Saturday 08 August 2020

Cothercott Barytes Mine

The Cothercott barytes mine operated between 1910 and 1928 producing a total output over this period of 23,000 tons of high purity barytes from beneath Cothercott Hill. Most of the working was carried out using adits but at least one shaft is known to have existed.

This mine was being worked in 1910 by R J Pugh with a workforce of 5 miners. In 1912 it was taken over by J B Walker and presumably later worked by one of the larger companies before closing in 1928. In the early 1980's, the surface was trenched to decide if it was worth reworking for the barytes, which is reputed to be particularly pure.

Development was mainly by adits into the hillside and the ore was transported by light railway round the northern side of the hill to a dressing mill beside the road. The locomotive used here is believed to have been the former Dinorwic Quarry engine "Minstrel Park", built at Hunslet Works. It was originally called "George" and worked on the Penarn/Peris quarry link until it was sold to Cothercott Mine in 1919. Legend has it that the locomotive was of 1' 10" gauge but the tramway was built to a 2' gauge so there were frequent and time consuming derailments of the loco!

At the mill, the ore was hand picked and washed. It was then ground using 10 pairs of French burr stones with air float classification, producing up to 200 tons per week of a 350 mesh product that was 99.7% barium sulphate (medical use - as a 'barium meal'). The remains of some of these burr stones together with engine beds, can still be seen.

extracted from "Mining Remains in South West Shropshire", Terry Davies et al, SCMC Account No.18.

This mine is split into two sections which lie east and west of Cothercott Hill. On the west side, the concrete floor and loading bay of the barytes mill are obvious features by the side of the road. Close inspection will reveal two millstones near to the fence. A ramp leads up from the mill and this connected with a loop of the light railway. This curved round the hillside to the eastern workings and was operated by a steam locomotive. Four collapsed adits can be made out on this side of the hill.

On the east side of the hill, No.6 Adit has collapsed a short distance inside. Further up the hillside is a collapsed shaft and a trial adit. A trial adit to the north-east is also collapsed.

On the far side of the valley, No.10 Adit has run in. Along the hillside, No.8 Adit is still open and leads via knee-deep water to an air shaft blocked with rubbish. Next to this is a deep open working partly filled with rubbish. Just to the north, below the track, is a small collapsed trial adit.

Over the fence is a collapsed drainage level, still issuing water, and a flooded shaft. The latter had a wooden headgear which was lying on the ground until it was removed 20-30 years ago. To the south-east is a collapsed adit with a long cutting filled with brushwood. Further on is an open adit which slopes steeply down to water, the workings below being flooded. On the hillside above is a partly filled shaft.

An extension of the tramway was commenced from the Cothercott Mill and this can be followed for the course of most of its first mile or so. It may have been originally intended to extend this towards the main railway line at Dorrington but it didn't get much further than the outrack. What appears to be a lower spur line ends suddenly and may have finished because they couldn't get permission to follow the direct line through a smallholding. The higher course has to perform a loop through a cutting and embankment (since filled in by the landowner) to avoid the smallholding. The body of an old tipping truck lay by the line here for many years but it has now been recovered for preservation and is on display at the Thresholds centre.

This photo of youthful joyriders is believed to be on this stretch of the line.