February Blog: History & Heritage


The weather has been rather wet and cold so far this month, but we're not letting it hold us back. This week, if all goes to plan, we will be adding the first floor to the Centre! It should be an impressive building to say the least, in-keeping with the beautiful stone cottages of Wirksworth and surrounding areas. But what's most impressive is the amount of history and heritage which can be found on the Centre's site.

Derbyshire, and Wirksworth specifically, is renowned for its lead mining heritage which can be traced back to the Roman times (around two thousand years ago!). Take a trip to Wirksworth church (just 10 minutes down the road) and you will find a stone carving found in Bonsall which was added to one of the church walls in the 1870s. It's been dated back to the Anglo-Saxon times and shows a man carrying a basket in one hand and a pick in the other.

Dotted around the Centre's site can be found evidence of this lead mining history, from abandoned mine shafts to Q-pits. Many of the mine shafts discovered were in poor condition, and many had already collapsed in on themselves. But there was one shaft uncovered on site which was in perfect condition! The entrance to the mine is very distinctive, and the walls of the shaft are neatly lined with local stone. Our aim is to illuminate the walls with LED lighting and cover the entrance, allowing visitors to safely look into the mine and experience this immense piece of history for themselves.

Along with this fantastically preserved mine shaft, we have also uncovered a set of Q-pits which could date back to post Medieval times. These Q-pits are kiln sites dug for the production of white coal. This white coal would then be used to smelt the lead dug from the surrounding mine shafts. These pits are so called due to their distinctive 'Q' shape and were first built in the Medieval era all the way up to 1760, the start of the industrial revolution.

These Q-pits were once covered by thick foliage and weeds, and were almost impossible to see. Now, we have cut back some of these over-grown branches making the distinctive 'Q' shapes of the pits visible. Again, we hope to make these amazing historic evidences strong features of the Centre. We also plan to leave this section of the site as natural as possible, and encourage local wildlife to live in this area.

The remains of lead mining and the wealth it brought can be seen all over the Peak. Large houses such as Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick were built by families who gained fortunes from lead mining, and whole villages such as Wirkworth, Bonsal and Eyam flourished due to the large mining community which had developed in Derbyshire. The aim of Mount Cook is to help visitors push their personal boundaries and increase their confidence and skills through outdoor adventure activities. But at the same time we also want to educate our visitors, and develop their understanding of Derbyshire's fascinating and rich history.

We can't wait to invite our first group of visitors to the Centre in July, and share with them these fantastic snippets of history!

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