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Minerals of the English Midlands - new book coming soon!

Last Updated: 17th Jul 2018

By Roy Starkey

New books on British mineralogy do not come along very often, and I was interested to read Keith Compton’s report of the recently published "Silver Mining on Sark", a place I have visited (some time ago)

Keith’s observation that “There is only a little mineralogy and geology. I would have, for example, preferred to have seen more photos of the geology of the area and of specimens from the mines, which would have made the book far more complete…” this is “…purely a book for those interested in mining history…” struck a chord with me. It was just such a recognition which has encouraged me to embark on a major project to document the Minerals of the English Midlands.

Many Mindat readers will be familiar with the series of regional mineralogies published by various authors and institutions over the past 30 years or so (yes, it really was 1987 when the late Peter Embrey and Bob Symes published Minerals of Cornwall and Devon!).

British regional mineralogies cover photos

The English Midlands is an area with a wealth of interesting mineralogy, and many “classic localities” which have produced specimens now to be seen in mineral museums and collections across the world (think calcite from Ladywash Mine; celestine from Yate; phosgenite and matlockite from Bage Mine; pink-mauve calcite from Shropshire; selenite from Shotover Hill (figured in Sowerby’s British Mineralogy), and many, many more!.

Here a few photos from the Mindat database....

There is a vast literature documenting the industrial heritage and mining history of the area, but most of these publications barely mention the minerals (lots of interesting background detail on the mines, miners, steam engines and social history). This is a surprising omission given the image potential of the subject.

Four years ago I set out to remedy that situation. Firstly, I embarked on a programme of visits to all of the major UK mineral collections, and spent much time photographing and processing images. In parallel with that, an extensive review of the published literature, coupled with my own general knowledge of the region, led to the drawing up of an initial list of “target localities” – candidates to be featured in the eventual book.

Roll forward four years, and thousands of hours of effort later, and typesetting of the book is now well-advanced. The first 185 pages are in near final form and I hope to complete the remainder by August.

How many pages will it be (I hear you ask)? I wish I knew, but it is very difficult to predict how images and text will blend together once typeset. My current best estimate is somewhere around 400 pages, and with over 900 images of localities, mines, but most of all mineral specimens.

Do you have a favourite locality in the English Midlands? If so, the chances are that it is covered in the book.

The book consists of a general introduction which reviews the development of the region and its links with the Industrial Revolution (underpinned, of course, by the minerals!), chapters on the geology and mineral deposits to put the minerals into context, and then county by county descriptions of the minerals – Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire.

Minerals of the English Midlands poster

Following the regional descriptions are three chapters looking at historical collectors and collections associated with the area, a brief review of mineral dealing, and a short look at decorative stones (alabaster, Ashford Black Marble and of course Blue John).

An extensive bibliography is provided and a comprehensive index, so the book should hopefully provide a good reference source and start point for future researchers.

I’ll be posting additional information on the project, and updates on availability etc. on Twitter https://twitter.com/roy_mineral?lang=en
and on my website https://britishmineralogy.com/wordpress/?page_id=791

If you would like to register your interest, and be notified when the book is available (expected to be in the autumn of 2018) please let me know via the contact form on my website https://britishmineralogy.com/wordpress/?page_id=150

I’ll post some more news about the project once the book is published, but meanwhile, if you have some favourite localities or stories about the Minerals of the English Midlands – why not start a discussion thread?


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