1776

Fish Pond Stables,
Providence Mine
& the Mud Heap
Matlock Bath: Royal Cumberland Cavern

Living at the
Heights of Abraham
by the late Peter Aspey

Vista Views of the
, taken in
the Aspey's time

Lea Mills, Derbyshire

Mid 19thc engraving.
Shows cupola where
lead was smelted.

Lea Mills, about
, shows
Lea Lead Works

Unknown lead mine, Vernon Lamb Archive

Capped mineshaft
on Masson

"Gem of the Peak" has more information on the Caverns.
Smedley's Cumberland Cavern Advertisement from Bemrose's Guide (about 1869).
There's a little more, under Antiquities on page 41, in the same 1869 guide.
Biography of George Wigley Walker, co-owner and partner of the Bullestree and Moletrap Lead Mines in the 1840s.

The Wolley Manuscripts mention Matlock miners petitioning the House of Commons and the documents contain a good deal of information about lead mining in Matlock.
The Wolley Manuscripts, Matlock provides detailed information from the Catalogue at County Hall LSL (now at the County Record Office). The petitions mentioned are in volume 6682 ff.225-228 and ff.239-244.
The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire has more general information about the whole county.

County Hall LSL in Matlock has a three part Index to the Catalogue of British Museum Additional Manuscripts Numbers 6676 to 6686 being the Manuscripts relating to the Derbyshire Leadmining Industry which are part of the British Museum Additional Manuscripts numbers 6668-6718, otherwise known as the Wolley Manuscripts, prepared from a microfilm copy for Derbyshire County Library by Miriam Wood (1977). ISBN 0 903463 04 0 pub. Derbyshire County Council.
How to contact County Hall LSL in Matlock

External Links (these will open in a new window):

Peak District Lead Mining Museum, Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath

Peak District Mines Historical Society Ltd., where further information on mining may be found.

Picture the Past has an interesting photograph of the tip at the Lea cupola in the late 1960s. Nothing remains today.

External Links to Paintings and Drawings, etc (these will also open in a new window):

William Day (1764-1807), A Scene in Derbyshire; Industrial Works spanning a River, undated, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
The artist's name is unconfirmed, but the scene is unmistakable. The background cliffs can only be those of Hagg Tor/Wild Cat Tor, the river is the Derwent and the location is just upriver from Masson Mill in Matlock Bath.
A view of the rock formation from the 1850s, shown in an engraving by C. Bailey, can be found elsewhere on this site - see Matlock Bath, from the Heights of Abraham. The massiveness of the tors can be appreciated on Matlock Bath: The Riverbank, Later to be the Derwent Gardens

Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg (1740-1812), A View near Matlock, Derbyshire with Figures Working beneath a Wooden Conveyor, 1785, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Oil painting.
The artist was French.
Wherever this mine was "near Matlock" it does not appear to be in the same location as the watercolour image possibly attributed to Day. It is, however, an excellent painting of a lead miner's family at work.

1. Guilderoy Mine from Henry Moore's Guide(1818)[1].
2. Pigs of lead from "Roman Inscriptions in Britain"[3].
3. Lead miner carving from Cox[13].
4. Slag heaps. Detail from "Matlock Bath from Heights of Abraham" Valentine's Post Card, No.L7103. Published 1958.
Information written and researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Guildereye Mine on the hillside above Matlock Bath was identified in Willis, Lynn and Parker, Harry (1999) "Images Of England: Peak District Mining and Quarrying", pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Gloucester ISBN 0-7524-1710-X.
The etching (detail) from is from Henry Moore (1818) "Picturesque Excursions from Derby to Matlock Bath and its vicinity; being a Descriptive Guide" (1818). There is a transcript of the Matlock section elsewhere on this web site and the full engraving is also on the site (scroll down).
The payment of sixpence a day was given in James Pilkington's (1789) "A View of the Present State of Derbyshire...". See below[11].

[2] The find was reported in "The Derby Mercury" of 16 Oct 1783. The find was accidental as "some persons were ridding ... a piece of ground".

[3] I am very grateful to Sara Ratcliffe M.A. for checking the indexes of "Roman Inscriptions in Britain" II.1 2404.39, 40, 41 and 51. The two images of pigs of lead, under "Roman Finds", are taken from this publication.

[4] Derbyshire Times, 21 April 1894. The article gave the date of the discovery of the second pig of lead as 1737, clearly a typing error. According to "The Derby Mercury", of 11 April 1894 the Portland Grange pig of lead was exhibited in Matlock. The secretary of the Yorkshire Antiquarian Society thought it was the finest in existence.
There is more information about the Cromford Moor pig of lead in the section on Derbyshire Parishes 1811 by Peter Davies. See Derbyshire (1): Subterraneous Geography, Mines and Minerals, &c.

[5] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited. The information he extracted from Farey was from: Farey, John (Geologist) (1811-17), "General view of the agriculture and minerals of Derbyshire, Vol. 1", London. See below[10].
Bryan devoted two chapters in his book to the lead mining industry. He was not ill-informed as a number of relatives and relatives by marriage were involved in the industry.

[6] The Mining Museum in Matlock Bath has the original.

[7] Matlock Bath & Scarthin Newspaper Cuttings, 1766. Miners met at Matlock Bath.

[8] "The Derby Mercury", 24 March, 1824. Lent Assizes, Gilbert v. Thomason for trespass "April last", fine of 40s for the plaintiff and 40s. costs. "The Derby Mercury", August 11, 1824. Summer assizes, Gilbert v. Bown & others when damages of 10 awarded to the plaintiff. Also see the Wolley Manuscripts vol. 6681 ff.43d-48.

[9] "London Gazette", 18 Nov 1851. "... to define and amend the mineral customs of the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth, in the county of Derby, and of a certain part or district therein, known as the King's Field, part of the possessions of Her Majesty's duchy of Lancaster, and of the several manors ... in the said county of Derby, and to make provision for the better administration of justice in the Barmote Courts, in the said Soke and Wapentake, and King's Field, and manors or lordships respectively, and to improve the practice and proceedings of the said courts...". The Manor of Matlock was not included in the public notices.

[10] John Farey Sr. [Mineral Surveyor], "General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire", Volume 1 (1811), Printed by McMillan, Bow Street, Covent Garden. The survey was carried out for the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. Amongst those he consulted were: John Alsop, agent, of Lea Bridge; Richard Arkwright Esq. of Willersley; the surveyors George Nuttall (who had moved to Hampton-court near Leominster) and his father John Nuttall who was also a commissioner: the fossilist and mineral collector Thomas Pearson of Matlock Bath; the attorney Adam Wolley of Matlock Bath.

[11] Pilkington, James (1789) "A View of the Present State of Derbyshire; with an Account of its most Remarkable Antiquities ... in two volumes. Volume I". Derby : Printed and sold by J. Drewry; Sold also by J. Johnson, No.72, St. Paul's Churchyard ; And J. Deighton, Holborn, London. Pilkington cites Peter Nightingale of Lea esq. as a source for the mineralogy sections of his book.

[12] "The Derbyshire Village Book" published by the Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, 1991. ISBN 1 85306 133 6. Starkholmes WI contributed the information about the White Lion.

[13] Lead miner etching of medieval carving and notes from Cox, J Charles (1877) "Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire Vol II" Chesterfield: Palmer and Edmunds, London: Bemrose and Sons, 10 Paternoster Buildings; and Derby.

[14] "The Derby Mercury", 19 October, 1887.

[15] Glover, Stephen (1827-8-9) " Directory of the County of Derby", Intro. p.viii. The London Gazette, 1848 mentions one of the Alsops, but he wasn't involved with the Lea Lead Works.

[16] Bray, William (1783) "Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire" (Second Edition) London, Printed for B. White at Horace's Head, in Fleet-Street. The first edition was published in 1778.
There is more about this under Derbyshire Parishes 1811 by Peter Davies See the section on Derbyshire (1): ... Mines and Minerals, &c., Lead.

[17] From Colin Goodwyn. David Palmer Pearson (d.1934) was a local antiquarian who wrote a number of articles about local mining history.

[18] Guide to the Grand Cavern within the Mountain of Abraham's Heights, Matlock Bath." (1818) Mark Wardle: Manchester

[19] Flindall, Roger and Hayes, Andrew (1976) "The Caverns and Mines of Matlock Bath, 1 The Nestus Mines: Rutland and Masson Caverns", Moorland Publishing Company

[20] "The Derby Mercury", 26 October, 1853. Sale of one Twenty-fourth Share in the Bullistrey and Moletrap Mine, near Cromford Bridge. The share will be sold with a proportionate share of the steam engine, mining plant and other material. "... the mine has recently realised upwards of One Hundred Loads of Ore at a reckoning".

[21] "The Derby Mercury", 10 June, 1868. Sale of Mole Trap Mine and Plant. Also see Biography of George Wigley Walker.

[22] From reports in "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 5 September 1857 (originally published in the Mining Journal), the "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 25 September 1857 and "The Derby Mercury", 7 October 1857.

[23] "The Stamford Mercury", 16 December 1864. Limited Liability Companies in the East Midlands.

[24] "The London Gazette", 7 March 1882.

[25] Firth, J. B. (1908) "Highways and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.

[26] Defoe, Daniel (1724-6) "A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain" Read an extract on this site.

[27] Benjamin Bryan provides the source as a letter bearing the King's signature printed in Glover's "History", Vol. 1, appendix.

[28] Rhodes, Ebenezer (1824) "Peak Scenery" pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster Row.

[29] Matlock Bath & Scarthin Newspaper Cuttings, 1797.

[30] "The Derby Mercury", 8 June, 1836. Accidental Death.

[31] "The Derby Mercury", 18 May 1847, Fatal Mine Accident at Matlock. Inquest report 26 May 1847.

[32] "Derbyshire Courier", 17 December 1853. Accident at Cawdor Lead Mine. Mr. Phillips was still alive and living in Bradford in 1861.

[33] "Derbyshire Courier", 7 June 1856. Mine Accident. James Kirkland and James Young were in Bonsall in 1861, still employed as lead miners.

[34] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 24 October 1856. Fatal Mine Accident.

[35] Leaflet published by the Arkwright Society, about 1987. With thanks to Susan Tomlinson.

[36] Willis, Lynn and Parker, Harry (1999) "Images Of England: Peak District Mining and Quarrying", pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Gloucester ISBN 0-7524-1710-X.

[37] "The Derby Mercury", 13 May 1835. Notice, dated 4 May 1835, calling in the debts etc of the dissolved Partnership between John Alsop, Luke Alsop and Joseph Wass of Lea, Lead Merchants, who had traded at Lea Lead Works under the Firm of John Alsop & Co. until the deaths of Luke and John Alsop.

[38] The marriage of Joseph Wass and Mary Alsop took place at Matlock. See Marriages W.

[39] Edward Miller Wass was the grandson of Joseph Wass. He was born at Holloway on 6 September 1829.

[40] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 July 1936.

[41] "Ashbourne News Telegraph", 29 October 1915.

[42] "Belper News", 7 May 1920 and "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal" (same date). Lead Mining Revival.Several people had assembled for this but the presence of the two Grand Jury members of the Barmote Court of the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth was essential to ensure procedures were properly followed.

[43] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 18 May 1923. Wirksworth, Matlock Bath and Bonsall property sale.

[44] "Leicester Evening Mail", 25 August 1922. Lost in Disused Mine. Matlock Experience Nearly Ends in Tragedy. Guy Pearson is said to have later worked this mine.

[45] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 21 April 1925. Lead Mine Schemes. Big Development Planned For Derwent Valley.

[46] "West Bridgford Advertiser", 17 April 1926. Matlock Lead Mines.

[47] "Derbyshire Times", 14 August 1942. High Tot Grotto. Scheme for Re-Opening at Matlock.

[48] "Derbyshire Times", 14 April 1950. Lead Mining in Derbyshire. Extensive Developments Visualised. Also "Derby Daily Telegraph", 8 July 1950.

[49] "Belper News", 22 April 1955. Derbyshire Stone Co. Directors' Report. Prospecting for Lead.

[50] "Coventry Evening Telegraph", 22 November 1952.

[49] "Birmingham Daily Post", 11 August 1956.

[52] "Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press", 8 June 1956. Lead Ore in Derbyshire.

[53] "Birmingham Daily Post", 25 July 1958. Derbyshire Stone. Twenty Second AGM of Derbyshire Stone.

[54] There were a series of announcements in The London Gazette: 13 February 1962, 23 February 1962 and 6 March 1962.