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The English Midlands, as defined for the purposes of this book, extend from the Welsh border in the west, northwards to the boundary of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, across to the eastern margin of Northamptonshire and southwards, roughly to the line of the M4 motorway. Included, are the counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire, a total area of some 30,000 square kilometres (11,600 square miles). It is an area of diverse geology, varied landscape and steeped in industrial history.
The bulk of the book is a descriptive account of the minerals to be found in the above counties. This is followed by a review of historical collectors and collections, together with the activities of mineral dealers. A concluding chapter briefly mentions the various decorative stones associated with the area – Blue John, Alabaster, Ashford Black Marble etc.
Mining and quarrying have been of pivotal importance to the economy of the English Midlands. As a consequence of this, the area has produced a wide range of interesting mineral specimens. Examples of these are to be found in local and regional museum collections, and especially at the Natural History Museum in London. However, such was the importance of Britain in the development of mineralogy as a science that specimens from the English Midlands are to be seen in collections all over the world.
The Derbyshire lead mining industry will be well-known to many readers, and more recently, baryte and fluorite, minerals formerly considered as waste products, became economically important, in the production of drilling mud, and as a flux for steelmaking, respectively. Many small-scale opencast operations enjoyed a brief resurgence during the latter years of the twentieth century, but today only Milldam Mine, under Hucklow Edge remains in production. Elsewhere, the gypsum mines in Staffordshire and Leicestershire and Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire continue to keep the mining tradition alive in the Midlands.
There are many excellent publications which document the industrial heritage and mining history of the Midlands, but few of these include any significant mention of the wealth of fine mineral specimens which have resulted from centuries of extraction. We are fortunate indeed that thanks to the efforts of miners, mineral dealers and collectors over the past few hundred years, many interesting and beautiful specimens have been preserved for us to enjoy today.
The author has been privileged to have obtained unprecedented access to both private and public collections, resulting in the inclusion of numerous previously unpublished photographs of mines, quarries, mineral specimens and artefacts made from them. The book will appeal to all those interested in the geology and industrial history of the area, visitors to the Peak District National Park, mineral collectors and museum curators.