Earby Mines Research Group was formed in 1945 within the Earby Pothole Club to explore lead and other mines in Yorkshire. During the intervening years it became clear that many of the remaining sites were fast disappearing, so it was decided that every effort should be made to rescue, record and preserve any remains we could wherever possible.
Later, in association with the Crosshills Naturalists, we embarked on a programme of restoring a few of the remaining structures, some of which are the only examples of their kind in the north.
By the end of the 1960s we had accumulated a considerable amount of material by visiting the mining sites, recording, measuring, photographing and wherever possible recovering implements and machinery which had been left underground. This often entailed working in unpleasant conditions. Many mines are in remote places so when large items were brought to the surface they had to be carried some distance to the road. Even then the task was not finished as each item had to be carefully dried, cleaned, preserved, and if necessary, on larger items, missing parts carefully replaced. They were then recorded. The name, the site and area, plus all relevant information was placed on a card index now listing over 700 items which can be viewed on request. With the growing interest in Industrial Archaeology, we thought the collection should be made more accessible to the general public, the problem being where to house it. In 1970 the West Riding County Council vacated the Old Grammar School at Earby, which had been used as a clinic, and the Robert Windle Foundation Trustees (Robert Windle had founded the Grammar School by his will of 1591), kindly offered us the use of the property as a museum. After twelve months cleaning, decorating and arranging the exhibits, the museum was opened on May 22nd 1971. The collection includes an excellent display of mine tubs, photographs, mine plans, smaller implements, mining machinery and miners' personal belongings and models.
Earby is a small town on the edge of the Dales. Although it is not directly connected with lead mining some of the miners came to this area and particularly Burnley when the mines were closing down in the Dales. They found work in the coal mines and weaving mills which were the main industries in this area at that time, so there is a connection here. Some miners also went to the Durham coalfields and some even ventured to America and Spain to work in the mines.
The nearest lead mine to Earby is at Cononley a few miles away where restoration work has been going on since 1967.
Grassington Moor is the nearest large mining area to Earby.
The museum contains a wide range of lead mining relics from the Yorkshire Dales and other mining areas.
Let us hope by the efforts of our group and groups like it, the future generations will have some insight into the history of British mining.
By reading books, looking at photographs and being able to visit the actual sites, a far deeper insight into the subject will be gained than by trying to visualise a past industry with no visible remains.
Parties by arrangement Tel. Earby (01282) 815686
of the Mining History Network