Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XIII.


“By Death, who suddenly overwhelmed them there.
Where they themselves had digged a Sepulcher”.

“Before our feet, a Corps digged up we see.
Which minds us what we are, or ought to be”.

To compile anything like a complete list of tragedies of the lead mines in this part of the Peak district is an impossible task. Thousands of men and boys must have lost their lives in pursuit of this dangerous occupation. Formerly the Coroner had no jurisdiction over the fatalities in lead mines, the Barmaster being the coroner for such inquiries down to about sixty years ago. Every effort has been made to trace the old books of the Barmaster for

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this district without success. The appended list has been compiled from various sources, but it represents only a comparative few that must have occurred during the period covered. It will be seen that the cases are taken from mines not only in Bradwell, but in Castleton, Eyam, Hucklow, and other places in the locality.

  1. April 27th, William Grooves, Eyam, killed in a mine at Eyam.

  2. January 24th, John Syddall, Eyam, killed in a mine at Eyam.

  3. May 11th, John Daniel and Robert Berry, killed in a mine at Eyam.

  4. January 6th, Francis Gregory, killed in Eyam mine.

  5. June 30th, Edward Torre, Eyam, killed in mine.

  6. November 27th, Arthur Skidmore, killed in mine at Eyam.

  7. May 12th, George Knowles, Eyam, killed in Haycluf mine.

  8. June 23rd, Richard Turner, Foolow, killed at Stoke Sough.

  9. April 20th, Robert Andrew, killed at Middleton Pasture Mine.

  10. November 18th, Joseph Marsden and John Taylor, killed at Stoke Sough.

  11. September 20th, Richard Holmes, the Bridge, killed at Stoke Sough.

  12. February 28th, Benjamin Pidcock, killed in a mine at Eyam.

  13. Ottiwell Bramall, Castleton, killed in the mine.

  14. John Barber, junior, Castleton, killed in the mine.

  15. February 13th, John Barber, Richard Winterbotham, and Henry Merrill, killed in Haycliff Mine, Eyam.

  16. John Bennett, Castleton, killed in the mine.

  17. John Dakin, killed in a mine at Castleton.

  18. March 4th, Edward Cooper, Foolow, killed in a mine.

  19. November 5th, Wm. Townsend, Bretton, killed in Haycliff mine.

  20. Robert Allen, Castleton, killed in a mine.

  21. Godfrey Morton, killed in the mine.

  22. June 16th, Francis Mower, killed in Haycliff Mine, Eyam.

  23. October 15th, William Fox, killed in Show [Shaw] Engine. Eyam.

  24. Philip Hinch, killed in Shaw Engine Mine.

  25. December 19th, James Drabble, killed at Watergrove.

  26. February 14th. Wm. Hancock, killed in Watergrove Mine.

  27. December 21st, William Syddall, Eyam, drowned in Stoke Sough Mine.

  28. William Bradshaw, Castleton, drowned in a mine.

  29. Joseph Frost, Castleton, killed in the mine.

  30. John Nall, Castleton, died in the mine.

  31. William Cheetham. Bradwell, killed in a Moss Rake mine.

  32. James How, Castleton, killed in the mine.

  33. May 10th, Edward Dooley, killed in Haycliff Mine, Eyam.

  34. January 19th, Robert Unwin, Eyam, killed in Haycliff Mine.

  35. (about) Michael Walker, -. Bramwell. and ---. Simpson, of Hucklow, killed in Twelve Meers Mine; J. Bennett, killed in New Engine; ---. Fearest, killed at Stoke Sough; and ---. Staley, killed in Twelve Meers.

  36. Samuel Heyward, killed at Water Grove, Eyam.

  37. George Benson, Eyam, killed in Pasture Grove, Eyam.

  38. Thomas Middleton, killed in Morewood Engine, Eyam.

  39. Robert Middleton, killed in Slater's Engine, Eyam.

  40. George Broadbent, Castleton, killed in Odin Mine.

  41. James Clayton, killed in a mine on Oxlow.

  42. Isaac Royse, Castleton, killed by lightning in a coe at the top of Linacre Mine.

  43. February 3rd, Humphrey Rowland, Eyam, killed in Black Hole Mine.

  44. George Maltby (64), killed in Nall Hole Mine, Bradwell.

  45. Francis Taylor, Tom J. Water, ---. Longstone, and Isaac Bagshaw, Sheldon, suffocated with sulphur in Maypits Mine, Sheldon.

  46. (about) Robert Elliott, killed in Southfield Mine, Bradwell.

  47. April 27th, Thomas Wildgoose (11) killed at a mine in Bradwell.

  48. July 11th, Joseph Middleton (28), killed in a mine at Bradwell.

  49. (about) Benjamin Bennett, killed at Bennett's Mine, Bradwell.

  50. John Evans, Bradwell, killed in Hazard Mine.

  51. (about) Benjamin Barber, Bradwell, killed in Town End Mine, Great Hucklow.

  52. (about) Robert Maltby, killed at Syke's Mine, Bradwell.

  53. (about) John Cheetham, killed at Red Rake Mine, Bradwell.

  54. Edwin Barber (23), killed in Bank Top Mine, Bradwell.

  55. September 2nd, George Maltby (45). killed in Nall Mine, Hartle Dale, Bradwell.

  56. Jacob Furness (10). killed by falling down a mine shaft in Wortley, Bradwell, whilst bird-nesting.

  57. Samuel Wright (29), killed by a stone at Outland Head Mine. Bradwell.

  58. Henry Jackson (18), killed in Nether Liberty Mine. Great Hucklow.

  59. (about) Thomas Middleton, killed in Raddlepits Mine, Bradwell.

  60. (about) Samuel Bradwell, of Bradwell, killed by falling down shaft at Water Grove.

  61. February 16th. Isaac Morton (21), killed by falling down shaft of Ripper Mine, Bradwell.

  62. April 19th. William Mitchell, Joseph Hallam, John Edwy Darnley (30), and Jonah Elliott (27), suffocated by sulphurous fumes at Slag Works, Dale End, Bradwell. This catastrophe caused great consternation in the place more than half a century ago. The pump engine not acting properly, William Mitchell, the manager, had occasion to let out air by opening a valve fixed on a stage that covered a well six feet six inches deep and five feet diameter. He went down by means of a ladder, but as he did not return Joseph Hallam went to his assistance, and he, too, remained in the pit. Men ran for assistance, and the first to arrive at the spot were John Edwy Darnley, a schoolmaster, who lived with his widowed mother at Dale End, and Jonah Elliott (also the

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son of a widow), who had only just returned from Australia. These two young men, whose names have been handed down as heroes, were returning from a prayer meeting at the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Elliott went down the pit regardless of danger, but on getting one of the men part way up the ladder he, too, was overpowered by the fumes, and let him go, while Darnley, who tried to save his friend, shared a similar fate, and all four men were suffocated in the pit. Mitchell left a widow and two children, Hallam a widow and four children, and the other two were unmarried.

  1. William Bagshaw, Hucklow, killed by falling down a mine.

  2. Benjamin Barber (39), Bradwell, killed in a mine.

  3. November 20th, Abraham Middleton (36), killed in Serin Rake Mine, Bradwell.

  4. (about) John Evans (8), when at play fell down shaft at Shuttle Rake Mine, Bradwell.

  5. (about) Richard Andrew, killed at Bird Mine, Bradwell

  6. May 3rd, Abram Marshall (16), crushed to death by a grinder at a mine at Hazlebadge

  7. March 2nd, James Gilbert, Tideswell, killed at Dusty Pit Mine, Eyam.

  8. John Alsop, Wardlow, killed in Crosslow Head Mine.

  9. April 18th. John Barker, Foolow, killed in Back Dale Mine.

  10. Wm. Bradshaw, killed in Pippin Mine, Eyam.

  11. September 8th, Aaron Hallam (26), of Bradwell, and Martin Chapman, sen., of Little Hucklow, fell to the bottom of shaft whilst being lowered down at Mill Dam Mine, Great Hucklow.

  12. George Mitchell, killed in Calver Sough Mine.

  13. May 29th, Samuel Andrew (19), killed at Hill Top Mine.

  14. September 6th, Benjamin Barber (19), killed by a fall of gravel at Gateside Mine, Great Hucklow.

  15. John Dale, Tideswell, killed in Dusty Pits Mine.

  16. [1764 sic] September 10th, William Wragg (15), killed at Outland Head Mine. Bradwell. He was drawn up the engine shaft by the thumb. When near the top his thumb came off, and he fell to the bottom.

  17. October 3rd. Isaac Andrew, Bradwell, killed by a stone at Dirtlow Mine.

  18. Benjamin Bagshaw, Bradwell (35), killed in Seedlow Mine.

  19. William Oldfield, Hucklow, killed in Mill Dam Mine.

  20. June 9th. Matthew Hodgkinson, shot in a mine at Magclough, Eyam.

  21. Jan. 26th. Francis Hodgkinson (43), killed by a fall at Cliff-stile Mine, Eyam.

  22. Thomas Elliott, Bradwell, killed in Seedlow Mine, Wardlow.

  23. March 24th. Isaac Middleton (49), Smalldale, killed in “Co-op” Mine, Moss Rake, Bradwell.

  24. February 24th. Isaac Middleton (43), Smalldale, killed in Shuttle Rake Mine, Bradwell.

  25. April 5th. Robert Elliott and George Watson, killed by a shot in Glebe Mine, Eyam.

  26. August 21st, William Unwin, killed in a mine at Eyam.

  27. October 8th, George Ashmore (48), killed in Wortley Mine shaft, Bradwell, by bar of iron falling down shaft.

  28. September 11th, Aaron Maltby (22), Bradwell, killed by fall of roof in Silence Mine, Hucklow.

  29. July 20th, Joseph Middleton (51), hung himself in Outland Head Mine, Bradwell.

Rescued from a Living Tomb.

There have been many hairbreadth escapes from death in the lead mines, and some have been rescued from a living grave. One or two such cases may be noticed.

In the winter of 1815, John Frost, a young local preacher in the Wesleyan body, who was engaged in one of the mines at Hucklow, had a miraculous escape from a most perilous situation, in which he was involved by the falling in of the earth where he was at work. A scribe of that day remarks that “his voice was heard from beneath the ground in which he was entombed, and it was ascertained that his head and body remained unhurt, the principal weight having fallen upon and bruised his thighs and legs. Great care was required to accomplish his release, and some of the most experienced miners were employed. A mass of earth was strangely and almost miraculously suspended over his head, where it hung like an avalanche, ready at the slightest touch to crush him to pieces with its fall. The miners, aware that his situation was one of infinite peril, durst not attempt the attainment of their object by the most direct and expeditious means; slower operations were, in their opinion, essential, even though they dreaded the consequences that might attend their protracted efforts. Had that impetuosity of feeling, which, however honourable to our nature, sometimes defeats its most benevolent purposes, been alone consulted on this occasion, the poor man must inevitably have perished. They therefore proceeded with great caution and the most unwearied perseverance from Monday, the day when the accident took place, until the evening of the following Thursday, at which time they had the satisfaction of witnessing the complete success of their exertions, and the restoration of a fellow creature to his family and the world. The man was extricated from his dreadful situation with only a few slight bruises and a broken leg, after a temporary burial of upwards of seventy-five hours. A drop of water that fell near his head, which he contrived to catch in the bottom of his hand, allayed his thirst that otherwise would, probably, have become excessive; this fortunate occurrence, no doubt, contributed to the preservation of his existence. He was a Wesleyan Methodist, and his strong religious feeling supplied him with fortitude. Neither pain nor apprehension destroyed his composure, and

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he employed many of the hours of his premature interment in singing those psalms and hymns he was previously acquainted with. Under any circumstances this man would have been a hero”. So runs the account of the premature burial of John Frost, who lived to be an old man, remained a local preacher to the end of his days, and is still remembered by many.

The hero of another memorable incident is still living. In 1879 Dennis Bagshaw, of Hucklow, was working with others in Black Engine Mine, on Eyam Edge, when the roof fell in. Bagshaw's workmates were on the engine shaft side, and could get out, but he was on the other side of the subsidence, and so was imprisoned in the workings from Monday morning until the following Sunday at noon. Miners from Bradwell, Tideswell, Hucklow, Eyam, and other places bravely worked in relays day and night, not lagging a single moment. At one time the work of rescue became dangerous owing to foul air, and the candles of the workmen would not burn, but ventilation in the mine was restored by the opening of a “gate”. Some of the workmen were on duty continuously all the time, never changing their clothes, and having their food brought to the mine, and after nearly a week they opened the tomb of Dennis Bagshaw, completely exhausted, but living, having kept himself alive by sipping water that had dripped from the roof, having caught the drops in a cup which he made of clay. Dennis Bagshaw removed to Hayfield some time afterwards, and still lives there.

The Magpie Mine Tragedy.

About the year 1830 two lead mines were being worked at Sheldon, the “Magpie” and the “Maypits”. For some time the owners of the two mines were “cutting things very fine” in their workings, and considerable animosity existed between them as to their limits. The Maypits lay to the south of the Magpie, and their borings were continued until the workings met or crossed, and at this stage a fearful tragedy was said to have been perpetrated by the Magpie party.

It was alleged that on the Magpie side one of the Maypits men having “turned coat” and given them all the information they desired - straw, saturated with coal tar or impregnated with sulphur, was taken down the mine and placed at their boundary, then lighted, and the fumes driven into the Maypits workings during the time the miners were busy there. As may be supposed, whether the effects were intended to cause death or not, they did so. Three of the workmen, Francis Taylor and Tom J. Wager, of Longstone, and Isaac Bagshawe, of Sheldon, were overcome by the fumes and succumbed, about twenty others being rendered insensible and taken up for dead, but eventually were restored. Several of the Magpie men were arrested and tried at Derby for murder, but the whole were acquitted, the evidence being purely circumstantial, for, of course, the Magpie party declined to give any information that would tend to incriminate their associates.


Weaving of silk and cotton by the handloom process was extensively carried on more than a century ago. The block of buildings at the bottom of Water Lane now known as Brook Buildings, was formerly a silk mill worked by a Mr. Street, and a considerable number of hands were employed there. There were other small weaving establishments, and many of the cottages had their pairs of looms from 150 down to 80 years ago. Indeed, there was also a manufactory of weavers' shuttles, the Fox family carrying on this business. But the last of the weavers has long ago passed away.

Cotton Spinning.

For quite 200 years cotton spinning was carried on at various small mills in the locality. The most ancient of these, now a ruin, is the old “Bump Mill”, by the brookside just below Edentree, which derived its name from the “bump”, or coarse kind of cotton, which was manufactured there. This mill was working in the latter part of the 18th century, as appears from an Indenture of Assignment (in the possession of the author), in which James Hyde, cotton spinner, of Bradwall, on June 25th, 1798, assigned to Benjamin Barber, shopkeeper, and Wm. Palfreyman, shopkeeper, as trustees for the benefit of his creditors, all his “household goods and furniture, stock-in-trade, working tools, machines and implements of his trade or calling, goods, wares, merchandise, book debts”, etc. The creditors were Messrs. Hugh and Isaac Hill, Benjamin Barber, Wm. Palfreyman, James Ramsden, and Catherine Dakin, and the witnesses to the deed were Thomas Morton, Joseph Barber, and Kitty Bocking. The mill then appears to have got into the hands of Hugh Hill, but it has been disused since the Hills gave up the business about 1830.

The next oldest cotton mill was the one which now forms part of the lead works at Brough. This was extensive. It was worked by Messrs. Pearson a century ago, and the same firm had two other mills, one at the bottom of Stretfield, now converted into farm buildings and a house for the farm bailiff, and the other what is known as the “New Mill”, in Stretfield. The latter was in later years worked by the late Mr. Thomas Somerset.

The Hat Trade.

Another industry, now extinct, was the manufacture of felt hats, which was carried on for quite a hundred years. There were some half-dozen of these hatting shops on the Hills, and others in Smalldale.

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Job Middleton, the Last of the Hatters
The last of many generations of Hatters.
Player of the “Serpent”. Died 1899.

As showing the importance of this industry nearly a century ago, it may be mentioned that in the year 1820 the following had manufactories of hats here: William Evans, James Evans, Robert Jackson, Charles Middleton, Joseph Middleton, Robert Middleton, George Middleton, and Obadiah Stafford. Twenty years later those carrying on the business were Job Middleton, Wm. Middleton, Robert Middleton, and Thomas Howe, but as these manufacturers retired or died, the trade gradually declined, the old hat shops were deserted, and all have long ago been demolished, and houses erected on the ground, with one exception, that of the “shop” of the Evans family, which still stands at the bottom of Smalldale, a detached building of three storeys, now used as a warehouse.


Another industry of which the village could boast for many years was that of optician. The business was established about 1850 by the late Isaac Barber, and here, at the top of Smithy Hill, was the manufactory of telescopes, opera glasses, etc., where a number of young men served their apprenticeship. About 1862 another establishment was started by Evans Brothers (Stephen, Isaac, and Joshua), in Smalldale, in the building formerly the hat manufactory, and later still the late John Dakin carried on the business in the old Sunday School, now the Conservative Club. But this trade is now extinct.

Lime Burning.

A considerable trade in lime burning was carried on here more than a century ago. There were small lime kilns along one side of Bradwell Dale, and many in Smalldale. Some place names, as “Kiln Lane”, denote the extensive trade formerly carried on in lime burning, and there are many disused quarries where the stone for burning was got. Here is a description of a night scene in Smalldale close on a century back. Rhodes, in his “Peak Scenery” (1818), and his friend Chantry, the famous sculptor, found themselves when darkness set in on the road overlooking Smalldale, and he writes thus:

“The burning of lime is here a considerable trade, and the kilns used for the purpose are situate at the bottom of the dell, one side of which was formed by the rocks where we stood; of the other, aided by a transient light emitted from the fires of the lime kilns, we caught occasionally an uncertain glimpse; all beneath was a gloomy vacuity, which the eye could not penetrate. The whole dale, indeed, was one immense cauldron steaming with smoke, that at intervals was partly illuminated by momentary gleams and flashes from the fires below - then curling into mid-air, it rolled over our heads in murky volumes, forming a canopy as dark as Erebus. The obscurity that pervaded this nocturnal scene, together with the short and feeble emanations of light shot from the kilns in the deep dale beneath, only made darkness more palpable, and powerfully assisted the impressions it produced. We stood to contemplate the picture before us until some heavy drops of rain and the hoarse murmurs of distant thunder warned us to depart”.

Such was a night scene among the Bradwell lime kilns a hundred years ago.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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