The people in the photograph (mentioned in the text) are
Billy Braithwaite, Gordon Sissons, Sam Twigg
Young Tommy Howard & Walter Sissons (front)
The Reopening of the Glebe Mine. - H.G.Sissons.
(From the first ‘published’ journal of the DPC November 1935.)
The Town End or Glebe Mine is situated in. the village of Eyam, between the Church School and the Mompesson Tea Rooms. As the name indicates, the mineral rights are vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and at one time, the vicar of that day enjoyed an income of £900 per annum from tithes and royalties. Thc last owners were the Eyam Mining Company who ceased operations in 1888, the shareholders receiving a dividend of 7d per share. From that day till 1927, no descent had been made.
In 1927 three of us, Ken Seville, W.M.Sissons and myself, decided to investigate and, as a preliminary, the mine was “nicked” under the old Derbyshire mining laws. A claim was registered with the Barmaster, the customary notice was posted at the mine head, and after the expiry of 21 days, the mine came into our hands, no previous claimant having come forward to “keep off the nick.”
During this time we spent many interest-ing days searching the village for information. Needless to say, we soon heard how “t’owd men” had just reached a fabulous vein of lead, when “th’watter flooded ‘em out”. This can be said of any mine, anywhere in Derbyshire. Special mention is due to Joe Twigg, subsequently the village post-man. All through our ownership of the mine, he was most useful, preparing the ground, organizing winding squads and looking after the place generally. Mrs Rowlands provided us with a changing and lamp room, and cheerfully fed us at all hours. Originally, in the early days, her cottage was the Mine Office, and now it was in use again - for, in her parlour, three happy maniacs hatched plots of prodigious development. Luckily, we came across Mr Maltby, whose father had been connected with the mine when last worked. He lent us an old plan which we transfered on to the large scale ordnance, adding further details gathered from long talks over many pints at the “Miners Arms.”
By this time we were getting very keen, and anxious to explore the many workings promised by the old plans. Tackle was discussed and Ken looked out some shear legs, a hand winch and a kibble. W.M. & H.G.S., obtained 400 feet of plough steel wire rope. It was thought that signals and messages would be difficult to transmit from the lower levels, and so a portable and waterproof telephone was rigged up. The old plan indicated a climbing shaft about 350 yards north of the main engine shaft, but the only trace of this above ground was a grass grown hollow, which was obviously a “run in.” Therefore we decided to concentrate on the main shaft and work our way forward from there. The Great Day arrived and many helpers from the village shifted the stones of the large beehive over the top. Underneath was a layer of rotten planks. These on being removed disclosed an excellent shaft about 8 by 6 feet, well built as far as we could see. W.E.Amies now joined us and took charge of the ground work, while Ken, W. & H.G. prepared for the descent. A powerful petrol gas lamp was lowered on a measured line and the walls carefully inspected with binoculars as the patch of light went down. Finally, bottom was reached at 320ft. As we listened, a faint roaring was heard, and the glasses disclosed a swift flow of frothing water moving south east. This was good news, as here our plans showed the Moorwood Sough running in that direction. We made preparations for a drenching while the lamp was drawn up. The shear legs and the winch being fixed, stones were placed in the kibble. Several trials showed that the legs were unsatisfactory, so we scrapped these and moved the winch directly over the shaft, supported on strong planks. This worked much better. Ken and H.G.S. packed into the kibble, earphones were adjusted, phones tested, lamps lit, and the bar was drawn.
Then, looking rather ridiculous and feel-ing rather lonely, suspended in our little barrel, we sank slowly from the gaze of the vulgar. Too slowly, for we heard a rheumy old native explain-ing to Billy Amies, how he remembered three of his mates being killed “down th’ shaft.” Billy wound us up again to make sure we had heard!
Thirty feet finished the built portion, chang-ing to solid limestone in first class condition. Fifty feet showed levels east and west, where we ’phoned for a halt and fended to the side with our broomsticks. The levels running into the vein were rather small, so we decided to investigate later, and signaled further descent. There was little of interest, only that we commenced to spin violently until we steadied ourselves by the sticks. All down the south side were stemple holes, but except in one or two places the stemples had long since disappeared. At 150 feet, water began to trickle from the sides and steadily increased till we were under a pouring shower. Meanwhile, the faint roaring we had heard at the top grew louder and louder. We now had to shout to each other to make ourselves heard. ‘Phoning was difficult and we wondered whether hearing no signals from the bottom level, the winders would lower us into the water! 240 feet disclosed a large bell shaped chamber, and here we paused again to seek a landing place. Eventually, we thought it advisable to reach bottom first and return for exploration on the up journey.
The noise was now terrific, and water had entered the ‘phone, but we managed to explain the situation to the top - that the ‘phone might become too bad for speech and that we would signal movements by the buzzer. Off we went, and at 320 feet reached bottom, luckily coming to rest on a lime coated heap of debris, the water flowing each side. After great trouble we lifted our legs from the kibble.
We were now in the Moorwood Sough which drains several of the Eyam mines, runs under the village Square, under Cliff Stile Mine and emerges near the stables in the grounds of Stoney Middleton Hall. Owing to the accumulation of falls and old stemples, the south east exit was submerged under the water, and its only indication was an unpleasant swirling pool, which gave out a periodic sucking noise as air was drawn in with the current of water. The noise we had heard whilst descending the shaft appeared very much less here than it had further up. Probably this was due to the less confined space.
Turning north east, we moved up stream, the roof varying considerably due to old stoping work. There were signs of another shaft, but this had filled in. 150 feet brought us to a full stop, a large fall closing the level, except for the passage of water. A prolonged drought might possibly reveal the main passage leading to the workings under Eyam Edge.
Returning to the shaft, we looked up and signaled our return. There was a long pause and we crouched miserably in the barrel while the water soused upon us. Eventually we were off, and reached the bell shaped level at 240 feet. Here we swung ourselves to and fro, seeking the best landing place. The shaft widens and it is very difficult to catch hold of the edge. Later on, we were to become very skilled at this manoeuvre! One shove; a swing; a cannon off the left hump and we were safely hooked on dry land! Just now it was not easy. After several futile attempts, Ken in desperation, gripped a ledge and I held his boots as the kibble swung back - not unlike the comic pictures of the unskilled punter. Unloading the tackle, we fixed up the ‘phones and signaled for the next man. The kibble disappeared, and we sat down for a breather and to wring out our wet clothes. Twenty minutes later a fusilade of language signaled the approached of W.M.Sissons. He brought news of the excitement above.
It looked as though the whole village had turned out to see the old mine reopened. They were gathered round the mine head. Gnarled ancients addressed the winders with gruesome anecdotes. Small pop eyed boys gazed at Billy, ‘phoning us below. Every movement he made was watched tensely. He was God-like! Later on even, a village dance at the Institute was denuded of it’s younger men, so that altogether our investigations were not a secret. Joe Wells had turned up and was with Billy.
Safely landing W.M.S. we moved west. On the left was a small level in the floor vein, about 40 feet long. Returning, we found the main passage ran parallel for 60 to 80 feet, with stoping work above. Slightly further back brought us to a four way junction. Ahead of this junction was a long passage with small cross cuts ending in vein stuff. To the left, a further passage ended in a crystal clear pool of water. About 30 feet to the right, brought us up against a clay bank, but before reaching this we came across a shaft in the floor. There was great excitement. It was a possible access to the lower levels. This was important in that it might be an alternative route to the extensive workings towards Eyam Edge and Dusty Pits Mine, which appeared closed to us by the falls at the 320 feet level.
A stone thrown down 50 feet, splashed into water and a weird sound followed, like a series of chuckles; “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha,….!!, continuing for over a minute. We thought of the three old miners killed many years ago. Another stone, and the same result. This time we realised that the ripples were trapping air in some chamber at water level. We were very loth to leave this unexplored, but we had no ladder, we had been wet through for hours and it was getting on for 11 o’clock. We would call it a day, and leave this and the levels running east from the main shaft until tomorrow.
Back to the shaft, the first man was drawn up with the tackle and specimens, while we tidied up generally. The kibble returned and up we went.
Fifteen minutes steady winding for those at the top. Cave togs off, supper, plans for tomorrow and deep sleep at Mrs. Rowland’s cottage were a prelude to the next and many other days of very interesting work