New English Midlands Update 19 April 2022

19 April 2022

WE return from our Easter break with another British regional focus, this time on the English Midlands.

This quite ill-defined area does not always appear on the mineralogical radar of Britain, perhaps with the one exception of Derbyshire. The reason for this is none of the other counties contain any extensive ore fields, with mineralogical finds more constrained to small, localised ore bodies or one-off occurrences. Within Britain this area is simply referred to as the Midlands, but most likely every country has a ‘midlands’ as everywhere has a ‘north’.

In 2018, well known and much respected British collector Roy Starkey published his book describing this region, sensibly naming it Minerals of the English Midlands. For most collectors of British minerals, this now acts as the go-to reference with which to define a county or locality within (or outwith) the Midlands region. The geographical boundaries extend to Cheshire, Shropshire and Hereford in the west; Gloucester, Oxford and Northants in the south; Rutland, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the east and Derbyshire completing the circle in the north. This region hosts many fabulous mineral localities, many of which are highlighted in today’s selection 21 specimens. I grew up in south Manchester, then in Lancashire and less than half a mile from Cheshire. So it was to the mines of Cheshire (Alderley Edge) and north Derbyshire that I took my first tentative collecting steps, so cementing a lifetime passion.

Just before overviewing today’s selection, was there ever a better opportunity to remind you we still stock copies of Roy’s book, Minerals of the English Midlands, which for anyone even remotely interested in British mineralogy is a must! It is a massive 426 pages packed with superb colour photos of localities and specimens together with wonderful historic and technical information. If interested, do simply contact us and we can fix you up with a copy – trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Let’s play it a bit differently today and start with a few whoppers, the non-technical term for large and good size cabinet pieces! A 16 x 11 cm dome-shaped mass of cubic crystals of Fluorite from Ladywash mine at Eyam in Derbyshire is a stunner. The colourless Fluorite would have been gemmy were it not for the pervasive micro-inclusions of sulphides which also form most attractive zoning. Dirtlow Rake is an almost 3 km long mineralised vein to the south and south-west of the picturesque Derbyshire village of Castleton. One of the many mines which worked this deposit was Portaway and from here we have a 15 x 11 cm sawn and polished section of a Baryte pseudo-stalactite displaying concentric bands of creamy-white, colourless, salmon and light brown Baryte. Another giant is a beautiful crystallised Calcite from Cloud Hill quarry at Breedon on the Hill in north west Leicestershire. Randomly orientated translucent Calcite crystals, many double terminated, form sharply pointed scalenohedral crystals of up to 3 cm, all with a satin to glassy bright lustre. One millimetre equant crystals of Chalcopyrite are included within the Calcite, enhancing their naturally golden hue and also encrusting the Calcite crystals in some areas.

One of our more unusual items is Bitumen with Baryte, Sphalerite and Selenite, another specimen from Ladywash mine. A hard, rounded globular mass of glossy black Bitumen measuring to 1.4 cm fills a lilac Fluorite cavity with cockscomb Baryte and microcrystals of orange-brown Sphalerite, plus the odd Gypsum crystal. Throughout this part of the South Pennine Orefield, an exhumed, carbonate-hosted oilfield manifests in numerous ways, this specimen being one example of trapped, highly oxidised hydrocarbons.

Another Derbyshire classic is Phosgenite, from its type locality at Bage mine close to Cromford, south of Matlock. This rare lead chlorocarbonate, forms a 1 cm+ crystalline block on a 1 cm thick matrix of oxidised Galena.

A seldom seen locality, yet certainly a Midlands classic, is mauve-pink Calcite with Quartz and Galena from the idiosyncratically named Snailbeach mines at Shelve in Shropshire. Rhombic, delicate lilac pink Calcite crystals up to 4 cm on edge are coated with a thin translucent dusting of drusy Quartz. Attached to these are cubic crystals of metallic silvery Galena up to 3.9 cm on edge.

From the Ecton Hill mines in Staffordshire we have a miniature Chalcopyrite with Baryte and Sphalerite; a superb Chalcopyrite on Baryte and a lovely Malachite on Baryte.

Other Midlands classics include cerussite with Galena from Millclose mine near Matlock; a rich Greenockite (possibly Hawleyite) on Fluorite from Fall Hill quarry at Milltown, Ashover; octahedral Galena crystals from the evocatively named Beans and Bacon mine on Bonsall Moor (Derbyshire) and a fabulous and rare, gemmy prismatic Calcite from the ancient Odin mine close to Castleton.

There are plenty of other excellent specimens from this region of England, so do explore further by following the various hyperlinks. The English Midlands are not always heralded as much as they should be, so now is an opportunity to redress the balance and fill some important gaps in your collection. Enjoy! PT

                                         

If you'd like to see a video of any of the specimens listed above then please contact us at orders@crystalclassics.co.uk and we'll be happy to assist you. We endeavour to respond to all enquires within 24 hours during weekdays, however at the weekend it might take us a little longer to respond.

 

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Author: JH
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