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Portfolio > North East England 4 > Grove Rake Mine, Weardale                                                     Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version       

Grove Rake Mine, Weardale, County Durham, England, UK

 

The Groverake mine site is pretty much located at the convergence of three major veins, Greencleugh, Groverake and Red. The Burtree Pasture vein also continues to this point.

Mining at Groverake probably started in the 18th century, but it was the Beaumont Company who first developed major mining operations at the site at the end of the 1810's and they continued working the mine until the early 1880's. They drove adits and the two major shafts on the site that reached the Great Limestone. At their time they where mining for lead ore, but this was not that successful in terms of output. When the Weardale Lead Company took over the mine in the mid 1880's they had more success with mining for lead and they also mined for fluorspar. The spar operations had problems in the removal of silica and this limited its success. The mine changed hands a number of times until the 1940's. It was not until the Second World War when the Blanchland Fluor Mines Ltd took over operations and eventually British Steel Corporation that the production of fluorspar ramped up with improved treatment techniques. These companies took Groverake to being the leading fluorspar producer in the ore field. British Steel drove a new level and extended the existing shafts. The Rake level was re-driven to give access to the upper levels of the veins and the Firestone level driven for access to the lower levels. The Drawing Shaft was sunk further into the Great Limestone to a depth of 91m. The Whimsey Shaft was sunk to the Three Year Limestone to a total depth of 165m.

In the late 1980's the Weardale Minerals and Processing Company acquired the mine, but in 1991 its parent company went into receivership, 

resulting in another change of hands. The mine was then operated by Sherburn Minerals and worked until 1999. At the time of its final closure, Groverake was the last commercial fluorspar mine operating in the North Pennines. More successful operations were begun during World War II by Blanchland Fluor Mines, Ltd., and then followed by British Steel. During the British Steel tenancy, the Rake level was driven northward from the area of the shafts to access the upper levels of both the Red and Groverake veins, and the Firestone dib (local term for a decline) was put in to access lower levels on the same veins. Although these tunnels never interconnected with the shaftaccessed workings, they are considered part of the Groverake mine complex (Younger 2003).

Fluorspar deposits on both veins proved rich, and the mine became one of the top fluorspar producers in the region during the latter part of the century. With the collapse of British Steel in the early 1980s, the mine was acquired by Weardale Minerals and Mining, whose parent company, Minworth, Ltd., was itself forced into receivership in 1991. The mine was then purchased by Sherburn Minerals and worked until summer 1999. At the time of its final closure, Groverake was the last commercial fluorspar mine operating in the North Pennines.

November, 2015

CONCERN is mounting over the future for one of the last “monuments to lead mining” in the North Pennines. What remains of Grove Rake Mine, near Rookhope, in Weardale, County Durham, which has the last remaining headgear in the North Pennines orefield is thought to be under threat following a fire earlier this month. The roof of one of the modern buildings - thought to be built in the 1980s - was badly damaged in a fire on November 13. Concern is now mounting for the future of the remaining infrastructure, which includes the headgear, winding house and engine. Mine enthusiast Jean Thornley, from Darlington, is one of those worried about its future. Ms Thornley, who is renovating a former mine building near Cowshill and has ancestors who mined at Rookhope, said: “People have a vested interest because it’s such a monument to lead mining. It’s quite a famous landmark and it’s the last one left. “I don’t want to see it go down and there are quite a few of us who want to save it. A lot of local people are interested in what happens to it. Mining is such a big part of the history of Weardale.”

 

Mining started at Grove Rake in the early 1800s and major operations were developed by the Beaumont Company in the 1810s. It started producing fluorspar under the ownership of Weardale Lead Company and after the Second World War was one of the leading producers of the mineral. When it closed in 1999 it was thought to have been the last fluorspar mine operating in England and the last deep mineral mine in County Durham. The surviving infrastructure is some of the last evidence of mining to be preserved in Weardale.

Durham County Council put a building preservation order on the winding house in 2013, when it described the buildings as a “unique collection”. That safeguarded the building for six months while the council applied to get listed building status to give it lasting protection, but English Heritage said it did not meet the criteria and an appeal is still pending.

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