Sunday, 24 January 2016

West Country Tour … Combe Martin and its silver mines … part 14 …



We drove through the village – it is about 4 miles from Ilfracombe, and is where Damien Hirst, the creator of “Verity” lives …


Silver groats and half groats from the exhibition
- they were used to pay the army in France
at Agincourt


... but ties in with an earlier post I wrote just before Christmas … on Henry V’s stunningly beautiful Crystal Sceptre and associated exhibition items … some of which were silver groats – which, I had noted, came from Combe Martin … this was 1415 (Agincourt) time!





So I knew I had to write about Combe Martin mines and their importance to England for over 1,000 years, but probably back to Roman times … there is no apparent evidence of this ... but the Romans did not miss an opportunity … if there was a mine around: silver and lead in this instance – they’d have had the ancient Celts digging!  Extraction of silver from lead ore was widespread in Roman Britain.


Galena (lead ore) bound with
baryte and pyrite


There is evidence of Iron Age occupation (about 3,000 years ago) … and we know Neolithic man was around from the Standing Stones prevalent across Britain.





This tiny village, which holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest street party – it does have a long street ... but is not the longest, that is in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire … has some hidden secrets. 

St Peter ad Vinca ("St Peter in Chains")
 - the local church, built into
the steep narrow wooded valley


“Combe” is derived from Old English cumb meaning “wooded valley”, while Martin is the suffix of the FitzMartin family … feudal barons from Barnstaple ... giving the village its name.




Liberation of St Peter (from his chains) by
Bartolome Estaben Murillo (1667)


There are items in the Crown Jewels from this silver (a collection of more than 100 historic ceremonial objects), and a large part of the war expenses (Conquest of Wales 1277 – 1283) of Edward I (1239 – 1307) and, as I mentioned, Henry V (1387 – 1422) were paid for by the sale of silver mined here.





In 1300 Edward I enacted a statute requiring that all silver articles must meet the sterling silver standard of 92.5% pure silver, then marked with a leopard’s head.  In 1327 Edward III granted a charter to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths to assay all silver and gold mined in England.


The Society’s (see below) timeline points out that Henry VIII appointed a German mining engineer to work at the mines here and around Devon – he had a thousand men at his command.


My iphone photo of the Crystal Sceptre -
see the hollowed core

While “The sight of CombeMartin silver gladdened the eye of Good Queen Bess”  … this the ‘she’ who had slate delivered from Delabole, north Cornwall across her realm and over the waters to Brittany and the Netherlands, as I mentioned in my Cornish A-Z last year.



Combe Martin about 1800
In 2001 the Combe Martin Silver Mines and Research and Preservation Society was set up to preserve and research the mines around the village.   Their site shows us some of the work they’ve been doing … and refers back to Edward I and to Henry V in an article about the mines dated 1835 …



… the phrase that caught my eye was “From the promiscuous specimens of Ore landed from these mines …” – wonderful use of the word promiscuous …



Prospectus title for Offering of Shares in 1835 -
see Combe Martin Silver Mines and Research
and Preservation Society site

… but I note that the origin of the word is from early 17th C Latin: ‘indiscriminate’ … its early sense was ‘consisting of elements mixed together’ giving rise to ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘undiscriminating’, when the notion of ‘casual’ came into use.  So ‘promiscuous’ appears to be grammatically correct for the 1800s …



… and back to modern days … at one time the village had nine pubs!  They have a wheelbarrow race through the village, each competitor stopping for a pint at each pub … now it is an alcohol free race – times change.



The Pack O' Cards as it now is ...
... photo c/o The Guardian and Alamy
One inn now a Bed and Breakfast is called ‘Pack o’ Cards’ … named because George Ley, a teacher and “overseer to the poor”, had a big win at a card game in 1690, celebrated by building a house symbolising the features of a pack of cards – the shape of the house even looked like it had been built of cards.  More detail here at their website.


Where valley meets cove -
Combe Martin

Next we will move on up the coast towards Somerset … but Combe Martin provided us with some interesting links, and thoughts about silver mining in the years gone by.




Further posts of interest can be found here:

For an associated post on Tin Mining, and the Stannaries – thevery early assay offices in Cornwall and Devon – please see my Cornish post here.

Crystal Sceptre – you can see its hollowed stem – it is only 600 years old?!  Even though I used my iphone … the photos of the jewels in the exhibition show up really well – and Irecommend a ‘look-see’ of my post

The Combe Martin Preservation Society have documented a time line for the mines … which makes interesting reading: their site with photos etc is here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

56 comments:

J Lenni Dorner said...

Very interesting. I love the shot of the Crystal Sceptre.

Out on the prairie said...

The lead was mined in the early days in my area, but now all comes from China.I don't think there is a working lead mine in the entire US.

A Heron's View said...

Great Scott !
Now in my youth I visited Coombe Martin several times but I was never aware of it's silver significance until now.
So many thanks for that information, I must tell this to my daughter.

Manzanita said...

I like that word "cove" and I never have an excuse to use it. I like that picture
of the cove. Is a wheelbarrow race with two people, one pushes and one rides? I've
never heard of a wheelbarrow race before. Funny part, stopping for drinks. Ha

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Be interesting to be there during the world's longest street party. (I really would've thought that was Mardi Gras.) And no beer in the wheelbarrow race now? I guess they get drunk before they get into them.

Joanne said...

I like you comment about if the Romans knew about mines, they had the Celts digging. Also, the Pack 'O Cards is aptly named. As for drunk wheelbarrow races, I can imagine the crazy factor. Now folks can roll in a very straight line - what's the challenge? This post had quite a variety of info. Ever onward!

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

The Crystal Sceptre is cool, so is the Pack 'o Cards.

Annalisa Crawford said...

A small village with 9 pubs is so typically English :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ JL - thanks ... there are more photos on the post I wrote about the exhibition - fascinating to see the craftsmanship.

@ Steve - I'm not sure we've got lead mines up and functioning ... our seams were too small - but worth lots 2,000 years ago ...

@ Mel - poor Scott! I hadn't realised the silver mine significance either - but we traded all over the place and mined wherever too ... the links I gave show you the silver at the exhibition (where I got the Combe Martin connection), as well as how they are establishing the history of the mine through the Society.

Delighted you'll let your daughter know ...

@ Manzanita - yes 'cove' is a lovely word for a small sandy inlet. And the photo shows the meeting of the valley at the cove.

It's a quirky English event for a community ... and is usually one person pushing, one being transported in a wobbly fashion - especially if a few beers had been downed. We have a few of these types of races/ events in the villages around the UK ... they make interesting reading! It theoretically is a penalty to stop for a drink .. at some stage: it's all fall down! with a headache, I suspect.

@ Alex - it was a sit down party, possibly for the Jubilee or another British celebration ... somewhat different from the Mardi Gras carnival ...

No beer - maybe because of Health and Safety - we have, no doubt good rules and regulations, but sometimes we are so nannied! Whether the passenger can have a drink or not .. I've no idea. Still it'd be fun to watch.

@ Joanne - I think the Romans, as did all other invading forces, put the locals to work. Yes the Pack o' Cards is well named - glad it's withstood the test of time.

I think wheeling a wheel barrow with a person in it - and everyone laughing around you ... would cause much mirth and be pretty difficult for the pusher to do let alone push straight ...

Yes - this was a mixed bag - as too the next one ...

@ Holly - I hope you get a chance to see the other photos I took - the jewels are incredible. Isn't the pub fun.

@ Annalisa - yes and there were probably more during the village's life - nine does seem a lot doesn't it ... with a population of nearly 4,000.

Cheers to you early commenters - thanks for your visit ..Hilary

Vallypee said...

Fascinating! I never knew of the silver connection either and I've been to Combe Martin many times in the past. What also impresses me is the mobility of all these raw materials - in that they werre taken so far from their source. I remember reading about marble from ancient Rome being used in the building of Westminster Cathedral. Considering there were no trains or motors at the time, Combe Martin silver transported to London and even the Netherlands at Queen Bess's behst was a long way!

Botanist said...

That's one huge thing I miss about England - the history, and that intimate continuity with lives many centuries back. And that wheelbarrow race must have been a killer! Nine pints? Talk about a health hazard!

Jo said...

Just shows how little I know about my own country. I didn't know there had been silver mines here. Fascinating stuff as usual Hilary.

Sara said...

I loved the wheelbarrow race...now that looks like fun:~) As always, I learn new things about England every time I visit. Of course, I haven't visited in some time.

I also like the new look, although it's probably not NEW to you.

I hope all is well with you. You are a wonderful travel writer because you talk about such interesting exhibits and I learn something new every time I visit, which I hope I'll doing more of.

Happy day to you, Hilary!

Patsy said...

That lead ore is very pretty. I can imaigine wanting some of that myself - assuming I could get someone else to do the digging for me. Maybe I have some Roman blood?

A Cuban In London said...

That last photo is postcard material. I, too, loved the use of the word "promiscuous" in that sentence. Thanks for such a lovely post.

Greetings from London.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Fascinating, as always! And now I know what Combe means. :)

Betsy Brock said...

That scepter is amazing, as is those silver coins!

Gina Gao said...

This is a really awesome post, thanks for sharing!

https://ficklemillennial.wordpress.com

Truedessa said...

Hi, I really liked reading about the silver coins and I smiled at the longest street party. Oh and the crystal scepter was certainly eye catching. I wonder what sort of magic that held.

Stephen Tremp said...

Hilary, I've been watching documetaries on the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age and Britain and Wales and Scotland keep popping up. Of course tin from Britain was very important during the Bronze Age as it replaced arsenic and combined with copper to make the bronze.

Nilanjana Bose said...

The 1800's use of promiscuous made me smile. Very atmospheric photos, as usual. Amazing the workmanship that's gone into the sceptre!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - I wouldn't have known about the major contribution this mine played in the war chests of Edward, Henry, Henry VIII and Good Queen Bess. Yes I noted the movement of goods and people and how far they travelled in all the eras. I'm sure marble was a valuable commodity coming from Italy ... it's the coach roads, tracks and probably by sea these valuables were moved.

The silver had to be converted into coin and assayed ... it is fascinating to learn more about those times.

@ Ian - I agree - when I was in South Africa I too missed the history and as you say that intimate continuity with lives back across the centuries ... and with whom we are connecting more and more as we understand more.

There are some fun events that the Brits have in their villages and hamlets that bring the community together .. I know 9 pints .. is a little much.

@ Jo - I'm living and learning too ...

@ Sara - good to see you again. The wheelbarrow race would give many laughs to participants and everyone watching ...

The 'new look' is meant to be an interim one .. but has been around for over half a year!

This trip was an opportunity to learn more about the places we visited ...

@ Patsy - isn't the ore pretty. It's not such a good metal to be near too though .. but extracting the silver from it could be useful. I'm sure Gary has some Celtic blood in him ... ?!

@ ACIL - sadly not one of my photos. I'm glad you picked up on the "promiscuous" usage ... made me laugh when I read it in the Prospectus.

@ Dianne - Combe crops up a lot in our names ... which always adds to the nuance of the area, which might have changed over time.

@ Betsy - the sceptre and the coins are amazing - I hope you get over to see the other photos of the exhibition - extraordinary items.

@ Gina - good to see you and am glad you enjoyed the post.

@ Truedessa - that exhibition was so worth seeing ... and with the link to my Devon journey has brought more life to the items shown. I'm sure one could dream lots of magic into a story line on the pearl encrusted and bejewelled sceptre.

@ Stephen - man's early uses of metal and how they worked their magic in the creation of new metals over the millennia is fascinating isn't it. I'm glad you're enjoying the documentaries ...

@ Nila - so glad you appreciated the use of 'promiscuous' in the 1800s - interesting change of language.

You want to see the other photos in my December post ...of the sceptre and Hedon mace ... incredible workmanship ...

Cheers to you all - so glad you're enjoying the Devon tour .. Hilary

Christine Rains said...

Lovely pictures, especially of the sceptre. It amazes me how well phones take photos these days! I look forward to reading more. :) Have a wonderful week.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, what a fun bit of history! I like how you pull all this together and I love those old coins.

Sherry Ellis said...

That certainly was an odd use of the word, promiscuous. Your explanation makes sense, though. Have a terrific week!

Bish Denham said...

The scepter is beautiful! And the card house... reminds me of the ones my fried and used to build when we were kids.

I love how words change their meanings.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have to wonder how the people doing the actual work inside the mines fared while their kings spent the silver on wars. Your iPhone pictures turned out really well. It's amazing how much history there seems to be in every little village you visit.

David P. King said...

What a cool bed and breakfast place! I wouldn't mind my own personal silver mine, btw. :)

My Life in the Charente said...

What an interesting post, a must see place if I ever get down that way again but it is unlikely. I love silver so the mine is interesting also the payment to the army at Agincourt. Hope you are well Diane

beste barki said...

I love where the valley meets the cove. Very pretty.

cleemckenzie said...

I get goosebumps just looking at these coin of the realm. The 1400s! And what a beautiful sceptre that king Henry had.

It's hard for me to imagine a mine that dates back to Roman times, even if they didn't actually dig in it, I like to think they did. I love history, and you're always giving me tons.

Julie Flanders said...

I love the Pack of Cards place! How fun. I would love to visit there. So fascinating to imagine the history of this small town. Lots of secrets that I'm sure the town will never tell. :)

Liza said...

I am constantly amazed at how far back Britain's recorded history goes. This from an infant country, less than 250 years old...

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Fascinating as always. Now I probably know about the 925 stamp on some silver I possess! Does the Somerset village here in Virginia relate back to Somerset there? Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories.

Mark Noce said...

Such cool artifacts, it really makes the history come alive:)

loverofwords said...

You are a wonderful travel guide, Hilary! Most of us cannot be in all the places you visit and write about but. . .we can visit in our imagination and your words and photos.

helen tilston said...

Hello Hilary,
A fascinating history of Combe Martin.

I also found the wheel barrow race to be interesting and one can imagine the fun and laugher this would have brought and hangover the next morning too.

Is Spring anywhere in sight yet?

Helen xx

Paula Kaye said...

Wish I had some silver groats! Loved the crystal sceptre taken with your iPhone. Nice!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Christine – thanks .. and yes, I’m always surprised at how well iphone photos come out … and the journey continues.

@ Hart – glad you enjoyed the history and ‘the story’ I told about the village. The silver groats were amazing to see.

@ Sherry – I loved seeing the word ‘promiscuous’ when I was checking the detail out about the Silver Mine, and I had to find out ‘the why’ … I’m glad you think it makes sense.

@ Bish – the sceptre was incredible to see in its setting and I’m glad I visited the London exhibition to be able to write about it. The card house does look exactly like one doesn’t it ..

Words do change their meaning … but promiscuous was a fun find for a word change.

@ Susan – I agree, but sadly that was the way of the world, and how we got here. I’m sure conditions were pretty awful … to put it mildly.

The iphone photos continue to amaze me … and yes we have history everywhere … it brings each village, building, landscape to life … and the scientists are going back even further in time.

@ David – The Pack o Cards does look smart. I too wouldn’t mind my own personal silver mine! But the work … and that era – I’m quite happy where I am.

@ Diane – we drove through the village and I didn’t even realise! There was a lot of traffic though. I’d go back to see the little museum to the mine and visit the coast line and interior again. Seeing those silver groats up at the exhibition in London was co-incidence … and when I read they came from Combe Martin – I was dumbfounded … I too had no idea. Six hundred years ago is a long time …

@ Beste – I imagine if one could get to see Combe Martin on a quiet day .. the valley would be amazing … and then its juncture with the sea and that cove – so pretty.

@ Lee – as I mentioned to Diane above … I was so surprised to see the silver for the silver groats had been mined at Combe Martin and was so important for the realm six hundred years ago. The sceptre was exceptional ... I hope you got to see my December post on it … the workmanship is stunning.

The Romans certainly had extensive mines in Wales, but had mines in Devon, Scotland and other areas … no stone unturned for the Romans!

You can’t escape history here … it’s all over the place! I’m just delighted you and other readers seem to enjoy it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie – the pack of cards pub and how it came to be built is a good story isn’t it. I’m sure the town would never release its secrets … frankly there are enough other stories around to keep us busy for a while longer yet – except I can’t stay!

@ Liza – our recorded history does go back a long way, as too other cultures’ history – Persian, Indian etc … But your country goes way back too … also it is difficult to understand – and I missed not having the history when I was in South Africa.

@ Monti – thank you. I’m not sure what the ‘925’ means on your silver … but it’d be worth finding out. Just happy you enjoy the various story-lines I tie together …

We have a Somerset county – we are about to cross that boundary in part 16! Next post but one … not a village.

@ Mark – I’m delighted I’m bringing history to life for you … the exhibition was incredible.

@ Nat – appreciate your comment .. and am happy you’re enjoying the trip round with Jenny and I. I’m delighted I seem to be able to bring the history and places to life for you … and you can absorb them into your imagination.

@ Helen – lovely to see you. The wheelbarrow race would be such a fun event for the village to put on … and yes laughter, and definitely hangovers.

Spring appeared in December .. it’s been so warm, brief winter x 2 in January, now it’s ‘warm’ again .. and the daffs are up, the snowdrops are up … the leaves are coming out – what the weather does is another matter. The birds haven’t stopped either … so can’t really answer your question … February can be freezing cold – but we wait to find out.

@ Paula – don’t we all wish we had some silver groats .. and am glad the crystal sceptre photo pleases you … I was chuffed at the way the iphone was able to cope with the exhibition in London. Glad too we were able to take photos.

Cheers to you all .. it’s lovely having so many comments about the history and stories of the village – thanks so much - Hilary

Gattina said...

That's a place full of history ! The Crystal sceptre is very beautiful !

TexWisGirl said...

i think galena is so pretty! the pack of cards house is cool. :)

Karen Lange said...

Wonderful photos! Once again, I appreciate you sharing this journey with us. Such rich and interesting history. I had no idea of the origin of the word promiscuous. Thanks for the lesson! Have a great week!

walk2write said...

Your stories are always engaging, Ms. Hilary, but the travel ones are especially so. I think you would have a great success with video productions in the same vein as Rick Steves' Europe series on PBS here in the States. Speaking of vein, that piece of galena ore caught SAM's eye when I showed him your post. He thinks it's a fine specimen.

Chrys Fey said...

Those silver groats are neat. Would be nice to have those in a coin collection. But what odd names...groats. At first I thought it said goats. Haha.

Jeffrey Scott said...

Money is always nice to talk about.
Wow, the wheelbarrow race sounds like fun. Wait, no more beer? I'll pass.
You ever build a house of cards? Not an easy thing to do. And very easy to knock down. I hope this one does not crumble so easily. LOL

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gattina - it's a tiny village but there is a lot going on isn't there. The Crystal Sceptre was just amazing to see ...

@ Theresa - Black and White galena ... it's an interesting crystal. Then the Pack O' Cards is just amazing ...

@ Karen - many thanks ... I'm getting towards the end of the journey! But the area as a whole, as does England, have that rich history .

Wasn't the word promiscuous an interesting find .. I love it!

@ W2W - glad you enjoyed the stories ... and the travel ones - I will happily do. Thank you for your very complimentary comment - my voice would fit too.

How interesting that the Galena Ore caught SAM's eye - it came from Wikipedia ... so obviously the person putting it into Wiki knew what he was showing us.

@ Chrys - the groat is the traditional name of a long-defunct English silver coin - worth four English pennies. It looks like the name arose from 'Groot' - Dutch for great ... but I don't know.

@ Jeffrey - yes money is always good to talk about .. but even nicer to have it. More beer - not so much now-a-days as we've got more careful about our intake.

I have built card houses and they are blown down very easily ... or collapse as they were poorly constructed - my usual state of affairs. This pub has been there for over 300 years - it will be around a while longer!

Cheers to you all .. thanks for commenting and adding to the post that way - Hilary

mail4rosey said...

That Pack o Cards design is pretty unique! I'd love to see the inside of it. I'm headed over through your link. :)

Have a great week!

-Rosey

Silvia Villalobos said...

Such beauty and rich history. What a treasure to tour. One of the most amazing things about Europe is her rich history. My American husband was stunned when we crossed a thousand-year bridge or walked into a similarly or older cathedral. Thank you for sharing Combe Martin with us, Hilary. Stunning images.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

I'm absolutely fascinated by your West Country tour, Hilary. Finally, a place in the West Country I haven't visited. To think I missed out on the world's longest street party.

Thank you, Hilary.

Gary

DMS said...

Fascinating! I love seeing history come to life on your blog. I learn so much and yet- I still have so much to learn. :) I find the wheelbarrow races to be interesting. I can imagine with the pints at the pubs there must have been some accidents. Probably safer without the drinking! Thanks for sharing.
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rosey - that's great I hope you enjoyed the look through the history on the link for the Pack O Cards. It is certainly an unique pub ...

@ Silvia - Europe is full of history and thankfully we've recorded much of ours here in Britain, and are still adding to it. It's so amazing to think the Romans walked here and before them early man. Also we have all that culture and the 'life' they created - the Bronze Age, Iron Age etc

Then the 'recent' history of the bridges, or cathedrals is as you rightly say quite incredible. Combe Martin has been a good visit ...

@ Gary - so pleased you're enjoying the tour around ... and you will have been to Combe Martin, though (like me!) didn't realise it ... the main road is the through route. But you obviously didn't time your visit to Ilfracombe right! That party missed you ...

@ Jess - there is a lot of history around us and we can't really avoid it here - but I do love finding out more. The wheelbarrow race must be a fun thing to participate in .. if you live in the village. Yes - the pints wouldn't help too much, but would add to the fun. Sadly - without drinking is safer and now better for us.

Thanks so much for adding to the post .. cheers to you all - Hilary

Lynn said...

I'm so glad items like that sceptre survive - what a wonderful exhibition!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

If you think about, the word "promiscuous" hasn't changed. A woman who is branded with that title is, indeed, indiscriminate with whom she "mixes." :)

I'm not much of an imbiber, but that race must have been a lot more fun and funnier when it included pub stops. By the end of the race, everyone would have been feeling rather jolly.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn - the exhibition was very small .. but it was a real treat to see something that was around at the time of Agincourt and the workmanship was quite extraordinary ...

@ Susan - I guess that is true ... I think I was thinking of the 'flirting' element of being promiscuous rather than as you say mixing indiscriminatingly ... and then the connotation - unexpected with in a Prospectus for a mine.

I can imagine the villagers getting totally involved in one way or another ... hot sun and drink don't mix as far as I'm concerned .. but the fun of the event - I'd love, and as you with a jolly time.

Cheers to you both - thanks so much - Hilary

Shilpa Chandrasekheran said...

http://shilpachandrasekheran.blogspot.in/?m=1

Interesting