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

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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 meets@pdmhs.com. 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 meets@pdmhs.com

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.

 


Sunday November 3rd – Heritage Walk to The Mills of Slinter Wood, Cromford

Meet at 10.30am in front of the Mill Yard Cafe at Arkwright’s Mill, Mill Lane, Cromford. Please park in the car park next to the mill – the Arkwright Society gets the revenue to help with their work.

Via Gellia Mills © Chris JamesThis is a relatively gentle 3 hour walk  following the Bonsall Brook to mills and mill sites once powered by the Brook processing lead, calamine, corn, cotton, colour and paper. This area is rich in industrial history, and the walk is being led by well-known local historian and author Doreen Buxton. Beginning at Arkwright’s Mill in Cromford, she will take us to see various sites of interest heading up the Via Gellia, visiting the remains of mills in Slinter Wood in Bonsall Hollow as far as the Via Gellia Mills – which gave their name to the fabric Viyella. From there, we will return to Cromford via the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Rose End Meadows. The total distance is only about 3 miles, but with so much to see, and Doreen’s extensive knowledge, we will be making plenty of stops along the way!

There will be some road walking involved, but we will mostly be on footpaths. The walk is relatively easy and suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit. The highest point on the walk is only about 300ft above our starting point – most of which is the climb up out of the Via Gellia onto the pastures above. From there, it will be a gradual descent back to our starting point at Cromford. 

This walk is free and open to all. Booking is not essential, but if you register your interest with us, we will be able to contact you directly if the walk has to be cancelled or there are any changes to arrangements due to weather conditions. Given the recent rain, and the fact that we will be walking across uneven ground, walking boots are strongly advised. Please contact us at meets@pdmhs.com if you require any further information.

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!