• Overground/underground - a caving archaeology project in the Yorkshire Dales

    1st June 2-4pm at Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.

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Oak stemple from Far Sump Extension

Pitlamp

Well-known member
In the early 1980s, when the only access to Peak Cavern's Far Sump Extension was by a long dive through Far Sump, the original miners' route into this area was still a mystery. At first we thought it was via a 27 m high stempled aven above Salmon's Cavern. Whilst we were climbing this aven some stemples had to be removed to get past. (The aven turned out to be blind and later work in the system revealed the true route of the 18th Century miners from the direction of JH / Speedwell.)

At the time I swam one of the dislodged stemples out on the return through Far Sump, in the hopes that we might use dendrochronology or carbon dating to find its age (which would have helped determine when the miners were in the area). However, this proved less practical than hoped and a successful dating was never achieved.

I still have this stemple; it's in pretty good condition, to say it's well over 200 years old. I'm now wondering what the best thing is to do with it. Can anyone suggest a good home for it?

Stemple_FSE_Peak_Cavern.jpeg
 
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Pitlamp

Well-known member
That was part of the original idea (see my post above) but it's probably no longer of value because the mining history is now so much better known than it was in the early 80s.

My query is more to do with finding someone / some place to give it to, where it'll be appreciated.
 

AR

Well-known member
I doubt it would be a good candidate for C14 dating anyway, if it's heartwood the date could be out by a few centuries. When John Barnatt was trying to find good charcoal samples for dating firesetting in the Peak, he had a wood specialist go through what they'd got and try to find bits of quick-growing trees like hazel, which wouldn't significantly shift the date of use/burning. There's also the question of possible contamination to consider but given it's probably 18th century I doubt that would throw the date by much.

The Mining Museum might take it, or John Harrison for the display at Speedwell?
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Thanks AR - your opinion counts for a lot. I did wonder about asking John Harrison (whom I meet from time to time in a professional capacity).

Offering it to the mining museum would always have been my default option as a very good home, if no other suggestions emerged.

Just wanted to throw the net a bit wider for ideas before deciding what to do. Apart from the more obvious mining heritage there is a bit of caving history associated with this particular stemple.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
I found a pick head in a briefly-open passage in the Pit Props series, and five tinned waistcoat buttons in Pit Top Passage, and John put all that in their display cabinet, so I think Speedwell would possibly be a better location for long-term display of local artifacts.
 

AR

Well-known member
I'd be inclined to agree with Phil; the Museum will probably take it if it's going to be binned otherwise but there's a shortage of space for storage of things not on display so Speedwell may be better.
 

JonP

Well-known member
I agree, keep it in house! Would look smashing alongside a nice photo of Salmon's Cavern.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
It's starting to look like there's a consensus forming amobng "them as know". ;)

Any other contributions before I deal with it?
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
John says he'd love to have it.

Guess I'd better start thinking about caver post.

If any CDG members are heading to Castleton for the AGM weekend, if you can tke the stemple to Speedwell could you PM me? Thanks.
 

shotlighter

Active member
Its really quite informative as an exhibit. You can easily see the sharpened end where it fits the "egg" & t'other end shows evidence of it being knocked into the "eye" - & it's in great nick!
(Think I've got the "egg & eye" the right way round!)
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Thanks; yes, that's what I thought. I think it's also possible to see vague axe marks on it. Not bad for a wooden item which must be getting on for 250 years old, having spent most of that time fixed across an aven in what used to be a very remote part of Peak Cavern.

When we climbed the aven, some of the stemples would only come out by hammering them in the opposite direction from what t'owd mad had hammered them in originally! That's good English oak; not the "Chinesium" which so many things seem to be made of these days.

A fellow NPC and CDG member has kindly offered to "caver post" the stemple (collecting on Saturday) so it should be delivered to John Harrison by the end of the coming weekend. That's better than Royal Mail (and probably more reliable!).
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
For "t'owd mad" read "t'own man".

I really must remember to put my glasses on before typing!
 

Ian Ball

Well-known member
Hi Pitlamp, If I were looking to find out more about the search for the original miners work and route you mention above, would you be able to recommend a book?
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
I don't think that tale has appeared as yet in any book. But if you read any of the printed material from PDMHS about the (re)discovery of JH, it's (re)connection to Speedwell and then to Peak Cavern's Far Sump Extension by modern cavers, that's probably the best source of information.

The PDMHS' (Peak District Mines Historical Society) publications in general are absolutely excellent.
 
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