Grove Rake Fluorspar Mine
Date Visited: November 2008
Grove Rake mine was somewhere that had been on my radar for some time. I first saw a photo of it in a photography book a few years previously, but had no idea where it was. Then a few reports started to appear on the urban exploration forums and with the wonder of Geograph.org.uk I was finally able to pinpoint it's location. It's in the middle of nowhere - quite literally. I spent several hours there and I only recall seeing / hearing two cars go past on the main road next to the site. One of the consequences of its isolation in this barren landscape was the howling wind that caused the headgear to bang, creak and groan constantly. It looked a somewhat ramshackle affair, not helped by its deteriorating condition.
A spot of history, ripped off from this excellent website: http://www.mine-explorer.co.uk/mines/Grove-Rake_695/Grove-Rake.asp
The Groverake mine is located at the junction of the Groverake, Greencleugh, and Red veins about 4.5 kilometers northwest of Rookhope, near the head of the burn. Mining in the area likely predates the seventeenth century, but major development was started by the Beaumont Company in the late eighteenth century, including the sinking of two shafts on the Red and Groverake veins, which ultimately reached levels in and below the Great Limestone. Although the veins proved rich in fluorspar, they were relatively poor in lead. Dunham (1990) reported that between 1818 and 1883, they produced only 6,498 tons of lead concentrates.
With the departure of Beaumont, the mine was picked up in 1884, by the Weardale Lead Company, which, followed by a succession of several operators, worked the property for both fluorspar and lead until 1940. Problems with the treatment of the fluorspar ores to remove silica evidently limited the success of the mine during this period.
More successful operations were begun during World War II by Blanchland Fluor Mines, Ltd., and then followed by British Steel. During the British Steel tenancy, the Rake level was driven northward from the area of the shafts to access the upper levels of both the Red and Groverake veins, and the Firestone dib (local term for a decline) was put in to access lower levels on the same veins. Although these tunnels never interconnected with the shaft accessed workings, they are considered part of the Groverake mine complex (Younger 2003).
Fluorspar deposits on both veins proved rich, and the mine became one of the top fluorspar producers in the region during the latter part of the century. With the collapse of British Steel in the early 1980s, the mine was acquired by Weardale Minerals and Mining, whose parent company, Minworth, Ltd., was itself forced into receivership in 1991. The mine was then purchased by Sherburn Minerals and worked until summer 1999. At the time of its final closure, Groverake was the last commercial fluorspar mine operating in the North Pennines.
I revisited the mine in 2016 - please see this gallery.