Mines of Yorkshire, England
Following the Pennine chain of hills southwards from Weardale and Teesdale, evidence of mining activity extends down into Yorkshire through Swaledale, Wensleydale and Wharfedale as far as the area around Skipton and Pateley Bridge. From a collector’s point of view Yorkshire has been somewhat overshadowed by its more famous northern neighbours yet it has produced some excellent finds of fluorite and barite plus various secondary minerals including ktenasite, gearksutite and otavite. The best specimen fluorites are the amber coloured material from Wensleydale or the clear/purple edged specimens from the Greenhow Hill area. However unlike its northern neighbour twinned fluorite crystals are very rare. The area has produces fine barite specimens predominently of the ‘chisel’ habit and also botrydoal material similar to Derbyshire Oakstone, specimens of which take a fine polish. Other species occur in specimen quality including galena, calcite and secondary zinc minerals especialy hemimorphite, smithsonite and aurichalcite. Pyromorphite occurs but at best in small crystals up to about 3mm.
The Yorkshire orefield was predominantly a lead mining area producing an estimated 1,000,000 of lead concentrates. Small copper deposits occurred on the periphery of the mining field as at the Richmond mines but commercial deposits of zinc, fluorite and barite were largely absent.
The deposits occur in Carboniferous rocks. Post Carboniferous uplifting of the area between the Stainmore Trough and the Craven basin connected with the Caledonian granite underlying Wensleydale providing the pattern of fissures facilitating the vein channels.
In the east of Yorkshire large deposits of ironstone were worked in the North York Moors but being a low grade replacement deposit little of interest for the collector was ever found. A little to the north of Whitby the relatively recent exploitation of the Zechstein evaporates at Boulby mine has provided excellent specimens of borate minerals.
The finding of two pigs of lead near Greenhow with the stamp of Emperor Domitian provides evidence of mining in Roman times and there is circumstantial evidence that the Brigantes who occupied the Pennines at the time of the Roman invasion worked the vein outcrops. The first recorded mining was in 1145 at which time, Jervaulx Abbey had a grant to dig iron and lead ore in Wensleydale. Until the 16th Century many of the mines were under monastic ownership. Increased mining activity was in part driven by the era of castles and monasteries building both in England and the continent with the use of lead for waterproofing roofs and construction of gutters.
Yorkshire, along with other areas in England enjoyed a resurgence of mining activity during the 16th Century with many mines operating although most worked independently and on a relatively small scale. Monastic ownership diminished after Henry VIII dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1540), large areas of Yorkshire being sold by the crown or given away for services rendered. Mineral rights and land ownership were usually common but subsequent sales of one of the other meant that as time went on this was not always the case.
From the 17th century on many of the mines consolidated into larger concerns defined by geographical areas, the change driven by technological developments which favoured larger operations often with the lessors taking a direct interest.
The depression in lead prices brought about the end of significant mining in the late 19th Century. Yorkshire did not have the large deposits of zinc, fluorite and barite that enabled mining to the north in County Durham and Cumberland to continue well into the 20th Century. The exception to this was the Greenhow Hill area where fluorite was more abundant and in the 1920’s a water tunnel driven underneath the area by Bradford Corporation discovered a number of hitherto unexploited veins.
Locations of particular or unusual mineralogical interest: -
SWALEDALE & WENSLEYDALE
Barras End mine, Swaledale
Numerous old dumps cover the area from early bell-pits and later levels driven from lower down the fellside. From the material of some of the dumps the workings have included
deposits of a banded brown barite which, after cutting, polishes well and resembles Derbyshire ‘Oakstone’. Crystalline barite is rare but occasionally forms sharp elongated crystals sometimes associated with transparent sprays of hemimorphite.
Dam Rigg Mine, Arkengarthdale
Barite has been found here in aesthetic aggregated lustrous crystals with ‘chisel’ terminations. From the nearby Danby Level specimens of classic tapered pseudo-hexagonal witherite, perhaps the best from Yorkshire.
Hags Gill, Swaledale
Barite in well formed elongated crystals of a pale bluish hue.
Fell End Mine and Slei Gill area, Arkengarthdale.
Extensivily mined area with numerous hushes, bell pits and levels. Witherite occurs in large nodules sometimes with crystallised interiors. Barite crystalline stalatites occur on some of the dumps especially at Fell End mine whilst in Slei Gill Primrose vein produced a pink/orange banded barite. Hemimorphite occurs in small but attractive crystals and sprays
Gunnerside Gill, Swaledale
Bunting (or Bunton) level has produced specimens of strontianite, cockscomb barite and pseudomorphs of smithsonite after strontianite. Good strontianite crystals up to 40 mm in groups up to 15 cm across with small yellow fluorite cubes occured in Sun Hush Level whilst radiating masses of white strontianite to about 1 cm associated with barite and sphalerite were found in Priscilla level along with small witherite crystals. Strontianite was also found in Sir Francis Level as sprays up to 20 mm. along with good specimens of translucent calcite and pseudo-hexagonal grey witherite crystals to 25mm.
Hungry Hush area, Swaledale
Plates of coxscomb barite, small galena cubes wirh a little cerussite, sharp quartz crystals and unusually green to brown pyromorphite in crystals to 5mm.
Old Gang mines, Swaledale
In Hard level, North vein produced good strontianite sprays to 15mm whilst in Old Rake level iridescent sphalerite on white cockscomb barite has been found as well as white/grey strontianite masses to 15 cm with individual crystals to 15 mm. In 2003 a sub-level here produced the rare minerals ktenasite & gearksutite. Some of the best Yorkshire cerussites have come from Brandy Bottle Incline in an area at the bottom of the incline. Specimens show white platy individual crystals of good lustre, the best specimens on iron stained barite. Other minerals found are barite, hemimorphite, aurichalcite, siderite and witherite.
Seata Mine, Wensleydale
Small scattered dumps have produced amber fluorite, beds of nail head calcite, small gemmy sphalerite crystals, smithsonite and cinnabar coatings.
Sleddale copper mine, Upper Swaledale
Interesting isolated mine where small sharp azurite crystals with malachite and occasionally barite occur.
Also found here are well formed clear to amber fluorite crystals to 15mm. For further informatiion on the mine see UK Journal of Mines & Minerals, issue No.7 (1989).
West Burton Area, Wensleydale
The mines around West Burton have in the past produced fine fluorite specimens with cubes up to 3 cms of a pale purple colour.
Wet Grooves mine, Wensleydale
Excellent specimens of barite showing many habits but predominantly chisel shaped. Nearby a small openwork has produced both black and green barite often coated with micro hemimorphite. Fluorite is common with clear to pale yellow un-twinned cubes to 6cms. Calcite occurs in simple nail head form and in more complex aggregated habits. Aurichalcite and smithsonite.
Worton Hall Mine, Wensleydale
Close to the village of the same name the mine has yielded pleasing amber and purple fluorite specimens.
Aurichalcite, aragonite, hemimorphite crystals to 1 cm and yellow smithsonite. Sharp pseudomorphs of goethite after marcasite on shallow dumps from nearby trials.
Buckden Gavel mine
Beds of small but extremely lustrous hemimorphite crystals. Yellow, grey and brown beds of smithsonite and small but perfect barytocalcite to 2 mm.
A large working quarry where limestone extraction occasionally cuts through a complex of mineral veins which over the years have produced excellent specimens of purple fluorite, nail-head calcite, barite, hemimorphite and galena. Also anglesite crystals up to 4 cms long and sharp white blocky cerussite crystals. Otavite and Doyleite have also been found here.
Duck Street quarry
A disused quarry where in the past large fluorite cubes, calcite and mimium have been found.
Elbolton mine, Linton
Some excellent fluorite specimens have recently been available with clear centres and well defined purple edges.
Gill Heads/Trollers Gill, Appletreewick
Known for distinctive and attractive groups of clear fluorite cubes up to 3 cms with strongly coloured purple edges. The mine was one of the last to be worked not closing until the 1980’s.
Merryfield / Providence Mine, Nidderdale
Excellent ‘Old-time’ strontianite specimens were found here.
Middlemoor veins, Kettlewell
The dumps from a series of bellpits and a small opencast on Middlesmoor were found to be rich in smithsonite up to 2 cms thick. Sequentially deposited layers show bands of colour including green, pink, grey (predominant) and yellow although, because of weathering, most specimens lack the distinctive smithsonite lustre.
Hartley Birkett Mines, Kirkby Stephen
Has produced plates of small fluorite crystals both amber and purple, azurite, barite and calcite
Clouds mine, Mallerstang
A small mine noted for malachite and small crystals of azurite.
Just outside the map area, the Conoley lead mine near Skipton produced excellent specimens of cerussite but rarely come onto the market now. During road widening on the A1 trunk road near Bramham in the early 1990’s mineralised pockets were found in the Magnesian limestone containing barite, calcite and goethite pseudomorphs after pyrite.
Boulby Mine, Loftus
Boracite specimens have long been known from the German salt deposits and occasionally in large coarse crystals from South America. However some of the best material, often associated with Hilgardite and Magnesite, has come from the relatively new mine at Boulby opened in the early 1970’s on the east coast of England. Commercially the mine produces potash for agricultural uses and halite for de-icing roads in winter. The horizontal evaporite ore body, up to 7.5 metres thick is worked at a depth of over 1000 metres, nodules of boracite and associated mineral up to 1 metre in diameter occur in a distinct bed just above the base of the potash deposit. The boracite occurs in a variety of forms from single crystals to aggregates and although normally white to colourless pseudo-cubic crystals, the most sought after specimens are green to electric-blue pseudo-tetrahedral crystals. Unusually, specimens that are a pale blue in daylight appear a darker blue when viewed in tungsten light. The rarer hilgardite is occasionally found with the boracite as pink-orange aggregated crystals whilst magnesite occurs sparingly as transparent plates. Black lustrous crystals to 2 cms were found in the 1980’s in a now abandoned area of the mine and have subsequently been shown to be trembathite (See UK Journal of Mines & Minerals, issue no. 25). The best specimens of boracite came from a spectacular find in 1991.
Beaches near Withernsea
Beach boulders have occasionally produced sharp lustrous rosettes and rhombs of calcite with rarely a little barite. Pleasing pyrite groups have also been found with well formed crystals.
The South Bay at Scarborough is the type locality for both scarborite and hydroscarborite. However, neither would win any prizes for aesthetics!
Note - For any of these localities permission must be sought before visiting and never enter old mine workings.
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