Saturday 08 August 2020

Huglith Barytes Mine

Although this mine was worked for copper in the early 19th century it had ceased by 1859. These workings were presumably on the Riddleswood Vein and all traces were obliterated by later operations.

It was opened again in 1910 by the Wotherton Barytes & Lead Mining Co Ltd but production did not exceed 1000 tons per year at first. The mine was subsequently taken over by Shropshire Mines Ltd and eventually Malehurst Barytes Co Ltd, who expanded it to become the largest barytes mine in the county. In 1936, it was producing over 20,000 tons per year and the total recorded production was 295,108 tons. Most of the mine was worked on three distinct veins, Main Vein, Riddleswood Vein and the Mud Vein, but there are also some trial adits in other parts of the site.

The mine closed in 1945 and the site is now covered by a coniferous plantation. Working at this mine was characterised by large stopes and many of these have broken through to surface. The main shaft, on the Main Vein close to Westcott mine, was actually sunk through one of these open stopes to a depth of 250ft and the headgear appears to have been a girder construction which bridged the stope walls. The shaft itself was inclined and the cage was slanted to allow trucks to be offloaded along a shallow adit to surface.

Underground, a crosscut to the Mud Vein via Riddleswood Vein, had a "main & tail" haulage system to pull trucks just under 1 mile to the shaft. With this system, a chain of trucks was connected to the end of a cable which stretched to the main shaft. Here, it passed around a horizontal pulley wheel (powered by an engine) and returned to the far end of the crosscut. At this point, it again passed around a pulley wheel and the end was attached to the last truck in the chain. The chain of trucks could then be pulled in either direction.

A Forestry Commission track from the road leads to the remains of numerous buildings around Main Shaft. These include the foundations of the winding engine, compressor and boiler, brick transformer house, smithy, metal chimney (now on the ground) and a set of concrete pillars which were the terminal of the aerial ropeway that connected the mine to the mill at Minsterley. Further concrete pier bases for this can be seen at places along the route.

Main Shaft descends for a distance in an open stope to the north of the buildings but there was a girder headgear across this for winding. It is now blocked 80ft down by a mass of slipped concrete and this, plus overhanging debris, makes the area very dangerous. It was originally 250ft deep, inclined on the vein and wide enough for two cages. The Main Vein Adit Level was located just to the west of this but it has now collapsed.

The line of the vein can be easily followed up the hill and there are many points where the vein has been worked to surface. The Main Vein workings can also be accessed from the side of the hill via Badger Level. At the vein, the level divides left and right. To the right, a 20ft drop leads to an extensive stope running for a distance of 50 yards. In places, this stope breaks out to surface, connecting to above. In the stope there are the remains of various intermediate levels suspended on stemples and a spectacular string of azurite running down the wall from Badger Level.

The tramming level in the huge main stope has been suspended on girders bolted to the wall.

photo courtesy Ian Cooper.

The next ridge of the hill is effectively the line of the Riddleswood workings. In a similar manner to the Main Vein workings, the line of the Riddleswood Vein can be clearly followed on the surface but the undergrowth is generally thicker and the lower end of the workings are virtually impossible to reach.

The Mud Vein workings run under the fields and close to Huglith Farm but are expected to be under water. Some opencasting has been done on this vein and at least two large stopes open to the surface have been filled by the farmer over the years. It is understood that two dozen scrap cars were deposited into one of these and it is alleged that one was a particularly rare model which has since become a classic!

During 2008, many of the conifers have been cleared from the lower part of Huglith Wood as part of the Forestry Commission's plan to replace such trees by native woodland. A collapse ocurred next to the forestry track where, many years ago, rubbish had been dumped into old workings. No sign of these were discovered by the contractors who dug down 30 feet before filling the void. In view of the fact that the working level could have been 250 feet down, this is perhaps not too surprising!

One result of all this activity is that two patches of rare orchids have been destroyed.