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Report - Holme Bank Chert Mine, Bakewell - August 2015

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by WildBoyz, Aug 28, 2015.

  1. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    History

    Mining for chert in Bakewell has taken place since 1772, when a potter named Josiah Wedgwood recognised that the fine-grained flinty silica in that area was of an extraordinarily high quality. The chert here was often described as being of a ‘throstle-breast appearance [which] is characteristic of the best quality; this being a silicious rock, with more or less closely-placed brown spots’. In the past the actual material itself was worked into tools originally, and in later years, as the human race advanced to some extent, it was used as a whitening agent in earthenware manufacture.

    Holme Bank Mine, initially Bakewell Chert mine, which yielded around half of the mined chert from Derbyshire, was the second of two chert mines in the county; the other being the Pretoria Mine. Both were located in Bakewell. It is reported that the chert bed lies on a 1 in 3.7 gradient, therefore parts of the mines are, as you might expect, fairly steep in places. George Tissington of Rowland discovered this for himself on 22nd November 1838 when he stumbled into the ‘Chert Delph, near Holme Hall’ and died as he was returning home in an intoxicated state after shopping in Bakewell. Quite expectedly, because of the gradient, the mine was also subject to flooding during severe winters. Regardless, by the mid-1800s the original quarry, which was created before any underground excavation occurred, became a prominent commercial mining area. For instance, in 1859 over 540 tons of chert was obtained and by 1860 1,080 tons was extracted. A royalty of four shillings a ton was paid for the material. Mining in a quarry, though, was not without its dangers:

    ‘A serious accident happened on Friday to two men named George Alsopp and William Wildgoose, at a chert quarry, at Bakewell. The men were, it appears, ramming in a charge of powder for a blast, when by some means ignition and consequent instant explosion took place, injuring both very severely; Alsopp was much injured on one side and one arm, but more seriously on the face, and so much so that his eyesight was at first despared [sic] of. Wildgoose was also much hurt about the face, and one hand so much mutilated, that it was feared amputation must be resorted to. Mr. Winson, of Bakewell, who rents the quarry of Mr. Gisborne, humanely conveyed the latter named person by the first available train to our infirmary’.

    Mining underground began in the very late 1800s/early 1900s, when it was leased to Joseph Smith, and before long the workings consisted of an extensive system of passages with eight different entrances. Original access for the mine was via adits in a quarry at Bank Top and from there the mine stretched out through the hillside and down beneath the road. By 1907 the production at Holme Bank Mine totalled over 2,700 tons of chert. In a detailed report on the progress of the mine, a mining engineer named Arthur G. Taylor of Bakewell described the following:

    ‘The working face is now about 250 yards in from the entrance to the mine and is upwards of 145 yards in length being across the western half of the area leased. It is advancing steadily towards the northern limit of the area leased. At the extreme west end of the face the workings have reached the limit and at the East end of the workings they are about 50 yards from the limit. There is an area further to the east of this face 142 yards x 70 yards in extent which as I know is still untouched – it lies to the dip of the strata and no doubt fully one third of this area will be found to be below water… The chert bed maintains on the whole its good quality varying from 4’ 6” to 4’ 10” in thickness – that is to say – its useful thickness – though there is probably a foot more of good cherty rock’.

    The mine continued to prosper through the early 1900s and a high rate of production was still maintained through the First World War. By 1925, 41 men were employed to work underground. Even the disruption to coal supplies during the Great Strike did not see production falter at Holme Bank. Instead, a new diesel engine was installed so that electric lights could be used for lighting. While green tallow candles were first used, by 1931 a Holam compressor/generator lit the entire underground network. Mining continued at a remarkable rate, but, as with all mines, many of the dangers of mining could not be removed entirely. Several more accidents were reported around this time; though safety measures had improved considerably in contrast to the mining conducted during the late 1800s/early 1900s.

    By the 1940s, during the Second World War, the number of men employed in the mine had fallen to fewer than 20, and only half of those worked underground. At some stage in this period the mine broke out onto the surface though, and from there it was found that the chert was able to be quarried once again. This process was not only cheaper, but also more straightforward. After the war, however, other mines had managed to developed cheaper and more efficient mining techniques and Holme Bank was unable to compete. The mine finally closed in 1959, although it was still used as a block-making plant, using some of the existing supplies of chert, for a number of years after closure.

    Our Version of Events

    Typically, as it always does when we plan to go underground, it was a nice sunny day as we set off into the Peak District. And, once we’d arrived, it was even more pleasant. However, choosing to ignore all that we set off in the direction of an abandoned mine and, in our bid to cause some chaos in the country, we made sure to park in ‘residential only’ parking, because Raz said it was OK. As we’d guessed, it wasn’t and ACID received a firm telling off for his crime. At first, access seemed near impossible for those of us who are burdened with huge muscular physiques; those without managed it easy enough. Thankfully, we found a way past this mere hindrance and it wasn’t long before we were deep inside Bakewell’s underworld. The explore itself is incredibly interesting, but a little precarious in certain areas where support beams, walls and ceilings have collapsed; Raz even managed to push his finger through one of the large wooden beams still in situ. So, the thrill that there was a risk of being crushed to death was certainly present while we were down there.

    All in all the place is a good wander, and you can easily spend hours down there trying to navigate your way through all of the old passages and chambers. Unfortunately, for us though, above ground there was a thunderstorm underway, and a heavy downpour ensued shortly afterwards. Consequently, the old passages we were wandering through all of a sudden became incredibly damp and misty, and thereafter it was impossible to take photographs since the lenses kept fogging up. A little disappointed, we retreated back via some unknown route towards what we thought was an exit. Luckily for us it was, and we were able to clamber back out where we were welcomed into bright sunshine and blue skies.

    Explored with ACID-REFLUX, Raz and Hydro3xploric. (Good to meet you both! Hopefully we’ll get some more exploring done sometime soon).

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  2. Raz

    Raz 28DL Regular User
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    Nicely done mate #19 is ace :D apologies about the parking :rolleyes:
     
    WildBoyz likes this.
  3. Oort

    Oort The spice expands consciousness.
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    Lovely place & pics, gotta agree about #19! Is the entire place lined with deads?
     
  4. ACID- REFLUX

    ACID- REFLUX 28DL Regular User
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    Nicely done matey ;)

    Will have to return sometime with either some chalk or a very long ball of string lol

    There's got to be an exit up this way.......or this way.........or this.....

    Us muscular lads lol
     
    WildBoyz likes this.
  5. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Haha, all good mate. It's a story to tell :D
     
  6. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Thanks man! Nah, not the whole thing.
     
  7. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Cheers mate. Yeah, I really want to explore some of those other passages. I have a massive coil of string, I'll bring it ;) Haha, the conversation went exactly like that.

    Yeah man, we need to ease off the gym a little.
     
  8. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Good set of photos, captured the place nicely :thumb
     
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  9. paulpowers

    paulpowers Massive Member
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    You moght want to delete the last pic showing one of the ways in.
     
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  10. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    It's not a way in mate.
     
  11. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Thanks TLR :thumb
     
  12. Gilmo1991

    Gilmo1991 28DL Full Member
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    There is a car of us planning a trip tonight, we prefer midnight wanderings, but its our first underground! Anyone want to join or any tips!?
     
  13. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Possibly not put your expected time of arrival on here, even though it's just a mine the locals are always looking for new seed and play banjo's.
     
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