April’s activity was “Landscape Detectives”, led by historian, Rachel Shaw, who arrived with various costumes, artefacts and speeches to bring to life the history of lead mining at Charterhouse through the lives of individuals involved over the centuries.
The day began with young rangers reading up about their particular character (Roman centurion / Medieval groover / 10 year old boy from the workhouse in Cheddar employed to extract the lead from the cooling flues of the Victorian mine etc.). Then, using props and prompts, introducing themselves to the group and so creating a time line of lead mining at Charterhouse from the Romans in the first century AD to archaeological surveys at the end of the twentieth.
Detective skills were then applied to working out the history of St. Hugh’s from clues within the fabric of the building, for example, the domestic fireplace and windows, water pump and copper. YRs built up a picture of the church’s previous life as the miners’ club house developed by the Reverend Lambrick who was concerned about the welfare of this isolated mining community.
Then began a detective walk, firstly looking for evidence of the Roman camp which housed the Roman soldiers as well as the slaves working the lead mines. Moving on towards the Blackmoor Reserve the “gruffy” ground indicated where Medieval “groovers” had mined lead. In contrast to this small scale mining the reserve contains much evidence of the extent of the Victorian enterprise which reached its peak of production in the 1870s. Through their characters YRs explored the history of this time: of the failed attempt to increase production by sinking mines up to 800 metres; the profitable reworking of the Roman spoil; the dangerous nature of the work; the construction of the settling ponds to prevent water contamination and the problems faced by local farmers through lead contamination of fields.