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Site record MDR6212 - Bell pits, West Wood, Staveley

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Ironstone for Foxbrooke Furnace, near Renishaw (built 1652) came from Staveley. 'Ironstone getters' at Staveley are mentioned in 17th century business accounts. (1) Several 'Pithills' in Staveley field names mark the site of ironstone mines of the kind known as bell pits. It is certain that iron was extensively worked here two hundred and thirty years ago [ie mid-17th century] but probably many of these pits go back much further than that. (2) Many areas in the parish show the scars, where ironstone was mined, such as Westwood, various fields at Inkersall and at Red Lodge. A 13th century document refers to the Open-Holes, an area adjoining Westwood, as 'Les Orepittes'. This ground is the site of numerous pockets where the ore has been mined. (3) The main source of ironstone in Staveley was the area now covered by West Wood. Ironstone was mined here until the 19th century. The wood is honeycombed with former pits. (4) There are many traces of surface and mine workings in the area of Westwood. No evidence of the age of individual workings was gained [in 1959]. (5) An incidental reference in a grant of land by the Lord of the Manor of Staveley in the 13th century suggests that mining was taking place in the are from around that time, although there is no direct reference to Westwood itself at such an early date. The geological make up of the area suggests that the coal seams which lie close to the surface were indeed exploited in the early middle ages, probably in much the same manner as at the 'Open Holes' - that is to say by quarrying rather than mining per se. The mining has left notable traces throughout the wood, in the form of hollows that represent the top part of the shafts of shallow mining pits - often referred to as bell-pits because of their underground profile. Such pits were one of the most common methods of mineral extraction (for both coal and iron) in the medieval and post-medieval periods. At Westwood there are two distinct groups of mining remains [see illustration 5 in report]. The upper group comprises some twenty or so holes of various sizes, the profiles of which have been slightly eroded and in recent times masked by brambles and other hardy vegetation. On the whole, however, they are in a good state of preservation [in 1998]. The lower group, slightly larger in number, are situated in the southern-most two-thirds of the wood. These holes are deeper and more steeply-sided, but are being eroded by the creation of a pathway. On the basis of the profiles, it could be tentatively suggested that the upper group are older, having suffered more steady erosion, and the lower group may be as recent as the late 19th or early 20th centuries. As well as the surface mining in Westwood, access to the deeper coal seams was gained through a tunnel known as the Hollingwood Tunnel, or Hollingwood Common Tunnel [see MDR22789 for more details]. (7) Ironstone bellpits have been recorded in West Wood, Brimington. (8)

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Article in serial: Sitwell, G. 1888. 'A picture of the iron trade in the seventeenth century, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 10, pp 28-46. p. 3.
  • <2> Article in serial: Coleman, W L. 1894. 'Some place and field names of the parish of Staveley', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 16, pp 190-197. p. 196.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Court, A. 1948. Staveley: Some Historical Notes, 2nd edition. p. 66.
  • <4> Index: NDAT. 1824. 1824.
  • <5> Personal Observation: F1 WW 04-JUN-59.
  • <6> Personal Observation: F2 WW 04-JUN-59.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Belford, P (ARCUS). 457. Desk-based assessment of land at Westwood and Phipps Open Holes, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. HER Doc. No. 457; pp. 4-7.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Smith, P & Carr, R. 2012. Bloomery Iron Slag Deposits in Northeast Derbyshire.



Grid reference Centred SK 4153 7237 (252m by 1130m) (Approximate)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

  • EDR3556
  • EDR797
  • EDR3986

Please contact the HER for details.

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Record last edited

Oct 16 2020 9:44AM

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