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Rookery Mine

1st Feb 2023 - Oliver King

Rookery Mine, Ashford in the Water

Present: Sarah, Rich T, Rob, Sally, Anton, Nigel, Pete, JohnC, Phil (caving supplies) Shaun, myself.

Ashton in the water is famous for producing a stone known as Ashford Black Marble, and for those who could afford such opulence, this was a perfect local source to acquire a very pretty stone that could be used to make all sort of items from floor tiles, funeral urns to fireplaces.
However, there was a catch, Marble is a limestone that has undergone metamorphosis due to immense pressures and heat, whereas Derbyshire black marble, while looking lovely when polished and the surface treated, is in fact not a marble at all! It is simply a sedimentary limestone that has been coloured with bitumen, and in the most desirable pieces has seams of quartz running through its entirety.

This stone has been quarried since the 16thC, but Rookery is a later mine, having been started in the 19thC.

Sarah acquired the keys, and after meeting everyone in the local carpark, we made our way up the road to find the local footpath. We climbed the hill with cliff on our right, and started popping into areas with path that we thought likely concealed the entrance.

Said entrance seemed a little difficult to locate! It was not until we reached the top of the hill that we decided something must be wrong, and a look at the map had us realise we missed a turn right at the bottom of the hill that would take us to the entrance! Blast! Back down we go, and start the process all over again, and this time, we quickly located the entrance.

Sarah unlocked a low gate, and we entered the mine by crawling through the small entrance. Clearly much organic matter has filled the original path over the decades or so and this is all the remains of the original entrance.

Once in, my immediate thought was that we were looking at passages very similar to Holme Bank Chert mine we visited a couple of weeks ago.

We found ourselves in a passage composed of walls either side, all composed of a very dark stone. I wouldn’t call it black, but of course it had not been treated, as is a requirement to get the best out of the limestone.

Walking around the mine it because apparent we were in between bedding planes, and that there appeared to have been about 4 or 5 beds removed for the marble. The roof and floor was very uniform, but textures did vary in the roof a fair bit. There were signs of geological action in parts, and the roof was badly fragmented in areas. In larger spans the roof was held up by stone pillars, and where a fracture cut across the room you could see the roof had dropped, usually around an inch or so.

Once we reached the marble face, again the rock was variable. There were areas where it was quite grey in colour, and you would not expect that to be very valuable. Other areas had what seemed to be much darker pieces, and on the floor there were some very dark pieces which gave you an impression of what the better rock might have looked like.

There was one area with much graffiti, some from miners, and one particular part where clearly a workman had not been happy with someone, so felt the need to tell his tale, perhaps somewhere the person he was scorning would never see, but would be much amusement amongst his colleagues…

There was nothing really surviving in the way of tools. We found a small wedge, and bucket handle, but that was about it.

We think we might have found some sledge marks, as no rail system was used in this mine, and we also found rope rub marks.

So what else can I say, well not a lot really! Some interesting geological features that perhaps left you wanting to know more, but other than that it was a nice light trip for a school night, but one I will not be in a hurry to rush back to. Glad to have ticked it off though, and the turnout was great, with lots of fun had!

We all walked back to the carpark where most of us presented ourselves in reasonable attire, and made our way to the local pub for a well-earnt pint!

Grid ref for day: SK 1910 6970

Type of entry: Mining Club (social)

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