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Scheduled Monument record MDR3462 - Former Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Lead Mines, Northeast of B5023, Middleton

Type and Period (4)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1740 AD? to 1860 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1740 AD? to 1860 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1740 AD? to 1860 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1740 AD? to 1860 AD?)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Former Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Lead Mines, Northeast of B5023, Middleton, opened c1740. Remains of two lead mines, Ratchwood to the west and Rantor to the east, both containing structures and earthworks associated with lead mining and processing. Ratchwood includes several buildings in ruins, a large circular ore store bay, capped shafts and a gin circle, mine waste tips and waste from ore dressing (including a terraced area). At Rantor, features within a small triangular enclosure include a miner's coe, shafts, mine spoil tips and ore dressing waste. Between the two mines is a well preserved, stone lined shaft capped with concrete sleepers. The 1st edition OS map shows the mines as Ratchwood and Rantor, but they are referred to as Nether Ratchwood and Orchard Shafts in earlier sources. Sunk in the 1740s they remained active until the 1860s. (1) A site with large hillocks with flat-topped dressing floors, ruined coes and other buildings (one a ruined mine office and reckoning house), and capped shafts, one with a beehive capping. There is also a poorly defined gin circle, slight remains of a line of rectangular bouse teems, a pond and a small buddle dam. The two mines lie within ruined possible belland yards. (2) Wirksworth was one of the most important centres of the lead-mining industry and an early centre of large scale quarrying. The northern and western sides of the town were surrounded by lead mines and a number of significant residual features remain. The sites of Ranter and Ratchwood mines to the west of Old Lane have been Scheduled and are marked by substantial spoil heaps and disturbed ground. (3) From the National Heritage List for England: 'The standing, buried and earthwork remains of two nucleated lead mines and ore works. The mines are known as Ratchwood and Rantor on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1880, but as Nether Ratchwood and Orchard Shafts in earlier documentary sources. They are believed to have been sunk in the 1740s and remained active until the 1860s. Small-scale mining and the reworking of spoil heaps for gangue minerals may have continued into the C20. Reasons for Designation Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Lead Mines, two nucleated lead mines with associated ore works, which are believed to have been sunk in the 1740s, are scheduled for the following principle reasons: * Survival: as well-preserved examples of early nucleated lead mines with ore works which serve to illustrate the change in surface form associated with the spread of mining from exposed veins to those capped by sterile shale; * Diversity: the monument retains a diverse range of C18 and C19 features representing ore extraction and dressing process. Such a range has the potential to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the full process flow of the industry, the methods used, the chronological depth of the site and the place it held in the wider economic and social landscape; * Rarity: it has well-preserved remains of surviving surface features, notably the stone storage bay and the drystone beehive-capped shaft, both of which are rare features in the Derbyshire orefield; * Potential: it is likely that the mines can yet yield further evidence and understanding to explain their development and chronological range, as well as contributing to the understanding of the historical and technological development of lead mining in Derbyshire. They will also provide evidence for both the historical and technological development of what was once a far more extensive, multi-period mining landscape; * Documentation: the history of the two lead mines is well documented, and the survey of the site included in the Lead Legacy publication (2004) is an important archaeological document. History Lead mining in Derbyshire may have begun as early as the Late Bronze Age as indicated by the discovery of lead artefacts at Mam Tor and Gardoms Edge, but no archaeological evidence for mining, ore processing or smelting at this time has been recorded. In the Roman period, the presence of a major national lead industry is attested both by classical references and by numerous finds of lead ‘pigs’ (ingots of smelted lead). The mines themselves, however, are elusive, as later mines have cut through earlier shallow workings. It has been argued that Wirksworth, based on its location at the crossing of several ancient trackways and Roman roads, along with its later development as a major lead mining area, could have been the location of Lutudarum, the Roman centre of mining administration and jurisdiction. However, new evidence suggests that a site close to Carsington, now lying beneath the reservoir, is probably a more favoured location. Documentary evidence for mining in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times is sparse, but enough is known to indicate that lead mining was well established in Wirksworth. From at least the early C8 through to the late C9 mines at Wirksworth were controlled by the important Mercian abbey at Repton in the Trent Valley. After the collapse of the Danelaw in the early C10 many on the mines in Derbyshire were controlled by English kings who owned large estates in the area. The Domesday Book of 1086 records three lead ‘works’ in Wirksworth. Although it is unclear as to what a ‘works’ actually represented, they have been interpreted by Rieuwerts (2012) as comprising ‘three individual sites combining communal ore washing and smelting, with each ‘works’ served by its own group of mines’. In medieval times a royalty of a thirteenth of all ore mined (known as a 'lot') was paid to the Crown and a tenth (or 'tithe') was paid to the church. The Peak was made a free mining area with wide and unusual privileges and the 'free' miners were allowed to work by very liberal laws which enabled them to search for lead ore in the 'liberties'; anywhere but churchyards, gardens, orchards and highways. In 1288 Edward I ordered an inquisition into the local practice of mining to be held at Ashbourne. Two Barmote Courts were subsequently set up, one for the High Peak (with Monyash becoming its fixed location in the C18) and the other at Wirksworth for the Low Peak, to regulate and administer the mining equivalent of the civil magistrates’ courts. It has, however, been suggested that Barmote Courts were held prior to 1288, but the paucity of evidence prevents any definite conclusion being made as to when they were first held. By the beginning of the C15 Great Barmote Courts were also sitting, usually at Easter and Michelmas. These courts were empowered to adjudicate on much wider and more serious issues; they consisted of 24 jurors, presided over by the Barmaster and a Steward. The mining laws were finally formalised in the 1850s with the establishment of the High Peak Barmote Court in 1851 and the Wirksworth Barmote Court in 1852. Barmote Courts are still held at the Moot Hall, Wirksworth, built in 1814, while a Barmote Court for the Duke of Devonshire’s liberties meets annually at Chatsworth House. During the C12 and C14 documentary sources provide evidence of 11 and possibly 12 mining sites of one or more workings in Derbyshire. Most if not all mining would have been small-scale activity undertaken by miner/farmers, while larger ventures were worked by full-time miners. All mines are likely to have been either surface opencasts cut into vein outcrops and/or underground workings that were rarely more than 30-50m deep, dug using simple methods and tools. The evidence for mining during the C15 and C16 comes primarily from the written versions of the laws and customs existing between 1288 and 1525. Mines in Wirksworth were recorded as in existence by 1467, with details contained in an undated account of meers (a linear measurement along a vein irrespective of its width or depth) owned by several local landowners. Once the nature of wide and deep horizontal deposits were understood by the mid-C16, meers were measured in squares rather than the usual linear measurement along the vein. Technological development moved apace with the first evidence of firing rock underground, drainage using horse-powered pumps (around 1579-1581) and a long drainage adit all appearing in contemporary documentation. By the C17 lead had become second in importance to wool to the national economy, with Wirksworth being one of the country's principal lead producing towns. During this century mine owners began to take advantage of the rapid expansion in both geological knowledge and technological advancement. Improvements in smelting technology during the last quarter of the C16 allowed smaller sized ore to be smelted in the new ore-hearth furnaces. As a consequence many large mines had their old underground workings and surface hillocks extensively reworked. The breaking of rock underground using gunpowder (from the 1660s) made working mines to a greater depth easier, but these required more efficient ventilation, gained by sinking shafts at regular intervals. The driving of soughs (a level driven primarily for the purpose of drainage) from 1627 onwards to dewater mines was particularly crucial, especially as most workable rich deposits had become exhausted above the water table. Deeper and much larger mines were subsequently developed in Wirksworth, with the area to the immediate north-north-west of the town, known as the Gulf or the Wirksworth Gulf, a down-faulted graben of Cawdor, Matlock and Hoptonwood limestones capped by Eden Shales, being further exploited for its rich ore deposits. Bounded to the east by the Rantor (or Raventor) Fault and to the west by the Gulf Fault, the graben (valley) contained a complex belt of north-west to south-east aligned rakes (vertical or sub-vertical fissures filled with lead ore and associated gangue minerals) and scrins (a minor form of rake comprised of mineralised joints or small fault fractures) of which Flindall (1982) considered Ratchwood Vein be the most important. By the 1630s Rantor Vein had been worked down to the natural water table, but it was not until the 1690s that veins were located under the Gulf's shale trough by the direct sinking of shafts. Although two pumping engines were installed on Rantor Vein in early C17, these were abandoned in the mid-C17 in favour of soughs. While Rantor (Raventor) Sough was probably begun in 1655 and Northcliffe (Lees) Sough in 1664, mining documents provide no indication that miners were aware of the considerable area of shale capped, mineral bearing limestone lying between the two faults until Hannage Sough lowered the water table. The Articles of Agreement for driving Hannage Sough were signed on 28 March 1693 by over 140 mine owners, with Francis Gell as the undertaker. It was driven from Gell’s Middle Smelt Mill on the south side of Wirksworth to Rantor Vein by the Committee of the Wirksworth Lead Miners (also known as the Dovegang Company). Almost immediately the company became involved in compositional (a proportion of ore paid by mine owners to sough masters for ore obtained below the water marks and also below the sough level) disputes with the owners of Ratchwood Mine and Orchard Mine (in the northern section of the Gulf). The rich ore bearing area beneath the Gulf had not been discovered when the Articles were signed in 1693, and as neither Ratchwood Mine nor Orchard Mine been discovered at this date, their owners used this pretext to claim exclusion from composition payments. The owners of Ratchwood Mine, freed in September 1696 at a founder shaft some 350m north-north-west of Nether Ratchwood Mine, claimed that ‘the mine was neither troubled by water or drained by the sough’. However, as no significant production was achieved from the mine until the latter half of 1697, when Hannage Sough was operational, this claim appears to be without foundation. On 8 February and 14 May 1697 cross veins out of the Ratchwood Founder were freed and on 4 March 1698 the first taker (a meer or meers beyond the Founders Meer) ‘downhill’ (southwards towards Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Mines) was also freed. After this Barmaster’s records for the expansion of mining activity in the southern section of the Gulf are very fragmentary and do not mention the freeings of any further meers on Ratchwood vein. In addition, a paucity of old records, such as reckoning books and plans of old workings, means that only a brief historical account of the development of lead mining in the southern section of the Gulf from the C17 onwards can be given. In January 1701 and November 1702 the Dovegang Company blocked Hannge Sough due to a loss of compositional payments, claiming that some mines were not being worked despite being drained by the sough. A series of agreements was subsequently reached with the owners of Ratchwood, Orchard, Seven Lands and Captains mines in the southern section of the Gulf. The freeing of Captains Mine and Twenty Lands Mine, which respectively lie to the south and south-south-west of Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Mines, are not recorded in the Barmaster’s book ending March 1698, but they are documented as being in existence by 30 June 1701. In 1703 it was decided to drive Hannage Sough forwards through Captains Mine and Seven Lands Mine to Nether Ratchwood Mine, but nothing was achieved. It was subsequently agreed that the sough would only be maintained and not further extended. Between 1725 and 1726, however, driving work recommenced and the sough was eventually completed to Nether Ratchwood Mine in 1732-33. Nether Ratchwood Mine, along with the adjacent Orchard Mine, which worked Orchard New Vein, are believed to have been sunk shortly afterwards, probably in the 1740s. Prior to the sinking shafts at Nether Ratchwood Mine and Orchard Mine, Landlords Shaft had been sunk some 275m to the south-east to work Rantor Vein. The first documentary reference to this mine was made in 1728, and it was probably operational until the late C18, when it is mentioned in documents as part of a dispute over mining rights. Hannage Sough was rendered ineffective in the 1770s when the Rantor branch and Ratchwood sub-branch of Cromford Sough reached the Gulf. The Rantor branch level, which was probably not begun until 1771, was cut southwards along Fletcher Vein (or Rantor Old Mine Vein) and Rantor Vein. In March 1775 an agreement was made to cut a sub-branch from Rantor Vein through to Orchard Mine, Nether Ratchwood Mine and Middlepeak Mine (the latter outside the scheduled area), at the joint expense of all four partnerships. A plan of 1777 shows it being blocked some 229m south of Nether Ratchwood Shaft. In 1804 a miner’s road was laid out from Nether Ratchwood Shaft down to Old Lane and hence to Wirksworth. Freeings in the Gulf in the 1820s indicate that most activity took place north-west of Nether Ratchwood Shaft (outside the scheduled area), including shafts at Elder Tree or Street’s Vein (1824), Hopeful Vein (1824) and Spencer Old Vein (1824). Dressing the ore, however, required much space for buddles, dams, hillocks, coes, etc, and on all five occasions when the Barmaster set out land it was at Nether Ratchwood Shaft. In 1862 a drainage level was started along Captain’s Vein northwards from the main branch of Meerbrook Sough to relieve Nether Ratchwood Mine, but only really got underway in 1864. Rantor Vein was followed northwards at a dead level from the main sough and the crosscut was made to Nether Ratchwood shaft which was reached by May 1867, where all substantial activity in the Gulf now took place. Mining, however, appears to have been short lived, as both Nether Ratchwood and Orchard (Rantor) mines, along with Twenty Lands Mine and several unnamed shafts in the southern section of the Wirksworth Gulf, are shown as being ‘disused’ or ‘old’ on the 25 inch Ordnance Survey map of 1880. With the exception of Millclose Mine at Darley Bridge, which was worked until 1939, little mining was carried out from the 1880s onwards as profitable sources of ore had become scarce and increased competition from other ore fields led to a decline in the importance of, and production at, the Derbyshire lead mines. From the early C20 to the present, lead mining sites have been extensively reworked for gangue minerals originally discarded by the lead miners. Those of economic worth are primarily fluorspar, barites and calcite, while lead ore is still a valuable by-product. Details PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the standing, buried and earthwork remains of two nucleated lead mines and ore works. The mines are known as Ratchwood and Rantor on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1880, but as Nether Ratchwood and Orchard Shafts in earlier documentary sources. They are believed to have been sunk in the 1740s and remained active until the 1860s. Small-scale mining and the reworking of spoil heaps for gangue minerals may have continued into the C20. The monument forms a core area of well-preserved features within the wider lead mining landscape of the Wirksworth Gulf, a down-faulted graben of Cawdor, Matlock and Hoptonwood limestones capped by Eden Shales. Remains to the north and south of the scheduled area survive as dispersed features and predominantly represent shafts. These are common features in the lead mining landscape of Derbyshire and add little to the understanding of the mining extraction or ore processing on the site. For this reason these features are not included in the area of protection. DESCRIPTION: the remains of Nether Ratchwood and Rantor Lead Mines, which stand adjacent to one another, with Nether Ratchwood to the west and Rantor to the east, contain a group of earthworks and structures associated with mining and ore processing. The west side of Nether Ratchwood Mine is marked by several ruined buildings, including a mine office and reckoning house, together with a large circular stone walled ore storage bay measuring 10m in diameter, and the remains of a line of rectangular bouse teams. To the east of these features is a flat area of ground containing at least two capped shafts, one contained within a coe, and the earthworks of a gin circle. The east side of the mine is formed by a group of tips of mine spoil and ore dressing waste, fanning out to the east, and a terraced ore dressing area. The remains of Rantor Mine are smaller and confined within a triangular walled enclosure. They include a ruined miner’s coe on the west side, two shafts, one with a beehive capping, and tips of mine spoil and ore dressing waste. The area between the two mines contains a well preserved drystone-lined (ginged) shaft capped with concrete sleepers, a tip of ore dressing waste, and scattered mining related earthworks. A raised earthen track which runs across the area in an east-west alignment from Nether Ratchwood Shaft in the west to Old Lane in the east probably represents the remains of a miner’s road which was laid out in 1804. A number of large timbers scattered across the site may represent the remains of the headgear that existed in the early C20. The extent of underground works associated with the mines which survive is unclear. EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the area of protection, which is shown on the accompanying map extract, is drawn to include the whole of both surface complexes, together with an area between them which contains associated earthworks. The eastern boundary is drawn along the east side of the eastern boundary wall of the enclosure containing Rantor Mine. The northern boundary returns west 3m outside the line of the northern boundary of this enclosure (the 3m margin being considered essential for the support and protection of the monument, since this wall revets upstanding deposits). The boundary then returns north-west from 32m along the east side of a field wall, then south-west for 122m along the north side of a field wall. The western boundary then runs south 3m outside the line of a low bank (10m from the west side of the rectangular bouse teams and 6m to the west of the circular storage bay). The line returns east on a curving alignment following the base of the spoil tips of Ratchwood Mine and the south side of a trackway leading to Old Lane, and then runs north-east 3m outside the south side of a disused field bank to the south end of Rantor Mine tips (the 3m margin being considered essential for the support and protection of the monument). EXCLUSIONS: there are no exclusions within the scheduled area.' (4)

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1996. Scheduling Notification. 24986. 371. Cat. No.: 371.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Barnatt, J. 2004. An Inventory of Regionally & Nationally Important Lead Mining Sites in the Peak District. Vol. 2: Corpus of Sites. Site 116.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales.
  • <4> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England.



Grid reference Centred SK 28385 54943 (166m by 155m) (Multiple Site Centre)

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Record last edited

Aug 22 2019 3:14PM

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