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Mining

Stone Age Celtic Roman Saxon Medieval
Tudor Stuart Georgian Victorian Modern
Ken Church miner  The Mendip hills contained many minerals including lead, iron, calamine (zink) and coal. The lead mines also provided silver. Quarrying for stone still continues but all of the mines have closed.Click here to read more about Ken Church’s experience as a miner. Mining
Stone Age Stone Henge is the best known example of the large-scale stone working skills of the early inhabitants of this island. It is possible that the first settlers in the area enlarged some naturally occurring caves to make them more comfortable. Some minerals may have been mined to use as pigments in paint. Return to the top of the list.
Celtic It is probable that there was small-scale mining for the various minerals in the area including coal during the Celtic period. Return to the top of the list.
Roman The nearby lead mines at Charterhouse are a sign of the significance of this area to the Romans but evidence of habitation in Chewton Mendip parish was fairly spares until recent finds were made. Lead Ingots from the reign of Emperor Vespasian dated AD 49 are the earliest dateable evidence of Roman involvement in lead mining. Return to the top of the list.
Saxon The omission of lead mining in the Doomsday record for Chewton Mendip has been interpreted by some that lead mining had ceased during the Saxon period but the Mendip Forest was established in this period.  Return to the top of the list.
Medieval Priddy is one of the few villages in the area that is not mentioned in the Doomsday Book which add weight to the argument that lead mining had ceased. It also helps to explain why William I thought Mendip a suitable wilderness to dedicate to hunting.  The lack of records about the Mendip lead miners disputing their tithes suggests they were not required to pay them either. The miners disputed everything else!The forest laws were relaxed in 1298 and lead mining was certainly a major industry in the latter part of the middle ages. Return to the top of the list.
Tudor The Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Abbot of Glastonbury owned half of the lead mining rights between them. The Lord of the Manor of Chewton Mendip also owned a quarter of the mineral rights.Some accounts of the ‘laws’ of the lead miners and prospecting leases were recorded in Tudor times.  The Lord of the Manor held the mineral rights of farm land but some occupiers disputed this so leases for agricultural land stated that mineral rights were excluded unless an additional fee was charged. Many miners were also farmers or followed other trades throughout the recorded history of lead mining. Return to the top of the list.
Stuart Lead mining suffered another recession in the 17th century but the Plaister family who came from Widcomb were Lead Reeves and enjoyed a considerable increase in wealth during the period. A hoard of silver coins dating from the time of English Civil war proves that some local inhabitants had a lot of money. Return to the top of the list.
Georgian Lead mining was in decline but coal mining was growing in significance. Early coals mines were simple affairs but larger scale mines attracted people from farming. Return to the top of the list.
Victorian Coal mining was now an established industry and villages like Bishop Sutton grew at the expense of Widcomb. A similar process occurred with Chewton Mendip  Emborough and Ston Easton where the inhabitants were attracted to the mines of Chilcompton, Radstock and Midsomer Norton. Farrrington Gurney, Welton and Paulton were subsidiary parishes of Chewton Mendip that grew whilst village containing ‘the mother church’ declined. Farrington Gurney church has been left in splendid isolation as the village ‘moved’ to the coal mines and the turnpike road now known as the A37. James McMutrie was a coal mining expert recruited by the Waldegraves who helped secure the fortunes of that family. Lead mining got a brief revival in the Victorian era as the waste from earlier working was re-smelted using more efficient methods. This phase of the lead mining has left some of the most visible reminders of the industry. Return to the top of the list.
Modern The lead works near Priddy only survived until the beginning of the 20thcentury and the Somerset Coalfields were never a popular place to work so many people left for the coal mines of South Wales and other areas. Farm boys and miners went to fight in World War One and inevitably some failed to return. Coal mining finally finished in 1973. The last coal miner from Chewton Mendip is Ken Church who left the industry in the 1949. Renewable energy in the form of the wind turbine is one of  the ‘new industries’ but is as contentious as fox hunting.Humanities relationship with nature has always been a struggle and ‘mother nature’ has a habit of proving that mankind does not control everything. Return to the top of the list.

Please refer to the acknowledgements page for a list of the contributors to this website.

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