Shropshire

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Burgam Mine

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Tankerville (SO358997)

Barite, Lead, Zinc  (aka Bergam)

 

Little is known about the early history but it was connected to the Boat Level by a shaft for drainage so was probably first worked in the early 19th Century. There is a reference to it working in 1866. In the 1960s, 7 levels by the road were being worked on a small scale for barite. The Express & Star of 4th April 1959 recorded “A flickering pinpoint of naked flame leads the way through the low and narrow passage: dank and pitch black, where the smell of candle grease mingles with that of freshly turned earth and slimy rock.  Suddenly, there it is; a thin greyish streak running horizontally through the Stiperstones rock. An anti-climax to the man in the street who has painfully struggled the length of the 100 yard shaft to catch a glimpse of a lead seam. But to Norman Evans and Tom Rowson, who between them work Burgam Lead Mine, between Snailbeach and The Bog, south-west of Shrewsbury, this seam means bread and butter and something else. It means that their six year search for renewed prosperity in the last remaining mine in the Stiperstones can continue. Should the seam suddenly end there would be, in that primitively hewn hole in the ground, two miserable men. For both Tom and Norman are working with the confidence that there is lead aplenty hidden down here in the bowels of the earth. Burgam Mine looks for all the world as though it is a Godly creation, brought about by some divine power not, as it really is hewn out by the sweat and toil of weakly humans. But the strength of this grim mountain range has been matched, and to some extent beaten, by these two men who know little of modern mine working.  The mine, if indeed, it can be called such, opens into the mountain like an enlarged fox lair into which any unsuspecting walker might fall. From the opening it stumbles a further 90 yards into the strata before taking a sharp right angled turn and coming to a halt. And there, at the end is the substance which has made all this effort necessary.

 

When Tom and Norman get to work on this thin streak there is no reverberating clatter of machine drills and no muffled explosions and smell of cordite. Only the clanking of a heavy and slightly rusty hand drill, the flickering light of a candle and the glow of a cigarette in the corner of Tom’s mouth. The puffs of smoke come more frequently from Tom as the drill bites deeper into the rock, and suddenly, as Tom puts it, “Clonk, out she comes” - a piece of rock containing the grey seam. The process is repeated until an old and slightly rusty, wheelbarrow is filled. It is then wheeled out of the cavern into the bright Shropshire sunshine and the fresh breeze which sweeps over the mine, but seldom enters it to give a change of air. The ore is dumped outside the mine entrance, and occasionally a lorry collects it and conveys it to - as far as Tom and Norman are concerned -some unknown part of the country. In six years Tom and Norman have tunnelled over 100 yards into the Stiperstones and in all that time they have mined only 7cwt of lead ore, which, at today’s price, is worth just over £450. The effort, nevertheless, is maintained, and the result, however trivial at the moment, is attained with an eye to the future. Tom and Norman have views, which are shared by many of their fellow Stiperstones dwellers, that the hills are rich in mineral deposits, including lead. Soon, they feel, they will strike it rich with a big lead seam.  If they do, it won’t produce a rush to the hills as would gold. It will produce merely an influx into the territory of a few more men to share the work in which Tom and Norman have been happily engaged these past years. Sitting in the sunshine eating their sandwich lunches in the good, clean air, there seemed a lot to be said for the kind of life Tom and Norman lead. But back in the dark mine, where one has to have cat-like eyes and be for ever on the listen for the warning sound of creaking pit props. I thought: Leave it to the tough men!”

 

Adit 1 goes in about 10 yards to a left turn, where it is blocked after a short distance.  Adit 2 has a large entrance and about 150 yards of passages.  There are parallel workings, one of which intersects a poor barytes vein.   Adits 3 & 4 have collapsed.  The entrance to Adit 5 is partly blocked but it can be negotiated with a squeeze.  The passage follows a poor vein for 20 yards and ends in a water-filled sump.  A side passage to the right leads to a 20ft air shaft.  Adit 6 has collapsed.  Adit 7 has a deep pool of water in the entrance but ends after 6 yards.  Further up the hillside is a large spoil tip and to the right of this is an open shaft.  This is currently 45ft to a blockage but there used to be two passages off at the bottom.  One led to some very unstable stopes and the other had a section of rail but ended in a large collapse.  A label from a tin of tea found here was dated 1910-1916, so presumably this area was worked during the First World War.  Further right, near the fence, is an open shaft leading to a tight incline.  This drops into some rather unstable workings which seem to extend to some depth.  This lower part of the incline and a side chamber have not been fully explored due to bad air and unstable material higher up on the incline.

 

Over the fence, at the top of the big spoil heap, is a grilled adit.  This leads to 150 yards of passage in Big Spar Lode, ending at a constriction caused by material falling down a 60ft grilled shaft from surface.  Beyond the shaft, the passage continues to a blind heading with a small stope part way along (the latter containing traces of the rare mineral pyromorphite).   To the left of the adit are buildings and, further left, a narrow open shaft which is blocked with rubbish at 15ft.  Above the adit is the grilled open shaft referred to above and, further up the hillside, a collapsed shaft.  Diagonally right from the gated adit up the hillside is a short open trial adit with ruined buildings beyond.  Below these is an open shaft and a collapsed adit further down. 
Below the road, there are more spoil heaps and a shallow cutting may indicate a collapsed adit.  A wide depression next to the road was a shaft which was used for many years by locals for dumping - it now appears to be full.  This may be the shaft down to Boat Level.  Further north is a possibly collapsed shaft next to the footpath.

 

Mineral

Period

Tons

Barite

1890-1894

2,025

Lead

1867-1893

40

Zinc

1893

4

 

SO359996

Aerial ropeway base (C20)

SO359996

Tramway (C19)

SO35849966

Mine building (C19)

SO35869969

Mine building (C19)

SO35869972

Mine building (C19)

SO35739971

Adit (open)

SO35749974

Shaft (filled)

SO35769970

Adit (collapsed)

SO35789965

Open stope

SO35789968

Shaft (open)

SO35789970

Adit (open)

SO35789973

Adit (collapsed)

SO35799969

Adit (collapsed) up

SO35809970

Adit (collapsed)

SO35809971

Adit (open)

SO35809980

Adit (open)

SO35819967

Shaft (open)

SO35869968

Adit (grilled)

SO35889975

Shaft (open)

SO35909971

Shaft (grilled)

SO36029971

Shaft (collapsed)