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Scheduled Monument record MDR3186 - Lead working, High Tor recreation ground, Matlock Town

Type and Period (1)

  • (Tudor to Georgian - 1500 AD to 1800 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

The monument includes a group of rock cut clefts, produced by the mining of lead ore. It lies close to the summit of High Tor. The two main clefts are 'Roman Cave' (SMR 10047) and 'Fern Cave' (SMR 10046). The west end of Roman Cave is separated by an infilled length from the cliff face, but an adit and spoil heap in the cliff confirm the the presence of workings throughout this length. Archaeological deposits remain in the infilled length, and in the bases of the clefts. Workings are documented here from the 16th to 18th centuries; although an earlier origin is possible. The lead workings on High Tor are one of the finest examples nationally of opencut workings, due to their deep and narrow form. Their shape has allowed the survival of tool marks on the rockfaces. (1, 2). The historic lead mines of Fern and Roman Caves, which lie immediately behind the crest of High tor, were worked from at least the 17th century and probably before, and were known to miners as High Tor Rake and Hard Rake respectively. The area of High Tor was developed as a plesure grounds and in 1865, some years after the scenic walks and drives here were first developed, the two lead mine opencuts were opened as showcaves and given their current names. In 2006 a detailed survey was made of Fern and Roman caves and of the short continuations beyond along the veins within the scheduled area, concentrating on the below ground-level features. The survey included plans, elevations and cross-sections as well as the identification and plotting of over 500 specific archaeological features. The bulk of these relate to the creation of the opencuts by lead miners and subsequent attempts made by them to find further viable ore deposits. They include evidence for early extraction in the form of firesetting and later work using gunpowder in shotholes. Pickwork scars and notches to support wooden timbers are common. Three places were found where ore was hauled to the surface, leaving worn grooves where ropes caught on the sides. Although outside the detailed survey area, it was noted that evidence of additional lead workings survive around the Caves, albeit in landscaped form. (3) In May 2008 a mineshaft opened up next to a footpath on High Tor within the scheduled site. The shaft was excavated and recorded. Evidence of shot holes 23mm in diameter showed that gunpowder had been used for the shaft and workings, which were probably of 18th/19th century date. (4). A complex series of spectacular deep opencuts (Roman and Fren Caves), mostly open to surface. This is a good example of this type of working that may be of some antiquity. (5) A level at the base of the High Tor cliff, below Roman Cave, has evidence of firesetting with coal. (6)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1996. Scheduling Notification: Lead Workings in High Tor Recreation Ground. 24984. 376. Cat. No. 376.
  • <2> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Bacon Rake, Roman Cave.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Barnatt, J and T Worthington (PDNPA). 2006. A Detailed Archaeological Assessment of Fern and Roman Caves, High Tor Rake and Hard Rake, High Tor, Matlock Bath.
  • <4> Unpublished document: TL Excavations Ltd. 2008. Plans, notes and photographs of Shaft HT01 at High Tor, Matlock.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Barnatt, J. 2004. An Inventory of Regionally & Nationally Important Lead Mining Sites in the Peak District. Vol. 2: Corpus of Sites. p 154, site no. 111.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Barnatt, J. 2005. Updated Inventory of Regionally & Nationally Important Lead Mining Sites in the Peak District.. p 5, site no. 111.



Grid reference Centred SK 29731 58952 (267m by 254m) (Approximate)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR2575
  • EDR2574

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Record last edited

Feb 27 2020 8:28PM

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