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Monument record MDR3139 - Masson Hill lead mining complex, Matlock Bath and Matlock Town

Type and Period (2)

  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Largely untouched relics of Great Rake Mining with small shafts placed close together, with associated buddles etc. Underground features have geological and historical interest. (1) The Masson Complex has various entrances into its mine/cavern system extending from the site of Masson Hill Top Quarry to the river level. This is a complex series of old lead mine galleries and natural caverns extending from top to bottom of Masson Hill. (2) This area includes the Nestus Pipes, Longtor Mines and the Bacon and Coalpit Rakes, and has been identified as a High Priority Site in a survey of lead mining remains in the Peak District. At the surface the remains comprise either hillocks and opencuts along veins, only some of which are still intact, or shafts down to pipe workings, many of which have now been sealed. The area's main importance, however, lies below ground. The extensive underground workings at Nestus Pipes and Bacon Rake (Masson and Rutland Caverns) and Coalpit Rake (Devonshire Cavern), all with adit entrances, are exceptionally important for their evidence of early mining. At the Nestus Pipes there are labyrinthine medieval (or earlier) pipe workings primarily identified from their distinctive 'woodpecker' pickwork. Documentation shows that there was extensive working here (and on Bacon Rake) by 1470. At the complex vein workings at Coalpit Rake there is extensive evidence for fire setting using coal; documentation shows this mine was active by 1595. At the Nestus Pipes and Coalpit Rake there is a large number of hand picked shafts from surface. The former site has coffin levels, much underground evidence for later mining dating from the late 17th century to the 20th century, and there are two fine picked sets of dated initials from around 1700. Further important underground rake and pipe workings survive at Longtor Mine (with good examples of 18th to 20th century work), Long Tor Top Mine (with fire setting with coal and later powder work) and Dark Hole Mine on Bacon Rake (with fire setting with wood and coal, and later powder work). (3) This system consists of largely mined workings, comprising both large east-west stopes in a rake and workings within extensive mineralised hydrothermal pipe/flat deposits leading to north-west and south-east. The main stopes lie on Bacon or Great Rake, while the deposits to either side are the Nestus Pipes. The mines have a series of commonly used names; south of the rake is the Nestus Mine, now shown to the public as Rutland Cavern (first opened to the public in 1810). Running north from the rake there is Cardings Nestus Mine, High Loft or Black Ox Mine, and Critchman or Knowles Mine. A part of these pipes, together with a short section of Bacon Rake, is shown to the public as Great Masson Cavern (first opened to visitors in the 1870s). There are fine exposures of in-situ mineral deposits throughout the pipe/flat workings which are important for the understanding of the mineralisation process. There are also remnants of natural cave which cut through the mineralised deposits, one of the most spectacular of which is the 'Great Cavern' in the Masson 'show cave'. The Great Masson/Rutland system is also of exceptional archaeological interest, with workings of probable medieval date. There are also interesting stratified buddling deposits. The Critchman Mine also mined fluorspar commercially from the late 18th century onwards, a rare example of a mine that exploited this mineral before the 20th century. (4) Masson and Rutland Caverns (as they are now known) at Matlock Bath were mined before 1470 AD and display fine pick marks typical of the period. The size of some tunnels suggests working by children. Fire setting (i.e. the use of fire to heat up rock which is then quenched by water) was used to break new ground and can be seen in Matlock Bath mines. The method was supplanted by the use of gunpowder from about 1730. Nestus Mine [Connected to Rutland Cavern] was one of the most significant mines in the Lower Derwent area active in the prosperous 17th century. In the 1640, 20,000 people in the county were estimated to have been engaged in the industry. (5) Further examples of firesetting with coal have been identified at the Nestus Pipes, Longtor Mine and Newthole Vein. The documented date of working at Coalpit Rake has now been pushed back to 1528. (6) There are many abandoned shafts, but there are significant mining remains within two caverns, Rutland Cavern and Great Masson Cavern which has been developed as part of the Heights of Abraham leisure complex. Both have been worked since at least the 1470s. Further lead mining remains in the High Tor gardens on the opposite side of the river are Scheduled Monuments.(7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Great Rake, Masson Hill.
  • <2> Unpublished document: County Treasure Recording Form. 3.6.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Barnatt, J. 2004. An Inventory of Regionally & Nationally Important Lead Mining Sites in the Peak District. Vol. 2: Corpus of Sites. pp 203-205, Site U30.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Webb, D. 2001. A Cave and Mine Conservation Audit for the Masson Hill Area. HER Doc. No. 1339.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p 13.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Barnatt, J. 2005. Updated Inventory of Regionally & Nationally Important Lead Mining Sites in the Peak District.. p 5, site no. U30.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales.



Grid reference Centred SK 2914 5872 (975m by 936m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR2844

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Record last edited

Mar 20 2024 1:20PM

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