Tag Archives: Carry van Lieshout

What’s in a name? Life, luck, and Derbyshire mine and sough names

By Carry van Lieshout

Beans and Bacon Mine, Horse Buttock Mine, Stop Thief, Hie-thee-home, Danger Level, Peace Forever: these are just some of the many evocative names of old Derbyshire lead mines and soughs that I encountered in my research. Robert Macfarlane’s recent book on the relation of landscape and language, Landmarks (2015), celebrates the idiosyncrasies of regional words for particular natural phenomena and features. The Derbyshire landscape is full of such unusual place names emerging from its mining heritage, which evoke a sense of people’s relationships with the landscape and their workplace, as well as with the unusual and unfamiliar spaces of the underground world.

While there were many mines that were simply given the name of their owner, or were named after local features or landmarks, others provide a glimpse into the lives of those who named them. Some mines reflect the everyday experiences of the miners, such as Dirty Face mine (and Dirty Face sough), or the challenges of working underground, as evidenced by the Danger Level, and Watergrove, which suggests a mine in need of drainage. The Lousey Level on the other hand seems to indicate an occasion where this drainage did not work as well as it should.

A Dragon Shaft, in the vicinity of an engine raising water from the mine, conjures up a sense of the smoke and fire of the steam engines required in mine drainage – ‘dragon’ was an established metaphor for early steam technology, also seen in a pamphlet against York Buildings Waterworks’ engines in central London.[1]

Many of the mines carry names that allude to the element of luck involved in the metal mining industry. A mine was named and claimed on discovery, at which point it was still uncertain how rich it would prove to be. As a result, some of the names reflect the hopes miners would have had for their mine: Good Luck mine and Luck at Last evoke the ‘eureka!’ moment of a miner hitting a vein, while Who can tell grove and Hit and Miss mines were perhaps named by more weary miners.

Similar hopes are reflected in naming a mine after existing mines which were very successful. This explains the presence of the Potosi mine and sough, and the Golconda Mine in the middle of Derbyshire, both named after far-away places that had a mythical attraction to miners hoping to find similar riches. Luck and fate were important aspects in a miner’s life, as hitting a good vein could make the difference between poverty and riches. Signs and premonitions were taken very seriously as a result: Stafford’s Dream mine refers to a miner who had a dream of where the lead would be found – and indeed, there was a vein at the dreamt location.

Some mines seem whimsical and poetic, such as Peace forever, Stand to Thyself, Buy the Truth and Sell it Not. Others convey a sense of humour: Beans and bacon mine refers to the nearly Bacon vein, which was likely named after a miner (Bacon was a local name). Finally, in a 1980s case of premonition, there was a Wham sough and a Crimbo sough quite closely together – this cheered me up to no end!

Other names remain mysterious, such as Water Leg, Catchflee, Dogskin, and Sing-a-bed. Any thoughts?


Source: all mine and sough names were found in Dr J.H. Rieuwerts’ 4 volumes of Lead Mining in Derbyshire (2007-2012)

[1] Anonymous, The York-Buildings Dragons (London, 1726).

Podcast: Environmental history of a hydrological landscape: the soughs of Derbyshire

Under the Peak District of Derbyshire is an subterranean network of drainage tunnels, the so-called soughs that were used to drain the lead mines of the region.

Up till the 16th century most lead mining In the Peak District done on the surface and miners followed horizontal seams. By then the surface seams were exhausted and miners had to sink shafts to reach rich underground seams. By the 17th century most mines were down to the water table. To prevent the mines from filling up with water drains or ‘soughs’ were cut through the hills to a neighboring valley. The construction of soughs changed the hydrological landscape of the Peak District, both below ground and above. In some cases the soughs not only drained mineshafts but also the small rivers above, which as a result were dry most of the year. The construction of soughs also reduced the flow of watercourses powering the mills of the early Industrial Revolution. This led to legal conflicts between sough builders and others who relied on the availability of water. Petitions were submitted to the courts and many of these court cases rumbled on for decades.

During the 20th century the soughs were largely forgotten but recently the soughs have been rediscovered for their industrial heritage on the one hand, and their detrimental effect on the hydrology of the landscape, pitting heritage values versus ecological restoration, creating a new battle ground of interests.

This edition of the Exploring Environmental History podcast examines the environmental history of the Derbyshire Soughs with Carry van Lieshout, a historical geographer at the University of Nottingham. She works on a research project that investigates the environmental and cultural history of the Derbyshire soughs in order to inform understandings of this largely forgotten cultural landscape and to develop management and conservation strategies for underground heritage.

Further reading

From Lead to Tail: an Environmental History of the Derbyshire Soughs. Poster presented by Carry van Lieshout at the World Congress of Environmental History in Guimarães, Portugal, July 2014.

Peter Coates, Who killed the Lathkill? (or, when is a river is no longer a river?), The Power and the Water blog, 5 Nov. 2014.

D. Ford and Rieuwerts, J., Lead miners’ soughs in Derbyshire, Geology Today, 23 (2007): 57–62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2007.00604.x


Music credits

Like Music (cdk Mix, 2013 & 2014)” by cdk, available from ccMixter

Watch the video visualisation of the introduction of the podcast:

Exploring environmental History podcast


This podcast was simultaneously published on the Environmental History Resources website as part of the Exploring Environmental History podcast series.

Bridging the Gap between Urban and Environmental History in Lisbon, Portugal

By Leona Skelton and Carry Van Lieshout

Just in case we hadn’t seen enough of Portugal, in July 2014 at the World Congress of Environmental History in Guimaraes, we revisited the country in early September to attend the European Association for Urban History Conference: ‘Cities in Europe; Cities in the World’. We benefited from some highly innovative and thought-provoking sessions on diverse topics of Urban History, ranging from Lucy Beeckmans’ ‘A Multitude of Inbetweens in African Urban Spaces’, to Martin Melosi’s ‘Cities, Environment and Sustainability’, to Nicholas Kenny’s ‘The Senses and Urban Public Space’. And our own session, organised by Dolly Jorgensen and Tim Soens, ‘Urban Sanitation before the Sanitary Revolution’, formed a cohesive and highly focused argument, which we hope to present in the form of an edited collection soon. There were lots of social opportunities for academic discussion and networking, including an open-air, floodlit banquet for all six hundred delegates at the City Museum Gardens, complete with wandering peacocks and vast amounts of custard-based cakes, and a 2.5 hour circular cruise around the River Tagus, enabling us to appreciate the scale of Lisbon’s spectacular rivers, cruising past the Vasco da Gama and the 25 de Abril bridges, the Belem Tower and the Christ the King monument.

Vasco da Gama Bridge

Vasco da Gama Bridge over the River Tagus, Lisbon. (Photo: Leona Skelton)



Peacock at the conference dinner reception. (Photo: Carry van Lieshout)














Leona: One comment I heard during the conference made me think a lot about landscape, environment and the labels which we attribute to particular places: ‘place is a space which we have made meaningful’. I want to think much more deeply about what motivates a community, group or individual to turn a space into a place, and then over time successively to change the use and thereby the meaning of that space from a place for industry, a place for food production, a place for housing, a place for art, a place for biodiversity, a place for sport and recreation. Is Lisbon’s Commercial Square, where I sat in one place from 1pm until 5pm, very happily, between the end of the conference and my flight home, a ‘place’ because it was the site of royal power until the great earthquake of 1755, and the hub of commercial activity thereafter, or is it a ‘place’ because it features the impressive Triumph Arch, runs right up to the water’s edge at a small, but very urban, beach? Is it a ‘place’ because it provides an excellent view of the 25 de Abril Bridge, the Tagus and the Christ the King Monument?

Triumph Arch, Lisbon

Looking towards Commercial Square through the Triumph Arch, Lisbon (Photo: Leona Skelton)

25 de Abril Bridge

The View towards the 25 de Abril Bridge and Christ the King Monument, from Commercial Square, Lisbon (Photo: Leona Skelton)
























Who decides when a space becomes a place and does it matter? Is a golf course any less edifying than Northumberlandia, a large artwork sculpted into the land near Cramlington, Northumberland? Historians have long appreciated the large extent to which daily lives have been shaped by the built, manmade environment, but what about the use or multiple uses of those buildings and spaces, how natural or manmade an environment is, the biodiversity of wildlife, the potential to play in a space or place? Historians have also long appreciated the large extent to which the visual impact of the environment impacts on daily life experiences, but what about sensory history: the smell, the touch, the taste and the sound of an environment? The reason why I spent so much time sitting in Commercial Square was because it excited and satisfied more of my senses than merely sight alone. Any thoughts?

Commercial Square, Lisbon

A Table with a View, Commercial Square, Lisbon (Photo: Leona Skelton)













Carry: Leona’s thoughts about environmental impacts on daily life experiences in the past really chimed with my own reflections on the conference. Starting at our own session, which by its nature dealt with the smellier and dirtier aspects of urban life, I thought about the many sensory experiences people must have had. This train of thought continued during a session on ‘city lights’ that I attended the next day, which included a paper by A. Roger Akirch on resistance to street lighting. It made me think about how, for much of history, human lives were partly lived in the dark. People were able to navigate around their own spaces – houses certainly, but also their streets and neighbourhoods – relying on their sense of touch and sound, in addition to their sense of direction and internal maps of familiar spaces. This really chimed with my own experiences going down old mines and caves in the Peak District. Unable to rely on visual landmarks, as to my untrained eye all walls just looked like rock, and unable to rely on the familiar patterns of streets or landscapes that normally guide my sense of direction, I felt utterly disorientated. I thought about the miners feeling at home in their underground world with very little or no light, and the internal maps they must have developed in order to find their way. I wondered to what extent do the sources we have of an historical place bias us towards the visual? Does our reliance on the sense of sight in our overly lit world come at the expense of our other senses? There is scope for both historians and geographers to consider the impact of people’s sensory experiences.

Tigers on the Tyne

By Carry van Lieshout

Trees, plastic bottles, tyres, scrap metal, and a plush blue tiger – these are just a few items fished out of the River Tyne as part of the Clean Tyne project. On 5 June 2014 Team Power and Water had the privilege of hitching a ride on the Clearwater, the project’s main debris-removal and monitoring vessel. While we didn’t clear any litter out of the river ourselves (although several team members had a go at steering the boat!), we learned a lot about working life on the Tyne as skippers Steve and Dave told us about their fascinating roles in making the Tyne into the cleanest river it has been for many years.

Boat on the Tyne

The Cleanwater on the river Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley.

Fishing rubbish

Fishing rubbish out of the Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley

The Clean Tyne project started off in 1989 as a result of the partnership between the Port of Tyne and the riverside councils of Gateshead, Newcastle and North and South Tyneside. It covers the entire tidal area of the Tyne: from its mouth to the boundary stone at Wylam, a distance of 19 miles. The project combines cleaning the river by the Clearwater with regular River Bank Raids, which are clean up events at the banks. In addition, it runs an awareness programme through education at schools in order to prevent further littering of the river. A monitoring system and the identification of hotspots where debris gathers helps to keep track of the cleanliness of the river.

Wood fished out of river

Wood fished out of the River Tyne. Photo: M. Dudley

The majority of debris found on the river is natural wood. The most recent monitoring report shows that 70% of debris fished from the Tyne are large or small pieces of wood that have been washed away from higher up the river system – the majority of which can be found after storms or heavy rainfall events. Another quarter of debris consists of man-made rubbish: plastic bags, food packaging and bottles being the major culprits. Scrap metal and tyres are other types of debris that regularly wash up on the Tyne’s shores.

While much of the plastics ends up on a landfill, in recent years every effort is made to recycle the debris found in the Tyne. Much

The tiger

Peter Coates and the tiger. Photo: Carry van Lieshout

of the timber is used for building projects or can be converted to wood chips to act as firewood. Scrap metal is made into art works and tyres can be used as playground soft coverings. Figures show that from 2009 onwards, less than 10% of the debris collected was send to a landfill – meaning that the majority of flotsam on the Tyne goes on to have a second life back on dry land.

The plush tiger wound up as the mascot of the Clearwater vessel – making it instantly recognisable anywhere on the Tyne.

Web links

Clean Tyne: http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/CleanTyne/Home.aspx

For the 10% figure in the last paragraph: http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/CleanTyne/Disposal.aspx

A day at the Barmoot (a short tale of tea, cake and gentlemen of the Wapentake)

By Carry van Lieshout & Georgina Endfield

When we met lead mining history expert and former engineer Dr Jim Rieuwerts at the end of last year he invited us to attend the 2014 Barmoot.

The Barmoot is an ancient court that deals with lead ownership in the mining districts of Derbyshire. It had been in existence from 1288, but Great Barmoot Courts became especially busy by the 16th century as the lead industry expanded. The courts consisted of the Barmaster, a steward and a jury made up of local miners, and their function was to collect the royalties due on lead as well as resolving disputes between miners about ownership of specific veins. At the height of the lead mining industry there were several Barmoot courts meeting a couple of times a year, but nowadays the court sits once a year in Wirksworth and is mainly ceremonial (although last year they had an actual case! – see the Derby Telegraph http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/ruling-decades-ancient-mining-court/story-18755029-detail/story.html)

So it was that on the 9th of April we made our way to Wirksworth to see this illustrious court in action. After arriving early we went to suss out the location of the court – off a side road (Chapel Lane) in one of the oldest parts of the town. It was a slightly masonic looking building decorated with lead mining symbolism.

Barmoot court in Wirksworth

The Barmoot court in Wirksworth. Photo: Georgina Endfield

The plaque over the door reads:

This Hall was built by the direction
of the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst
Chancellor of his Majesty’s Duchy
and county palatine of Lancaster in the
LIV year of the Reign of his Majesty

The building doesn’t have many more uses besides hosting the annual Barmoot, although the local band’s drum kit and an electronic organ left behind after band practice suggests that this old building has moved with the times. As the building was still closed, we made for a local café for tea and pikelets, anticipating that the Barmoot may be a lengthy affair. Intriguingly, we spotted a group of suited-up men who also made their way to the café and half-jokingly we speculated on whether they were the jurors or just the local solicitors on a cake break.

At a few minutes before noon we made our way back to the court building where we met with a local historian (doing research on the history of Georgina’s old house – it’s a small world up here!) and Jim, who was one of the jurors. We also met George Jaramillo, a PhD student from Edinburgh who is working on the lead mining communities of the Peak District. We chatted while the jurors were getting ready in a backroom (they were served the traditional meal of cheese and ale – the miners used to come from far to attend long meetings. As far as we understand, clay pipes and tobacco are still provided as was the old custom).

The Barmoot started off with the jurors filing into court benches on the side where they, fairly squashed it has to be said, remained for the proceedings. In walked the gentlemen we had spotted in the café! Next, we all rose as the steward, the barmaster, and a local solicitor representing the Queen (as the official Lord of the Field) came in, accompanied by the announcer who would proclaim the cases. This was a very masculine affair. While in our own studies we have unearthed some very powerful women in the lead mining industry and lead trade, to our knowledge, women have not acted as jurors.

In front of the jury was the official lead measuring dish, dating back to 1509 and used to determine the duties due to the Crown and Church, placed here, as the inscription says, in 1513, “so as the merchantes and mynours may make the tru mesure at all tymes.” Later discussions confirmed this as the original dish.

Lead measuring dish at the Barmoot

Lead measuring dish at the Barmoot. In the right corner a plague with the names of the former and present stewards and barmasters. Photo: Georgina Endfield.

After a short introduction the jurors were sworn in and the court started. As there were no actual cases to deal with this year, the meeting came to an unexpectedly speedy close though Jim (who was chosen as foreman of the jury) reminded all in attendance that the Court building was built in 1814 as per the plaque, and thus was 200 years old this year. In response to a smart quip from one of his juror colleagues, Jim confirmed that he was considerably younger!

The jurors signed their attendance and there was an opportunity for the few curious attendees like ourselves to take photographs.

We had a quick chat with Jim and some of the other participants after (who were off to have their proper lunch in Rowsley) and then spent some time in Cromford vising the Cromford sough tail, the site of the conflict between Cromford miners and Richard Arkwright. Fuelled by more tea and cake we planned out the location and programme of the Derbyshire team fieldtrip in October, where the full Power and Water team will be able to enjoy these fantastic locations.

Cromford Sough Tail

Cromford Sough Tail. Photo: Georgina Endfield.


Co-production of knowledge: shaping the research framework of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Carry van Lieshout and Georgina Endfield

The Silk Mill Museum

The Silk Mill Museum. Source: Wikipedia


The Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage site stretches along the river Derwent in Derbyshire, and incorporates the early industrial mills of this area. These include the Silk Mill in Derby, were John Lombe introduced water-powered silk spinning, as well as Richard Arkwright’s mills at Cromford, considered the birthplace of the factory system that allowed water-powered continuous production. Arkwright’s technology as well as his model of worker’s settlements were copied along the course of the river and beyond, as the mechanisation of cotton production spread out over the world. Because of the central role many of these mills played in the Industrial Revolution, a 15 mile stretch of the Derwent Valley was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. The site is managed by the Derwent Valley Mills Partnership, which also produces books and educational material about the mills and the valley’s wider significance.

The Derwent Valley Mills Partnership is currently planning its new research framework, funded by English Heritage, and has organised 4 workshops to develop research objectives on a series of broad themes. The author’s of this blog post, Georgina and Carry attended the first one of these workshops on March 17. While preliminary meetings had identified a range of topics or questions that have either received little attention or could benefit from more analysis, these topics needed to be brought together into narratives in order to form a coherent research strategy. This strategy will essentially be a synthesis of current views of research priorities and will be useful for future projects or funding applications. While most of the broad themes were not specifically sough related, our input is allowing us to shape their research strategy by contributing cutting edge views from the field of environmental history and by offering power and water as potential narratives to study this area.

The workshop was held at the Silk Mill in Derby. This mill had originally been constructed by George Sorocold and became the first mill in England to use water power to mass-produce silk. The Silk Mill is currently being reinvented as a venue for co-production, creativity and knowledge exchange, based on the principles of the Enlightenment, and its combination of large open spaces, river views and interesting nooks and crannies make it an inspiring venue for a meeting.  Fuelled by regular biscuit breaks and a lunch trip to a very pleasant local deli, we participated in a broad ranging set of discussions with our focus group.

Flip chart

Our focus group at work. Photo: Carry van Lieshout

The group was a mix of academics from a variety of universities and disciplines, local historians, representatives of diverse museums, conservation societies and researchers from the other mills. We split into groups to tackle the 3 themes of the day: Changing Interpretations of the Derwent Valley, Industry and Trade before the Factory System, and the Enlightenment. The format was that each group would come up with 3 Research Objectives for each theme, each of which would combine several of the research topics. The projected outcome at the end of the series of workshops will be a Research Agenda and Strategy for the Derwent Valley Mills Heritage Site in book and web form. An earlier example of such a research strategy document for East Midlands Heritage, which this process was based on, has been successful in identifying viable projects and guiding funding applications. The wealth of untapped resources and narratives that could be studied in the context of the Derwent makes us hopeful that this series of workshop will do the same!