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Newsletter - December 2010

A PDF version (2.2MB) of this newsletter is available for download.


Well, what a stunning programme we've had so far this season, and more to follow, but please note the various start times of the lectures.

The Broadhurst lecture day was so well attended we even had folks queuing in the lobby! Fred's Plesiosaur, Percy, is in a bad state and his family are raising a fund to provide him with a better home. See below.

Our Membership Secretary Fred Owen is standing down in February, after 8 years of dedicated service, but I am delighted to say that Lisa Abbott has volunteered to do the job for the next 2 years. However, we would like one or two more members to join us on the Council, please do think about it before the AGM. The Council meets 4 times a year and the tasks are divided amongst us.

Subscriptions are due on January 1st, and it will greatly help Fred and Lisa if you can pay yours promptly. A renewal form is included with this newsletter.

Jane Michael draws your attention to matters regarding the Geologists' Association; she would like some feed back from members.

The MGA is committed to encouraging young geologists, and to that end a Geology prize is given in our name at Altrincham Boys Grammar School. See below.

The Herdman Symposium will be held in February at Liverpool University. Those of us who have attended these symposia in past years have found them very rewarding indeed. If you intend to go you will need to book in with Helen Kookelar.

It just remains for me to wish every one of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Rockingly Good New Year!

Mary Howie
MGA newsletter editor

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The Fred Broadhurst Plesiosaur Appeal

Many members will remember with fondness Fred Broadhurst who died in October last year. One lesser known fact about Fred was that back in 1960 he was leader of a student field trip to the Yorkshire coast which found the near-complete remains of a plesiosaur. This was excavated under extreme conditions and taken back to Manchester where it was cleaned and eventually put on display, initially in the Geology Department and subsequently in Manchester Museum. This specimen has recently been identified as being of a hitherto unknown species and hence is of great research interest and value. Unfortunately the display case has proved less durable than the 180 million year old plesiosaur and is now insufficiently airtight to protect the plesiosaur from damage. If nothing is done the museum would have to remove the entire specimen into storage in order to best preserve it.

Fred's family has decided that the continued display of the plesiosaur will be an appropriate tribute to his contribution to teaching and academic research and they have agreed with the museum that a new case will be provided together with a detailed description of some of the human stories associated with the discovery, excavation and eventual display of the specimen. Unfortunately the museum is currently unable to raise the funds necessary to provide a new case and so an appeal has been launched to do this. The replacement display case will cost approximately £20,000 and this will provide a completely sealed case yet with easy access to the specimen, something which was always a problem with the existing case.

Further details of the appeal and how to donate can be obtained by logging onto or calling Rosemary Broadhurst (01625 877255) who will send you a leaflet.

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"Close the coalhouse door, boys, there's blood inside"

A number of the GMRIGS' Wigan Geology Locality A4 Summary Records, compiled in the early 1980's and stored at the Manchester Museum, detail boreholes and mineshafts. The borehole records contain detailed geology maps, OS maps, and copies of literature searches, for example, the listing of sections of strata from the boreholes, along with other pertinent literature. There are four boreholes on record - Rayners Borehole, south of Astley Green, NGR: SJ 702986, Astley Moss, Chat Moss, NGR: SJ 704972, Jubilee Boring, west of Wigan Road, NGR: SJ 577995 and Spring Pit, Hindley Green, NGR: SD 630030.

The mineshafts recorded are from individual collieries in the area. As with the boreholes, the records are extremely comprehensive, with OS and geology maps, literature searches plus a general history of the locality, including the owners' names before nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, and any relevant colliery disasters.

Until the Mines Inspectorate was fully established in 1850 the recording of pit disasters and explosions was vague as to the actual date and/or location because there was no standard of recording such incidents, so few of the records contain pre-1850 disasters.

Fifteen separate pit disasters are recorded on the A4 Summary Sheets, the earliest being on 28 August, 1848 at the Hindley Green Colliery, when five people were killed. The last one on 12 November, 1932, was an explosion at Garswood Hall No. 9 pit killing 27 people. Excluding the Little Hulton Pretoria Pit disaster of 1910 (not one of the recorded mineshafts), when the 344 deaths made it the worst coal mining accident in Lancashire and the third worst in British mining history, the most tragic was the Ince Hall Colliery, when four separate explosions dating from 1852 to 1874 killed a total of one hundred and seventy four workers.

One of the most publicised disasters occurred on 18 August, 1908, at Abram's Maypole Colliery, when there was an explosion in the Cannel Mine (No. 1 Pit) killing 76 men. The blast was deep underground, and the recovery of the bodies was delayed because the mine had to be flooded to extinguish the underground fire started by the explosion. There were three survivors - Edward Farrell and William Doran from the Scholes area of Wigan, and Richard Fairhurst from Hindley; they had been working in a part of the pit shielded from the main blast. It was not until November of the following year that most of the victims were brought to the surface, and the last body was not recovered until 1917.

Details of the Maypole Rescue Operation, the Inquest, The Inspector's Report and Relief Fund can be easily accessed in the Manchester Museum along with all the other mineshaft and borehole information.

This collection of records provides an insight into an industry that was once the lifeblood and fuel of the Wigan area.

Marjorie E. Mosley, Secretary, GMRIGS

Commemorative postcard of the Maypole Colliery disaster

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Geologists' Association Membership Team

1. GA has noticed falling membership - now 1497 putting it third amongst geological societies/ associations after Geological Society (for professionals and with a membership of around 9500) and the OUGS (2200 December 2009).

2. The following issues have been noted as facing the GA:
  • GA
  • Membership
  • Publicity
  • Profile in scientific community
  • Education
  • Regional outreach
  • Value to individuals

3. The GA council have decided to set up a team under the auspices of Paul Olver, the membership secretary, to investigate this and to formulate a plan to reverse the situation.

4. Paul was looking for a wide cross section of geological society representatives both GA Groups and affiliated associations. Hence the invitation to me as a representative of the MGA and northern societies in general to a meeting being held at University of Birmingham on 23 July 2010.

5. Much discussion ensued with the following topics covered:
  • Is the GA itself needed
  • Why should anyone join the GA.
  • Cost of membership fees and consequent 'value for money' (or not)
  • Identity of GA: is it aimed at the professional or the amateur or both.
  • Are the Proceedings really suitable: too academic for most amateurs
  • How to boost membership
  • What publicity will be needed
  • Is the perceived need to keep a high science profile really needed
  • Who is the target group for membership of the GA
  • Encouragement of regional groups/outreach

6. The most important thing to decide was the identity of the GA which seems very confused and does need clarifying. Paul Olver will take this specific topic to the next GA Council meeting. Once this has been sorted out, the question of value for money for membership can be addressed.

7. I would be really interested to hear from members their views on the Geologists' Association and the information I have given above, then I can take these views to the next meeting. Whilst I was unable to attend the last meeting due to work commitments, I am quite happy to continue attending the meetings (likely to be three per year) as I feel I have something to contribute as I am considering not renewing my GA membership for most of the reasons discussed at the meeting. Hopefully actions taken will result in more GA activity locally (joint events with part funding from the GA) which will benefit our members.

8. Please email me with your views.

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MGA Field Trip to the Goodluck Mine

Heavy showers made Saturday 14 August a good day to go underground and hope to stay dry. A group from MGA crammed into a lay-by in the Via Gellia (named after Philip Gell and also giving rise to the name Viyella) to be divided into two groups to take turns underground and investigating above ground.

The present adit to the Goodluck Mine was started in 1830. It took 14 months of driving through 580ft of barren rock to reach the Goodluck vein, when the date and the initials of the miners were inscribed into the wall. The mine only remained productive until 1835. The thickest vein is about 300mm with up to 5% lead, a statistic which shows why the mine was not profitable. There were small returns in 1876-1879 and production was renewed during the Great War. In the 20s and 30s barites was mined. The mine last made money in the 1950s with lead and barites.

Back in the nineteenth century, the two or three workers in the mine probably came from Middleton and typically would have been small holders, working in the mine during slack times on the land. Work would end about 4 pm which was mineral or blasting time. It took two hours to cut the 12 inch shot hole. Earlier methods of loosening the rock had included fire blasting and lime setting.

The Goodluck Mine has now been managed by the Preservation Society for the past three years. It is the only working mine in the Via Gellia, classed as a working mine because visitors are taken underground and must therefore be inspected by HSE Mines. As a working mine, the mine is expected provide Prince Charles with a 'dish' of lead each year, about 65 lbs in weight, these days thirteen pounds sterling is accepted in lieu.

Outside the mine are the foundations of the associated buildings. Sometimes buildings were built over the mine entrance to keep the entrance dry. Ore was dressed at the mine by women and children on a limestone floor . The jig has been rebuilt to demonstrate how it works. Spoil was dumped down the slope and we inspected the large spoil tip. There's an estimated 40,000 tons and the only vegetation is that tolerant of lead, eg leadwort, orchids, eyebright. The explosives store has also been rebuilt, the door facing away from the mine, down the valley and would have had a turf, not stone, roof - just in case... A brick floored trough was used for washing barites. There is a warm, dry roofed building originally where the miners changed, stored their tools, carried out any running repairs and where we sheltered from the weather waiting our turn to go underground.

It is possible to walk upright in most of the mine, but some sections, particularly at the entrance, the mine is very low, just enough clearance to ride the rail wagon into the mine as demonstrated by one of us. To save transporting spoil out of the mine, as much as possible was used to pack the walls or piled overhead on stone stemples, roof supports.

The adit cuts the fine to medium grade limestone of the Hopton Group. This is capped by the Matlock Lower Lava. The Gulph Fault, with a throw of 61m down to the north east, runs through the workings. The Gulph Fault has caused many minor factures which are mineralised as are tension fractures due to lateral movement. Typically barites is found on limestone and galena is found speckled on the barites.

In the mine there's a display of the minerals found in the mine:
  • Galena
  • Barite or Cawke speckled onto limestone
  • Calcite or Spar
  • Malachite with Azurite
  • Traces of Haematitic Clay
  • Traces of Fluorite or Fluorspar
  • Traces of Zinc Blend or Wad.
There is also a collection of items found in the mine including shoes with wooden soles, leather patches from shoes used to level the mine's rails, beer bottles from Lowestoft and Doncaster, a jug from Yell and a bottle of Hooley's Elixir dated 1830.

In the afternoon we had a guided mining archaeology tour of part of Lathkill Dale starting from Over Haddon. Lathkill Dale was quiet and peaceful (and dry), but it was not always so. Lead mining in Lathkill Dale is recorded from 1284 when the Mandale Mine was at work. By 1727 there were two waterwheels at work and by 1730 the Over Haddon Sough (pronounced suff), the first drainage channel was working. The sough was dry on the day we were there, so we could go a short way inside and admire the stone work inside. The sough drains the Mandale Mine via the incline which is connected in at the side.

We inspected the remains of the aqueduct used to bring water from up the valley used to work water wheels to drain Mandale Mine. Although in ruins, the engine house is very impressive and worth a visit.

Next stop was Bateman's House, named after the agent. This was built over one of the two large shafts. The shafts were the site of a pumping engine - a primitive type of turbine and there's an information board to explain how it worked. Down the ladder into the shaft, the river can be seen far below with the aid of light generated by turning a handle. The close proximity of the house to the mine enabled a very close and continuous watch on what was going on. No cheating the agent here. There are tales of the floor giving way into the void below!! Now just the walls are standing.

Last stop was the rake to Gant Hole which was worked during the 1880s for lead and ironstone. This is up the very steep hill from the main path. There's no distinct path, so it is difficult to get up to and a slide down when it is wet. Nevertheless most of us made it up to look with torches into the hole. The Gant Hole vein is an off-shoot of the Lathkill Dale vein. Plans were to connect Gant Hole to connect the two, but this project was abandoned.

Our thanks go to Goodluck Mine for showing us round and particularly to Richard who was with us for the whole day.

Penny Heyworth

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MGA Prize for GCSE Geology awarded at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys to Louis Day

Louis, like the entire group, took a journey into the unknown by enrolling for Geology in Year 10, especially given that this was Dr Stephen's first attempt at teaching the subject at GCSE! He had the additional disadvantage in being in such a competitive high calibre group- the final tally for the 27 strong group was 24 A*, 2 A and a C. However, like all he does in life, Louis took this in his stride. A quiet purposeful young man, Louis was able to see through many of the generalisations we made in lessons at an early stage. He also had the knack also of asking those awkward questions that often baffle a teacher. The dedication that he showed to the subject was clearly illustrated on the field trip to Pembrokeshire, where he travelled independently to the Youth Hostel straight after disembarking from a journey from Germany with the Swing Band. Despite his late start in the field, this did not stop him from obtaining 100% in his assessed coursework and with 290/300 in the final examination he beat his quality competitors by a significant distance. Despite not taking the subject on to A Level, Louis richly deserves the inaugural Manchester Geological Association Prize for GCSE Geology. Congratulations Louis!

On a separate note the new GCSE Geology syllabus requires students to have an exposure to the careers that geologists undertake; oil and gas exploration and production, mineral prospecting and mining, hydrogeology, environmental geosciences, engineering geology and the role of an academic scientist are specifically mentioned.

If any MGA member would be willing to talk a school group about their career in these fields then I would love to hear from you!

Dr Kevin Stephen
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys
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