Once Upon a Hill – Discovering the lost villages of The Stiperstones

08 September 2011


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The Stiperstones National Nature Reserve in South-West Shropshire is a spectacular 10 kilometre ridge visible throughout the area. Rising to 536 meters above sea level much of the hill is heather heathland. It is important for its rocks deposited some 480 million years ago many of which are visible above ground today and even more of which have been mined leaving a rich social history.

The history of lead mining in the area is long, the first exploitation of lead was by the Romans in the early years of the Roman occupation. A pig (a bar or ingot) of Roman lead was found in 1796 at Snailbeach plus two others elsewhere, all bearing the stamp of Emperor Hadrian.

The second era of major exploitation begins in the mid 18th century at the Grit Mines area and runs through until the Snailbeach mine closed for lead mining in 1913, although barytes was produced at Snailbeach until 1955.

The miners needed somewhere to live and small ‘squatters’ cottages were built by the miners who were allowed to stay if, it is said, they could build a house and have smoke coming out of the chimney by nightfall.

Exterior of Cooks Cottage, Stiperstones

The Blakemoorgate Settlement has the remains of four such cottages and two have been restored by Natural England as part of a partnership project funded by Natural England, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Leader, aimed at discovering local community heritage.

Many local people remember the cottages in their hay day and visited them as children when they were still inhabited. Another arm of the project has been to record the memories of local people and a book of their stories is due to be published next month.

Volunteers regularly welcome visitors to the cottages and four local schools have ‘walked in the footsteps’ of the mining families discovering who they lived. Many more events are planned.

Other worldly links can be found on your climb towards Stiperstones, if you look south you will see The Long Mynd stretching towards the Craven Arms area.  Near here are the Linley Hills on top of which sits a small Roman encampment. On the hillside above sits Linley Hall; locally known at Claire’s Ring after Lady More who lived there in the latter half of the 20th century. Nearby a Roman villa has been found and in More Church there is a Roman mosaic on view.

For information about Stiperstones, open days and educational visits please contact jenni.tibbetts@naturalengland.org.uk

Posted by Jenni Tibbetts, Natural England

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