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Bakewell Mineral Show - 2018 - and the Royal Cornwall Museum

Last Updated: 14th Dec 2018

By Woody Thompson

This year my wife and I enjoyed our fifth visit to Bakewell for the “Rock Exchange” hosted by the Peak Lapidary and Mineral Society: The 2018 show was held on the weekend of October 13 & 14 in the usual location at Lady Manners School.

Bakewell village, October 2018

Bakewell is located in the county of Derbyshire and can be accessed by car or bus. Bus connections are readily available to nearby train stations and the Manchester airport.
Waiting for the show to open

People attending the Bakewell show can pay a slightly higher fee to get early admission when the show first opens on Saturday. Judging from the long line, this was a popular option!

Main dealer hall

Dealers fill the "Main Hall", another large room on the same floor, and several connecting hallways. Attendance was strong again this year, with crowds of visitors during much of the weekend.

Russian specimens offered by Taranis Minerals

Nic Holland (Taranis Minerals, Southampton) brought this attractive selection of Russian minerals from a collection they acquired. Lots of goodies here - I came home with fersmanite, danburite, and phenakite.

Roy and Mary Starkey

Roy Starkey's new book - Minerals of the English Midlands - had just been published. He describes many classic minerals in the context of the geology, mining history, and specimen production of their localities. With great scholarship and hundreds of color photos, this book is a must for UK mineral enthusiasts.

Mike Rumsey (left) and Neil Hubbard

It was nice to see Mike Rumsey at the show. He's the Collections Manager for the vast mineral collections of London's Natural History Museum. Neil Hubbard's stand, featuring many well-documented minerals from around the UK, was a focal point for collectors. Missouri dealer Dan Weinrich was helping Neil on Saturday, having detoured to Bakewell enroute to the Munich Show later in the month.

Show attendees in entrance hall

We were encouraged by the presence of numerous young people at the show. Some of them were already enthusiastic mineral collectors, looking to find that special piece of whatever! The Russell Society organized a scavenger hunt by planting specimens the kids could look for on dealer tables.

Lunch time!

Even the most dedicated collectors eventually had to break for lunch. A delicious spread of main courses and sweets was catered by Faye from the Gallery Cafe in Bakewell's Antique Center. And this is just the dessert table (with Faye in attendance).

Fossils at the Down To Earth stand

Several Bakewell dealers specialize in fossils. This is Pete Laurance's stand (Down to Earth, Churchdown, Gloucester). My fossil purchase for the year was one of his ammonites from Dorset's "Jurassic Coast".

Peter Ward's large flourite specimens
Greenlaws Mine fluorite

Peter Ward has a large space at the show and for the last few years he's brought many fluorites from his current workings at the Greenlaws Mine. The specimens are available in all sizes and prices to suit any budget.

Bernard Armstrong with Ladywash Mine calcites

Bernard Armstrong's stand featured a great assortment of calcite crystals from the Ladywash Mine in Eyam, Derbyshire. If I recall correctly, Bernard works at the mine and presumably has an inside track on pocket discoveries.

Phil Taylor (left) with Angie and Matt Wood and their big find

Angie and Matt Wood were first-timers at this year's Bakewell show and scored this wonderful antique blowpipe kit from Don Edwards. I was glad to see it and hear Phil Taylor identify the many components in the kit and explain how they could be used in classic blowpipe testing of unknown minerals. I had an intro to such things long ago in college mineralogy class, but it's now a lost art.

Components of the Letcher blowpipe kit
Label on the antique blowpipe kit

Phil laid out all the parts in the kit, including a drawer of reference samples in glass vials. It was a lesson on how so many functional items could be packed into a small box (like a mineralogical "Swiss Army knife!). The label inside the box lid reveals that it was made in St. Day, Cornwall.

Chatsworth House

While in Bakewell, we usually take the short bus ride to Chatsworth House. This estate is hundreds of years old. It includes a a large mineral collection started by Georgiana Spencer, Dutchess of Devonshire, in the late 1700s and expanded by her son, the "6th Duke". The amazing story of this collection and its recent refurbishment by members of the Russell Society was documented by Mick Cooper in the Mineralogical Record (v. 36, no. 3, 2005).

Mineral display in Chatsworth House
New mineral exhibit at Chatsworth

The public tour of Chatsworth House brings you to the hallway where part of the mineral collection is still exhibited in antique cabinets. This year there was a new series of cases on the other side of the hall, with very large specimens. Most of these specimens didn't have associated labels, but information was provided on text cards that you could carry around while viewing the exhibit. Elsewhere in the house, you will come across magnificent lapidary creations such as Blue John fluorite vases and large tables whose tops are inlaid with colorful minerals set in local Ashford black marble.

Aquamarine crystal, Adun Chilon, Siberia

This fine aqua beryl crystal was included in the new Chatsworth exhibit. The attached label indicates it was in the Alexander Crichton collection, which was sold at auction in 1827 (Cooper, 2005).

Large amethyst specimen

A striking large-cabinet amethyst specimen was also in the exhibit. The crystal cluster sits on a pyrite-rich matrix. Does anybody know where it's from?


The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro

Earlier in October we spent a week in Cornwall. One of the highlights was a return visit to the Royal Cornwall Museum (RCM) in Truro. I didn't have enough time to thoroughly examine all the exhibits, so I went straight to the mineral displays!

Rashleigh Gallery in the Royal Cornwall Museum

The RCM's Rashleigh Gallery contains many cases of high-quality mineral specimens from Cornwall and Devon, as well as other parts of England. There are also numerous mining artifacts, art works, and thematic displays concerning Cornwall's famous mining heritage. This room was recently equipped with improved lighting and looks better than ever.

Philip Rashleigh exhibit

The gallery is named after Philip Rashleigh (1729-1811), who built a large collection of local minerals when the mines were still active and producing fine specimens. Many of Rashleigh's minerals are exhibited here. He published a catalog illustrating specimens from his collection, and some of them were also shown in James Sowerby's "British Mineralogy" volumes.

Rashleigh specimens illustrated in Sowerby's "British Minerals"

This display pairs a nice Rashleigh specimen of azurite on quartz with its depiction in the Sowerby volumes.

Liroconite from Wheal Gorland, Gwennap, Cornwall

Brilliant blue liroconite is one of Cornwall's most popular and iconic minerals. This Wheal Gorland miniature in the RCM collection is said to be the largest known liroconite from anywhere. The principal crystal is nearly one inch long.

Cassiterite, Wheal Trevaunance, St. Agnes, Cornwall

Cornwall is known for its tin and copper mines. Cassiterite was THE source of tin, so there's a plentiful suite of this mineral in the Rashleigh gallery. Many of the largest and most lustrous cassiterite crystals came from St. Agnes.

Cassiterite, var. "wood tin", Wheal Kitty, St. Agnes, Cornwall

Wheal Kitty produced this interesting variety of cassiterite known as "wood tin". Much of it was banded like the example shown here.

Chalcopyrite, var. "blister copper", Camborne area, Cornwall

Chalcopyrite was one of the most abundant copper ores in Cornwall and is well represented in the RCM collection. Good chalcopyrite crystals occurred in St. Agnes and elsewhere, but I like this large aesthetic specimen of the variety called "blister copper".

Gold, Hope's Nose, Torquay, Devon

Gold is not readily collected in Southwest England, but fine gold specimens with fern-like crystal aggregates used to be obtained on the coast in calcite veins at Hope's Nose, Torquay, Devon. This miniature was found in 1980 by famous Cornish collector Richard Barstow. The site is now off-limits to collecting.

Quartz, var. amethyst, Wheal Uny, Redruth, Cornwall
"Capped quartz", Virtuous Lady Mine, Buckland Monachorum, Devon

Several mines and quarries in Cornwall have yielded respectable amethyst specimens. The other quartz specimens shown here are examples of a rare habit called "capped quartz", which is prized by local collectors.

Calcite, Levant Mine, St. Just-in-Penwith, Cornwall

Other gangue minerals from Cornish mines have likewise been found as unusual and sometimes nearly unique varieties. Calcites such as these from the Levant Mine are appropriately known as "Levant roses".

Siderite, Virtuous Lady Mine, Buckland Monachorum, Devon

Siderite from the curiously named Virtuous Lady Mine shows several distinctive habits. One of the rare varieties is the so-called "lady slipper", shown on the left in above photo. These are epimorphs resulting from deposition of siderite over what were probably baryte crystals, with the baryte having since been dissolved away.

Danalite, Crowns Shaft, Botallack Mine, St. Just, Cornwall

Danalite is another Cornish rarity in the RCM. Rich specimens such as this one (actually, any Cornish danalites) are very hard to come by.

Bronze Age miner's deer-antler pick, Carnon Valley Tin Stream workings, near Truro, Cornwall

Artifacts displayed in the Rashleigh Gallery illustrate the early history of Cornish tin mining. The miners first exploited surface deposits of cassiterite in river gravels (alluvial placers), as well colluvial and eluvial sediments produced by millions of years of weathering and slow downslope movement of rock fragments from nearby tin-bearing granite. The process of working the valley alluvium was called "streaming", and human excavation and reworking of these water-laid sediments reached to great depths. This primitive Bronze Age miner's pick was dug up in 1790, 40 feet below the modern ground surface!

Largest gold nugget known from Cornwall, Carnon Valley Tin Stream workings (~ 5 cm)

Like the deer-antler pick, this gold nugget was found in the Carnon Valley deposits. It was discovered in 1808 and is exhibited in another part of the museum.

"A Gentleman and a Miner" (1786)

This painting hangs on the wall in the Rashleigh Gallery. (It was tricky to photograph due to light reflections.) On the right is the prominent mining investor Thomas Daniell (mine speculators were called "adventurers" in those days). A mine captain, known as Captain Morcom, is showing him a piece of copper ore and seems to be promoting the mine seen in the background.

Tin ingots from Cornish smelting houses

This display case features an important collection of Cornish tin ingots. Each ingot has a distinctive mark (logo) showing the smelting house that produced it.

Examples of smelter marks on tin ingots

Close-up showing some of the largest tin ingots.

Use of Cornish cobalt ore to produce blue decoration on pottery
Plate decorated with "cobalt blue" produced from Wheal Sparnon smaltite
Back side of another plate, showing Wheal Sparnon connection

Cobalt ore from Wheal Sparnon was used to produce a blue coloring agent (tin oxide called "calx" or "smalt") to decorate these plates, as described in the accompanying text panel.

Matlockite (yellow) with phosgenite, [Bage Mine], Matlock, Derbyshire

Mineral specimens from other parts of England are included in the Rashleigh Gallery. This specimen of very rare matlockite was acquired from the Caerhays collection in Cornwall.

Truro bus

A bus line in Truro shows how the Cornish mining tradition has not been forgotten by the general public. In fact, large parts of the old mining districts have been grouped to form a World Heritage Site known as the "Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape":

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Discuss this Article

15th Dec 2018 15:25 GMTLarry Maltby Expert

Excellent article Woody with an excellent choice of specimens shown with excellent photos. Nice to see it on the front page.


15th Dec 2018 18:55 GMTWoody Thompson Expert

Hi Larry, Thanks very much for the feedback!

17th Dec 2018 11:41 GMTTom Klinepeter

After my trip to Cornwall on the Mindat adventure I now understand why you enjoy your trips to Cornwall. Good to see some familiar faces.

17th Dec 2018 13:23 GMTWoody Thompson Expert

Hi Tom,
Good to hear from you, and (via Ed Loye) that you were on the Mindat trip. The time on your message is several hours in the future (Maine time) so maybe you can tell me when this snow will end ;-)
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