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Slaughter Pit

 

In this book, Dave Tuffley traces the development of Westbury Brook Iron Ore Mine from its origins in the ancient mining of the outcrop to its establishment in the early nineteenth when it was worked by a handful of Forest of Dean free miners. He describes the subsequent development of the mine by outside capitalists who had the finances to invest in new technology, pumping of water and sinking of shafts to access the deeper ore.

Dave discusses how the mine was worked, the technology used and the skills of the miners. This includes a description of the methods of accessing and extraction of the ore, its conveyance to the surface and transport by tramroad, boat or railway to its markets. The lives of the miners are illustrated by recounting their stories, tragedies, and conflicts with the mine owners. In particular, Dave focuses on the dangers, accidents and deaths which defined the miners’ lives in the pit and their community.

Dave then considers the state of the iron industry in the late nineteenth century and the problems associated with competition from cheap Spanish ore. He discusses how financial difficulties mounted from a combination of pressures including economic depression and the difficulties of finding deeper and productive iron ore seams. Dave explores the impact of these factors on the viability of the mine which led to its eventual closure in 1893. He gives an account of unsuccessful attempts to reopen the mine by attracting further investment to drain water from the whole contiguous area. Finally, Dave discusses the issues which have arisen from the derelict remains of the mine in the context of heritage and nature conservation.

Today little evidence remains above ground of the iron mining that took place on this site for hundreds of years. In a similar way, the written records of the history of Westbury Brook Iron Mine are incomplete and the stories of the miners and their families who lived and worked there are fragmentary. Dave has collected the available evidence from a wide range of sources and has compiled it to create a history of this place. By the very nature of this historical research, there are gaps in the information available and unanswered questions about this forgotten place as written records, sources and evidence can no longer be found.

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