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Going Underground

26 Apr 2018

On Wednesday we finally got our chance to travel to Killhope Lead Mining Museum. Our reason for visiting the museum was to find out what life was like living in a mining community. When we arrived, the children had a fabulous time playing in a playground where they had to use logical thinking to move gravel using a series of pipes, pullies, zip wires, wheels, rockers and scoops. Next, we split up into two groups to complete a series of exciting activities. These included a scavenger hunt, mine tour, mineral hunting on the wash floor, dressing up in Victorian clothes in the miner’s lodgings and admiring the sparkling spa boxes. The mine tour was particularly exciting. In the old stable, we donned helmets and lamps ready to progress underground. Before we could enter the mine, tokens were hung on the wall as a type of register to let others know how many people are underground. We headed downwards along a long tunnel lined with drystone walling, splashing through a shallow river of water. As we went deeper the walls became wet and slimy from water soaking through from the earth above and before long the walling was replaced with solid rock. On the way, we passed a ‘Thunderbox’ with a lid that echoed like thunder as it crashed down on the box below. None of the children chose to use it on this occasion! Finally we arrived at an underground waterwheel which was used to pump water. It was quite unnerving when we were asked to turn off our lamps as it was so dark that we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. Once we returned to the surface and daylight, the children had an opportunity to experience life as washer boys and girls. Their job was to sift through broken rock and silt to find shiny minerals such as quartz, fluorspar and galena. We found lots! The huge waterwheel on site was very impressive and during our scavenger hunt we discovered channels of water leading from the pond where the water comes from. Rory was interested to know how the wheel could be stopped and we were shown a lever that when pulled redirects the water down another channel. The miner’s lodgings were very cosy with a roaring fire burning in the range. It was quite a cramped room with several bunk beds where the miner’s would have slept. All too soon it was time for us to leave with lots of memories to share. I would like to thank Mrs Roberts-Lilley, Miss Laverick and Mrs Stewart for accompanying us and, of course, the wonderful staff at Killhope Mining Museum who made it such a memorable and enjoyable day! – Mrs Priestley