MGM 2008 - Laying Down The Law At Peak District Mining Museum

By Salma Conway | 19 May 2008
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a photo of a man in period costume using a well winch

A member of staff demonstrates some mining techniques of yesteryear. © Peak District Mining Museum

The historic laws which govern British mining were explored during an informative evening at the Peak District Mining Museum on Thursday May 15 2008.

As part of the MGM Night at the Museums programme, the mining museum in Matlock Bath welcomed visitors for an evening of talks, movies and guided tours by costumed characters.

The event, entitled Laying Down the Law, was kicked off by Dr Jim Riewerts from the Peak District Mines Historical Society, who gave a presentation about the unusual mining laws and customs which have been in existence since the thirteenth century.

a photogtraph of two women in period dress next to museum mannequin and stone cart

Tours of the museum were lead by staff in period clothing. © peak Distrcit Mining Museum

“It's quite a complex subject, sketching through the laws and customs of mining,” said Dr Riewerts. “The Derbyshire lead miners had their own court, which is still in existence today as a tradition, but in the old days when the county was a major lead producer it was very important.”

The museum also hosted a screening of a film, made by the BBC in the 1970s, which told the story of a group of people spending fifteen hours making their way through the complex series of lead mines in Cromford, Derbyshire.

Museum project manager Robin Hall said: “Not only is this an interesting film, but it's great to have the added fascination of watching it on a proper cine-projector rather than just a DVD.”

a photograph of a man in period costume hammering a piece of stone

© Peak District Mining Museum

Tours of the museum were led by staff and volunteers dressed as lead miners and workers. As well as the strange and ancient laws that controlled the miner's working conditions the museum explores the tools they used, the clothes they wore, advances in technology and the importance of lead in our modern day lives.

In addition to the chance to crawl and climb through a maze of twisted tunnels and shafts to feel for yourself the cramped conditions of a Derbyshire lead miner, the tours also provided a chance to show off the museum's latest acquisition – a Victorian water pump.

The green marble drinking fountain used to be a permanent part of the museum's collection but was moved nearly 20 years ago to be cited in Matlock's Tourist Information Centre. Since the TIC is now housed in the museum itself, the pump has been returned to the museum's pump room.

a photograph of a woman in period costume standing next to a cardboard cut out of an old man with a long beard

© Peak District Mining Museum

Mr Hall said he was pleased with the success of the evening and is eager to run the event on an annual basis. He added: “It was the first event of this sort for us and we hope to learn from it and move on. I spoke to the audience about the importance of museums within the community, and I think that events like this play an important part in raising people's awareness."

“I get a real buzz when people come in for the first time and say how much they enjoyed it – local people who say they have walked or driven past the place for years and never taken the opportunity to visit before.”

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

Salma Conway is one of our three Renaissance East Midlands arts writers, reporting on MGM 2008 events all over the region for the whole month of May. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council

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