Safety is paramount!
Scout Sandstone Mine – Rawtenstall
Since visiting Facit Mine earlier in the year this place popped up while researching the history of Facit Mine and sounded well worth a visit, similar in style and layout, just a hell of a lot smaller and also a lot more stable than its very big brother. Not the easiest place to find due to some dodgy information, but it meant I managed to stumble into the baby brother of Longbank Sandstone Mine first.
The mine is a reasonable size; about 300 meters long and 100 meters wide. Many entrances are present; however the majority have either been mostly infilled, collapsed or are an ornamental feature in private gardens. As with most of the sandstone mines in the Rossendale area this was worked on the Pillar and Stall Technique, and to date the best example I’ve seen.
The best bit of history I found is this and it is evident when strolling around “In 1938 the mine galleries at the disused Scout Mine were prepared to serve as air raid shelters in case of Second World War air attack. It was reported that the lofty galleries widen at intervals into extensive chambers and are large enough to accommodate scores of people if necessary. The mine was made ready with electric lights and an air lock in case of a gas attack. The roof was supported by large wooden beams, quite a few of them from demolition of mills and other large buildings.”
The general history of Scout Sandstone Mine (and all the other mines) is it taps into the Haslingden series of sandstone deposits, a quite hard rock, which was used for paving flags, machine beds, construction and later hardcore and aggregate for motorway construction
Some quarries in the area are now reopened with small scale production of flag stones and other products. Despite the abundance of quarries in the area : Facit, Britannia, Lands, Abraham etc; mine workings are very common – as the best stone is often found under thousands of tons of overburden and inferior stone – known as “ feight “, so adits were sunk and the stone excavated from pillar and stall workings
General History on the Pillar and Stall Technique
‘It is not generally known that drifts are now made underground for the purpose of stone getting, but such is the fact, and this kind of work renders the life of the quarrymen doubly dangerous. This mode of mining, however, obviates the removing of considerable amount of “bearing,” which would otherwise be very necessary. In times past, they thought little of bearing or cutting away earth to the depth of 20 or 30 feet, if thereby plenty of good stone could be afterwards procured; but the undermining system now adopted has rendered much excavation unnecessary.’
The layers of Haslingden Flags outcropping on the valley tops and sides were in great demand to pave the streets of Victorian towns and cities. In many places the flags outcrop on the moor top and moor edge close to surface, and large open excavations are obvious. Where the best layers of flag (often named ‘lonkey’) are deeper below surface or lower down the valley side then tunnels are driven and large scale ‘pillar and stall’ mining was carried out. Attempting to move thick overburden without mining would have been expensive and time consuming as modern earth moving machinery did not come into use until the early 1900s.
What remains in the hillsides are tunnel entrances to a grid –pattern complex of vast chambers separated by pillars of rock at frequent intervals to support the roof. To create the chambers, the rock getters would pick out a weaker layer above the best stone. Often working on their sides with only shoulder height to move in, they would excavate a narrow ledge to create a working space, then work downwards on the strong rock with wedges and crowbars. Both the Lower and Upper Haslingden Flags were mined and distribution is widespread.
Our earliest records of stone mines are from the 1820s at Tong End Pasture, Whitworth; but they probably reached their peak from the 1870s onwards. Many of the larger mines closed before the First World War, although other proprietors continued until the 1930s.
To be honest I’d given up hope finding this place, about 2 hours wandering the hillsides looking for anything which may have been an entrance, I had unknowingly found Longbank Sandstone Mine, but that was 1 km from this entrance. Lesson learnt (again) don’t believe everything you read on the internet!
I opted for some common sense and the good old 1;25000 map before I retired and tried one of the many derelict mills I had passed on the way here. I soon found a small entrance which dropped me into a huge labyrinth of passages.
A classic example of Pillar and Stall Technique, and not what you expect after dropping down a near vertical rabbit hole. Looking back to the rabbit hole, it’s not a staircase, just the remains of an old mattress.
It’s often hard to judge the scale of these places so here’s an early selfie, it’s a big place.
From where I entered the mine is at its narrowest, old entrances are visible as small slivers of light manage to sneak over the top of the infill used to block them. Further on the entrances are open, but are in the back gardens of the few houses here. This is also where the modification for air raid tunnels appear to have started.
The light shining in made it an interesting place to get a reasonable photo, grass growing on the floor.
Additional timbers used to strengthen the passages when they were widened are now visible.
From here you headed down to the Southern section of the mine, this was nice as it took you away from the entrances and any natural light.
Long high passages to follow deep into the hillside.
Fallen roof timbers litter the floor in places, but no evidence of recent rockfalls.
Plenty more roof support timbers to be seen, some in-situ and some on the floor.
Well that was it, a classic mine and one of the best examples of the Pillar and Stall Technique I’ve seen, well one of the safest which you can sit back and enjoy the engineering involved. Well worth the effort finding it and it was nice to pop back up the rabbit hole into the sunlight at the end of the trip.
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