Smeaton and Watt: unleashing the power that changed the world

steam engine drawingThe 2019 Smeaton Lecture is taking place on 23rd July at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London. The title is “Smeaton and Watt: unleashing the power that changed the world”. 

“The 18th century saw unprecedented advances in our ability to harness power. Much of this was down to James Watt whose invention of the separate condenser and other improvements to the Newcomen engine was the key that unlocked the full potential of the power of steam. Watt then mastered rotative power for factories, accelerating the industrial revolution. Smeaton had also made improvements to the Newcomen engine and he and Watt shared a mutual respect.

This year’s Smeaton lecture will explore this relationship with the help of some letters, not previously published or archived, and uses engineering hindsight to explore the factors influencing successful innovation – then and now.”

Full details of the lecture can be found here.

Froggatt Wood Lead Smelter Walk Report

This walk took place on Wednesday May 22nd, and was a gentle 3 mile evening walk to look at a early lead smelter hidden in the heart of Froggatt Wood. 

The walk had been arranged at short notice to coincide with the bluebells still being out in Hay Wood and Froggatt Wood – a fantastic sight with their lovely scent being an added bonus in the still evening air.

Froggatt Wood smelt mill © Jill Hulme

The gritstone channel which fed the water wheel

Apart from the walk leader, none of the other people who met near the Grouse Inn had ever been to the smelter before – and even the leader had only first visited it a week before. This is not surprising, as the site is well hidden in the woods away from the main footpath, and was quite overgrown until the National Trust (who own the land) did some scrub clearance work there recently. It’s now much easier to see the site’s features. The site is a Scheduled Monument and the Historic England listing for it states: “The Froggatt Wood smelt mill is one of the very few 16th-17th century smelt mills in England to retain any standing structures. The water channel and wood-drying kiln are unique within the lead industry, and the survival of an undisturbed complex of this date, with a wide range of features, is very rare”.

White coal kiln, Froggatt Wood lead smelter. Photos © Jill Hulme

The kiln was used for producing “white coal” fuel for smelting the lead

We were met at the mill by PDMHS member David Dalrymple-Smith, whose website Baslow History was where the walk leader first found out about the site’s existence. David gave us a tour of the site, which includes part of the structure where the water wheel was situated – fed by water coming down a beautiful gritstone channel. As we returned to the main path, we passed part of a large gritstone mould for making pigs of lead, and the nearby stream contained lots of pieces of slag. Very little information about the smelt mill’s history exists, but more information about what can still be seen at the site today can be found on the National Trust’s heritage website here.

Stream in Froggatt Wood © Jill Hulme

The stream contained plenty of pieces of lead slag

The path we then followed used to be one of the major packhorse routes up the Derwent Valley, and there were several places where the original gritstone paving was still clearly visible. The woods have obviously been the site of much industrial activity in previous centuries. Evidence of gritstone quarrying was everywhere, and David also showed us a curious little pond – obviously man-made – whose purpose is unknown.

Two of our walkers left us at Froggatt village, while the rest of us went up an old quarrymen’s track to Froggatt Edge. We emerged at a former millstone quarry, where there are still nearly a dozen millstones lying around – including some of the older domed types. In the quarry face itself, we examined some inscriptions – including one with the date of 1622. On the top of Froggatt Edge was plenty more evidence of quarrying, and also some very intricately carved C19th inscriptions in the gritstone boulders. 

By now it was past sunset, but we were treated to a beautiful sky as we walked back along the Edge towards the start point. On our way, we saw 9 red deer at quite close quarters, and also a pair of nightjars. A fine end to a good walk which everyone enjoyed.

Thanks to Jill Hulme for allowing us to use her photos.

Peak District Mining Heritage Walks and Underground Mine Trips


Here are the guided walks and underground mine visits we currently have planned for the next few months in the Derbyshire Peak District. Do keep checking back here, as more walks and underground trips will be added to the list. 

All our walks are free, and are open to all (not just PDMHS members). However, pre-booking is required when walks are limited to a certain number of people. As the walks are all also weather-dependent, we can keep you informed by email of any changes or cancellation in the event of bad weather. You can contact us at Any changes due to weather conditions will also be posted on the website, so it is advisable to check back here before you set out.

Also, if you are planning on attending with a large number of friends, it would be worth checking with us in advance about car parking availability. 

Donate to support the work of Peak District Mines Historical SocietyOur walks are free but if you would like to express your appreciation, a donation would be very welcome. Alternatively you might like to join PDMHS.

If you want to find out more information about any of our guided mining and industrial heritage walks, contact Chris at

Underground mine trip in Maury Sough © Martin LongOur underground mine trips are organised by the PDMHS UEG (Underground Exploration Group), which is free to join for PDMHS members. Insurance is compulsory for those going on underground trips, but the UEG can arrange this if you don’t already hold BCA insurance. You can contact the UEG here.


Tuesday 16 July – Underground trip into Pretoria Chert Mine, Bakewell

This trip is now fully booked, but we have started a waiting list in case of any cancellations. Contact if you would liked to be added to the list.

Leader  – John Barnatt

This trip will visit one of the best-preserved mines in the Peak, which was worked for chert until the 1960s. It has impressive packwalls and lots of artefacts still in place. For more information see Mining History vol.19 no.6.

Apart from a short fixed ladder climb at the entrance, the trip will mostly involve walking height passages and so is suitable for novices.

10 places available. Prior booking is essential.

Tuesday 6th August – Mining Heritage Walk to Magpie Mine, Sheldon. 

The Square Chimney at Magpie Lead Mine in the Peak District. Photo © Andy GillingsLeader: Paul Chandler.
This is a short EVENING walk, mainly on grass, with some uneven terrain.
The walk involves a full tour around the magnificent surface remains of Magpie Mine. Learn about its fascinating history of over 300 years, including a rich ore strike, huge financial losses, the ‘murders‘ and more. You can read more about Magpie Mine here.
Meet in Ashford-in-the-Water village, near the sheepwash bridge and church, where there is a small car park & street parking. Due to the shorter evenings at this time of year, we will then drive from the meeting place in Ashford (sharing cars) up to Magpie Mine, Sheldon & back.
Party size is limited to 10. To book your place(s), and for the meeting time or further details, please contact Paul Chandler, either by email at or phone on 07908-607513 (Mobile/Text is best).  

Bring usual walking clothes & boots or wellies, a torch (for viewing mine shafts) and a camera. Sorry, no dogs on this walk.

Tuesday 13 August – Underground SRT trip into Water Icicle Mine, Monyash

 Leader – Martin Long

This trip will visit this part-mined, part natural system which has been extended in recent years. There are large cave passages and evidence of the miners removing the stalacmites which gave the mine its name.

Meet at the end of Derby Lane, Monyash, at 7 PM – there is a permit system in place for parking so please arrange in advance with Martin to get these.

As access is through a 100’ deep shaft, participants must be competent in SRT and come suitably equipped.

There are 6 places available on this trip – advance booking is essential. Contact to book your place.

For more information about Water Icicle Mine, see here.

Members who would be interested in getting trained in SRT (single rope techinque) should contact Martin Long at If there is demand for this then a training session can be arranged.

Tuesday 24 September – Underground trip into Old Tor Mine, Castleton 

Leader – Adam Russell

This blue john mine is located in the Winnats Pass, and is a great opportunity to see what this famed decorative mineral looks like in situ.

The trip is mostly in walking height passages but there is a steep climb down to the lower part of the mine which will be rigged with a ladder and handline.

Meet at Speedwell Mine, Castleton at 7.00 PM. 

There are 8 places available on this trip – advance booking is essential. Contact to book your place.

Tuesday 1st October – Underground trip into MASSON CAVERN, Matlock Bath.

Leader: Tony Wood.

An evening trip with a limited number of places. BCA Insurance or similar is essential. Permission to visit is courtesy of “Heights of Abraham”.

An ideal trip for novices and experienced explorers alike. Easy grade, quite extensive mined/natural system, mainly walking/stooping size passages on this trip, with a number of large and impressive mined/natural caverns. Fine mineralisation in places. Dry trip, apart from puddles. Preference is being given to Society members who have not visited before. However, don’t delay, as any remaining places will be offered to Society members on waiting list from 1st August. Party size is limited, with places split equally with our friends at Masson Caving Group.

For further details, bookings; Contact Paul Chandler, either by email at or phone on 07908-607513 (Mobile/Text is best).  

Matlock Cable Tramway Walk Report

Sunday 28th April dawned a pleasant day after the horrendous weather of the previous day. Nine of us met Paul Chandler at the picnic site / car park in Darley Dale. We started off towards Warney Mill, a former corn water mill. This was acquired by one Herbert Harding from Matlock and used as a caravan site. He later sold furniture direct to the public. On Sundays the items were included in an expensive pound of carrots to work around the then Sunday trading laws. The site is now better known as DFS. 

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Museum Heritage Events

The Peak District Lead Mining Mueum (part of PDMHS) hosts Derbyshire Heritage Events and offers Guided Heritage Walks in Derbyshire – for dates, times, costs and other details please check the Museum Web Site news page or their Facebook page.

Derbyshire Heritage WalksThe guided heritage walks are led by local expert Tony Wood. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the Peak District Lead Mining Museum in Matlock Bath. Not only does Tony have an extensive knowledge of local lead mining history, but also the people and places. His walks have usually been sold out and attract many “repeat visitors”. You can buy tickets in person at the Museum (check the Museum web site for opening times) or you can email here or phone 01629 583834. Card payments can be taken over the phone for a minimum of 2 or more tickets.

Evening walks begin at 7.00pm and aim to finish by 9.00pm. The starting point will be given when you purchase your tickets.

In addition to walks organised by the Museum, PDMHS also operates a series of free heritage walks and underground trips. For underground trips, BCA public liability insurance is mandatory – this can be arranged for PDMHS members by the Society’s Underground Exploration Group.

Derbyshire Heritage Talks are hosted at the Museum in Matlock Bath. Talks are on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 and cover a wide range of historical aspects of the area, including the mining heritage but also industrial archaeology, folk-lore and social history in Derbyshire. These heritage events are well attended and tickets should be purchased in advance (at the museum or by phone to 01629 583834) to avoid disappointment. Tickets cost £6 (£5 to PDMHS members and Friends of the Pavilion).

15 October 2019: A talk by John Barnatt, who has a long involvement in the archaeological investigation of the history of mining, especially in the Peak District.

This talk is likely to be very popular, so book early!