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The English Midlands, as defined for the purposes of this book, extend from the Welsh border to the west, from the north to the boundary of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, passing through the eastern boundary of Northamptonshire and to the south, at the limit of the M4. Counties include Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, and Worcestershire, a total area of some 30,000 square kilometers. It is an area of diverse geology, varied landscapes and steeped in industrial history.
The bulk of the book is a descriptive account of the minerals found in the above counties. Following is an analysis of historical collectors and collections, as well as the activities of mineral traders. A final chapter briefly mentions the various decorative stones associated with the region – Blue John, Alabaster, Ashford Black Marble, etc. Mines and quarries have been of paramount importance to the economy of the English Midlands. As a result, the region has produced a wide range of interesting mineral specimens. Examples of this can be found in local and regional museum collections, including the Natural History Museum in London. However, the importance of Britain in the development of mineralogy was such that specimens of the English Midlands are found in collections all over the world.
The mining industry in Derbyshire will be well known to many readers and, more recently, barite and fluorite, minerals formerly considered as waste, have become economically important in drilling mud production and processing steel. Many small open-pit operations experienced a brief recovery in the last years of the 20th century, but today only the Milldam mine under Hucklow Edge is still in production. Elsewhere, the Staffordshire and Leicestershire gypsum mines and the Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire continue to perpetuate the mining tradition in the Midlands. There are many excellent publications documenting the industrial heritage and mining history of the Midlands, but few mention significantly the wealth of specimens of fine minerals resulting from centuries of extraction. Thanks to the efforts of miners, mineral traders and collectors over the last hundred years, many interesting and beautiful specimens have been preserved for us to enjoy today.
The author had the privilege of gaining unprecedented access to private and public collections, which allowed him to include many unpublished photographs of mines, quarries, mineral specimens and artifacts made from them. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the geology and industrial history of the region, visitors to the Peak District National Park, mineral collectors and museum curators.