Tag Archives: white grit

MITCHELL’S FOLD — a neolithic stone circle?

TWENTY MILES distant from the town of Ludlow, on a windswept common beneath Corndon Hill, is a quaint circle of some fifteen standing stones.

MITCHELL'S FOLD [photo credit: Derek Harper; 2009]

MITCHELL’S FOLD STONE CIRCLE   [photo credit: Derek Harper; 2009]

MITCHELL'S FOLD: south-west Shropshire

MITCHELL’S FOLD: south-west Shropshire

Known locally as Mitchell’s Fold, it is one of several Stone Circles which stood in this district, once upon a time.   Or so the story goes!

Ninety feet in diameter, the Circle’s largest stone monolith being just six feet tall.

This modest but evocative monument dates back, according to the history books, to Neolithic times; an incredible 3,000 years old.  Or so we’re told!



LYDHAM HEATH STATION: [credit: B.Castle Railway Society]

With the arrival mid-19th century of the railway to rural south Shropshire, the Stones became a popular local attraction. Just a short pony-trap ride from Lydham Heath, the nearby halt on the long-defunct Bishops Castle Railway.   [1]

The Stone Circle brought within reach of enthusiasts and professional antiquarians from Birmingham, London and beyond.

MITCHELL's FOLD: 1841 sketch

1841 SKETCH OF MITCHELL’S FOLD    [Hartshorne; 1841]

A megalithic magnet drawing visitors from afar, beating their path to our early human history. A haunting link to our Bronze Age forebears.  And yet a reassuring relief from the ethereal nature to life itself.

A remarkably preserved relic of primitive man, and his religious rituals, evident even today on the bleak Marches landscape. A sacred site where ancient Druids gathered in worship of their mystical Sun God, all those millennia ago. How romantic. Or so the story goes!

ENGLISH HERITAGE [photo credit: Humps & Hills blog; 2011]

ENGLISH HERITAGE GUARDIANSHIP   [credit: Humps & Hills blog; 2011]

The Stone Circle is protected today under the guardianship of English Heritage (scheduled ancient monument no. 107448).  [2]

Unsurprisingly, the Circle has grown a folklore of its own. Legend that serves well to reinforce and emphasize its apparent antiquity.  [3]

MITCHELL'S FOLD: myth and legend

MYTHS & LEGENDS OF MITCHELL’S FOLD    [Burne; 1883]    [3]


One tradition has it that — “during a time of dreadful famine, a fairy left a magic cow to provide villagers with endless milk. One night an evil witch milked her into a sieve. When the cow realised the trick, she vanished. The witch was turned to stone, and this circle of stones was erected around her, to prevent her escape.

Another fable — “in quite recent times a tenant removed one of the stones to use in his cowshed, but was so alarmed by a violent thunderstorm in the night that he returned it the very next morning.

More folklore to warn meddlers — “There was a farmer who lived by there, and he broke up some of the stones, and took away the pieces to put round his horse-pond but he never did no good after.”

A modern Shropshire tourist guide even claims that — “King Arthur drew Excalibur from one of the stones here to become king of the Britain’s.(sic)    [4]

So there is the authoritative official history, and the underpinning folklore, too. Fact and fiction fudged together; all rolled into one.


For those visiting Mitchell’s Fold today, the circle stands some 1,200 feet above sea-level, on a stark but flat plateau of Stapeley Common, in the parish of Priest Weston. Not readily accessible by motor vehicle; an unmetalled track leads westward towards the Circle from the White Grit road. GPS coordinates are (52.5787,-3.0282). The nearest Google Street View is here:   [5]

Google Street View: track to Stone Circle

GOOGLE STREET VIEW:  dirt track to Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle


The Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle has been documented by many. In reverse chronological order, we shall examine literature from the following authors:

Dr Harry (Aubrey) Woodruff BURL MA, DLitt, PhD, FSA, HonFSA Scot; 1926- — British archaeologist; authority on megalithic monuments; prehistoric rituals associated with them; and author of more than a dozen books on Stone Circles.

Dr William (Peter) Francis GRIMES CBE; 1905-1988 — Authority on the pre-history of Wales; Professor of Archaeology, Univ. of London; Director, Institute of Archaeology.

Miss Lily “Lal” Frances CHITTY OBE FSA; 1893-1979 — British antiquarian, amateur archaeologist of prehistoric sites in the Welsh Marches; local gossip; distant relative of Gladstone.

Rev Charles Henry HARTSHORNE MA FSA; 1802-1865 — local Anglican curate; author of Salopia Antiqua (1841): An Inquiry from Personal Survey into the “Druidical” Remains of Shropshire & The Marches.

Mr James DUCAREL, Esq; late-C18 — alleged descendant of Du Carel dynasty of Huguenot bankers, family friends and business partners of Robert Clive of India, Oakley and Walcot.

Those are the learned men and women behind the documented history of Mitchell‘s Fold.

Yet, perhaps, as with so much of our history, Mitchell’s Fold may not be quite what it seems…


Could this Stone Circle be a much more recent fake? Let us examine the evidence for ourselves as we find out.

Our first hint, in fact, a huge hat-tip of historical foul-play, comes courtesy of Dr Aubrey Burl.

In his 2005 book  A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Burl obliquely remarks that — “aerial photographs have revealed mediaeval ridge-and-furrow plough-marks not only running up to the ring, but also through it as though this ‘prehistoric’ megalithic ring might postdate the Middle Ages! It does not.”   [6a]

Good grief, Dr Burl!    The reader deserves to see for himself the aerial photography of this site; to be his own judge of these extraordinary plough-marks!

That is what this blog shall do.


KEVIN DIDLICK: on the red team

SKY-BOUND PHOTOGRAPHER KEVIN DIDLICK (L): on the red team   [photo credit: Claverley Group 2014]

Graciously taking up our request to photograph Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle from the sky was professional Ludlow photographer, Kevin Didlick. [7]

Kevin used a remote-controlled quadcopter fitted with a digital video camera to capture high-quality footage of the stones.

Indulging us with a unique low-altitude, birds-eye view of this “ancient” Stone Circle.   [8]

The results are as impressive, as they are revealing!   Thank you, Kevin!


BURL: mysterious plough-marks

Sure enough, Kevin’s aerial camera-work captures those distinctive plough-marks which Burl noted.

Plough-marks running right through this “Neolithic” Stone Circle; a monument dating allegedly to 2500-4000 BCE.

Ridges and furrows that are clear evidence of recent agricultural use.

Gauging those furrows by their depth, these deep wounds to the soil are surely from powerful, modern ploughing.  Indicating recent cultivation of the land under the Circle; certainly not the legacy of Neolithic man.

Furthermore, on closer scrutiny, some of those plough-marks pass actually beneath the standing stones themselves!

How ever can that be, if this Stone Circle truly is “Neolithic”?

But please don’t take this author’s word on it; please study Kevin’s amazing aerial footage on Youtube for yourself.  [8]


Let’s explore deeper into the official history. Let’s try and discover the very first printed reference to the Stone Circle of Mitchell’s Fold.    Hopefully gaining us a clearer insight into this “ancient” monument, and its true antiquity.

WF GRIMES: drawing

1963 DRAWING:  WF Grimes

In the 2005 edition of his tome on megalithic monuments, Dr Aubrey Burl references a 1963 essay by Professor WF Grimes on these stone circles. Grimes’ essay is here. [9]

Grimes was a career archaeologist. In 1955 the Palace bunged him a gong for services to the rogue industry.   Professor Grimes CBE claims to have conducted field-surveys of Mitchell’s Fold in 1933 and 1935.

As his authority, Grimes cites Rev William Stukeley FRS FRCP FSA; 1687-1765.     Stukeley was an Anglican cleric, and apparently a practising Druid, like ex-Primate Rowan Williams.

Purportedly, Stukeley was also the antiquarian who “pioneered the archaeological investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury.”   [10]


Grimes claims that Rev. Stukeley made a 1754 drawing of the Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle.  That drawing, reports Grimes, shows the stones “in exactly the same relationship as today.”   But then it gets very curious.

In a brief footnote to his 1963 essay, Grimes qualifies that alleged “Stukeley” drawing of Mitchell’s Fold with the following comment:

A photograph copy of this [“1754”] drawing was in a small quantity of papers on megaliths given to me some years ago by O.G.S. Crawford. It is not labelled and I have not been able to locate the original.”

So there we have it!   In truth, Grimes never saw any earlier drawing of the Stone Circle; nothing that was verifiably drawn in 1754!    And since his photograph copy was “not labelled”, how could Grimes know it was even a drawing of Mitchell’s Fold?   And how was he sure the “original” was drawn in 1754, over two centuries earlier, by Stukeley?!

Grimes expects us to trust him on blind faith. Yet Grimes, like most of his contemporaries, had plenty form for archaeological fraud.  Evident from his involvement in the Sutton Hoo hoax, and the “Roman” London Wall fraud in the City.   Grimes, an accomplished charlatan; a persuasive hoaxer. Which is doubtless how he procured his CBE.   Ahem!

With that “Stukeley drawing of 1745” discounted as an unattributable, undated, unlabelled modern photographic “copy”, we must continue our search elsewhere for the true antiquity to Mitchell’s Fold.


In 1841, a Rev. Charles Henry Hartshorne published Salopia Antiqua.    Which he subtitled his “Personal Survey of the Druidical remains of Shropshire and the Marches”.    A digital copy of Hartshorne’s book is here: [11]     Mitchell’s Fold is explored from page 30 onwards.

Wikipedia tenders the following character reference for Rev. Hartshorne:  [12]

The popular 19th century periodical [John Bull magazine] repeatedly hinted that Hartshorne was in a homosexual relationship with Richard Heber [a wealthy Shropshire landowner and High Sheriff of the county]..Hartshorne had thought of applying to work at the British Museum, but after the scandal had little choice of career [so] he was ordained.” (!)

It’s likely that Hartshorne, a homosexual in 19th century England, was compromised with little scope for academic integrity. The gay cleric probably wrote what ever he was told!   Just to preserve his living and his liberty.

In his 1841 Personal Survey of Shropshire’s Druidical Remains,  Hartshorne cites an undated, “Addenda” to Camden’s Britannia. That unidentified Addenda, claimed Hartshorne, carries a much earlier reference to the Stone Circle,

However there were so many revisions of Camden’s Britannia. And, worse, there were also countless Addenda to the main work itself. Many of those Addenda being unofficial; some published only privately; none peer-reviewed.

Hartshorne makes no attempt to illuminate his readership here. Neglecting, wilfully, to identify his precise primary source. Frustratingly, denying us the chance to verify his claims of the supposed antiquity to Mitchell’s Fold.


In a separate footnote to his 1841 Personal Survey of Shropshire’s Druidical Remains, Hartshorne quotes what he claims was a “1752” letter mentioning Mitchell’s Fold as “Medgley’s Fold”.

Except that letter wasn’t published until 1822, at its earliest.   See page 621 in [13]   Nevertheless and perhaps with reservations, that later date of 1822 can, tentatively, become our new date-stamp for the earliest printed reference to Mitchell’s Fold.

Yet that “1752” letter (published seventy years later in 1822)  feels very curious. Unnatural and forced. Very possibly contrived and fabricated much later than the date it bears. Engineered to lend credence to those dubious claims of antiquity to Mitchell’s Fold.   Using a pre-dated letter shifts suspicion of fakery of the Circle from that present time to generations past.

That “1752” letter about the Circle was originally penned, supposedly by a “Mr James Ducarel, Esq.”, writing to his brother. By the time of the letter’s publication in 1822, conveniently both men were long dead.

The Ducarels were wealthy French nobility; originally the Du Carel dynasty of Château Muids in Normandy. With rising hostilities towards French protestants, the Ducarels, a family of Huguenot bankers, left France. Moving first to Rotterdam, before naturalising in England.


ROBERT CLIVE: British East India Company victory at Plassey 1757


The Ducarels settled in south Shropshire; to serve the Clive (of India) family of Oakley Park and Walcot Hall.

The Ducarels were intimately involved in the swindling South Sea Company; helping to direct the fraudulent “Bubble” itself. [15a] [15b]

As well as engaging in the murderous activities of the British East India Company, which secured the Clives their vast fortunes and international opprobrium.

The British East India Company was the vast mercenary force which Robert Clive used to subjugate India, massacre her people, and loot her wealth for the British Crown.   [16]

Countess Marie Coltée Ducarel, was Governess to the Clive children; her husband James Morrice is believed to have been chaplain to Lord Clive.   The Ducarels were integrated closely in the Anglo-Dutch financial establishment of the day; eager players in the Liberal Imperialist “slimemold” system.


Notably, the Ducarels were self-promoted luminaries in the new discipline of Antiquarian Studies.   Yet also quite notorious for their dishonest approach to the historical sciences.

ANDREW COLTÉE, MARQUIS DU CAREL: disreputable antiquarian and Clive ally

Ducarel family patriarch Andrew Coltée, Marquis Du Carel was one of the first fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London on its incorporation in 1755.  Described as:

“a very weak man, and ignorant, though he was ambitious of being thought learned .. Among the many publications which bear his name, none were really written by him…He was so very illiterate, that on receiving a Latin letter from a foreign university, he took his chariot [to an expert Latin scholar] and got him to write an answer.”   [15]

That scathing quote, above, perhaps perfectly describes the wider Ducarel family: dishonest, disreputable, and dumb.

The Ducarels were just the sort of characters who would fabricate the ancient “Druid Temple” of “Mitchell’s Fold” in south Shropshire.  With the connivance of the landowners and family friends and business partners:   the Clives (of India).


Let’s finally examine that Ducarel letter published 1822, but allegedly written 1752.  It is duplicated on page 621 at [13]

That 1822 publication is candidate for the earliest printed reference to the Stones.

DEAR BROTHER, Shrewsbury, May 11,1752 I thank you for your account of the Society of Antiquaries, and congratulate you on your being elected of the Council of that Corporation. One Mr. Whitfield, an eminent Surgeon, and a good Scholar, who is a man of very good fortune in this town, has told me that he had given a friend of his a rough draft that he himself took of Medgley's Fold above two years ago. As he came home one night, he fell in amongst the stones by chance, and, thinking it a Druid Temple, returned there the next day to view it, when he was confirmed in his opinion; and took the above draft, which he gave to a friend, to do out neatly. He has promised me a copy of it, if his friend, who is a Lawyer, has not thrown it away. I must tell you that the country people have many legends, fables, and traditions concerning Medgley's Fold, where they say a great personage, I believe a Giant, used to milk his cows in that inclosure, &c. I remain, dear Brother, yours sincerely, JAMES DUCAREL.

FIRST PRINTED REFERENCE (1822) to ‘Medgley’s Fold’

The letter is allegedly from a “James Ducarel”, who curiously doesn’t show up in any genealogical searches.

The letter is addressed to an unidentified “Dear Brother”; possibly Andrew Coltée Ducarel, whose image is above.

Let us go ahead and dissect this letter.



Firstly, the letter confirms that the Ducarels – friends and associates of the Clives – were established members of the Society of Antiquaries.   Suggesting, perhaps, a key motive for fabricating this Stone Circle, and then “discovering” it.  The scam elevating their prestige among their new social set of historical scholars.

The author of the Ducarel letter claims that he learned of the Stones from an “eminent surgeon” who somehow “fell in amongst the stones by chance” when “he came home one night”.     Is that a credible account?

It’s most unlikely that a surgeon and man of “very good fortune” would be in that neighbourhood of south-west Shropshire any way.  Least of all at night, making his way home (by horse) to Shrewsbury; some 16 miles away. It’s an extremely rural district. And the Circle is far from the road to Shrewsbury. Not a likely account.

And what relevance in that letter to a Lawyer who may, or may not, have destroyed an earlier sketch of the Circle? Could that perhaps be a coded reference that the hoaxers awaited a green-light on the legality of their historical fraud?

Further, it’s unlikely that in just a few decades, the name of this Stone Circle had corrupted so rapidly from Medgley’s Fold to Medgel’s Fold to Mitchell’s Fold.  Could that name-corruption be artificial?   Another ruse to create a false antiquity to the Circle?  A pretence?  The mutating of place-names normally occurs over many years; centuries usually.  Yet, here, the name-corruption is clearly rapid. Another device to authenticate that false antiquity? Like their weaving of fake folklore around these Stones?

You decide, dear reader!


That hopefully sets out the case for the fraud that is Mitchell’s Fold.   This is no “Neolithic” Stone Circle of 3,000 years antiquity.  Much more likely a fabrication of the Clives and their dubious antiquarian associates of the time.

Mitchell’s Fold: an historical hoax that probably dates back only to the 19th century!


[1] http://www.bcrailway.co.uk

[2] http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/mitchells-fold-stone-circle/

[3] http://archive.org/details/shropshirefolkl00burngoog

[4] http://web.archive.org/web/20150911124324/http://www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/south-shropshire/mitchell_fold/

[5] http://goo.gl/maps/p178F

[6a] http://www.ludlow-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/burl_2005_stone_circles_of_britain.pdf

[6b] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guide-Circles-Britain-Ireland-Brittany/dp/0300114060/

[7] http://www.facebook.com/KADphotographyuk

[8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVlXBBZWNYM

[9] http://pdfsr.com/pdf/the-stone-circle-and-related-monuments-of-wales-w.f.-grimes-1963

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stukeley

[11] http://archive.org/details/salopiaantiquao02hartgoog

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Henry_Hartshorne

[13] http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0dzrFNM_vucC&pg=PA621

[14] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Ducarel

[15a] http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/1999/eirv26n43-19991029/eirv26n43-19991029_016-famous_financial_bubbles_of_the.pdf

[15b] http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2008/2008_1-9/2008_1-9/2008-5/pdf/45_3505.pdf

[16] http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2013/eirv40n24-20130614/40-42_4024.pdf

METAL MINING — from pigs of lead to pockets of gold

The Stiperstones range

The Stiperstones ridge, south Shropshire


ACCORDING to the history books, South Shropshire has been known since Roman times for its rich lodes of lead, deposited deep underneath its rocky terrain.

In the late-19th century, at the height of the British Empire, this area of Shropshire was purportedly, “the most productive lead mining region in the whole world.”

Certainly our mining industry was a profitable affair, at least for a lucky few. But was it ever a productive one?   Not likely, it would seem.


SHARE ISSUE: The Central Snailbeach Mining Company Ltd   [click for full size]

In the late Victorian era, money flooded in to the new Shropshire mining companies that were springing up with each new month.

Led by mining pioneers claiming to be eager to work those precious lead veins hidden far beneath our hills.

Where ores could yield weight-for-weight an unrivalled 20 or even 30 per cent lead.   Or so the mining stock promoters would claim to any who’d listen!

Over just a few years, countless new mining ventures were advertised in the press, near and far.

Attracting interest from genteel Bath and Edinburgh, to the industrial boom towns of Bradford and Birmingham.



SHARE ISSUE: THE BOG LEAD MINE    [click for full size]

New investors lured in by the promise of financial returns on an unprecedented scale.

Promises, however, that would ultimately prove to be wholly unfounded.






Was Shropshire’s heritage of lead mining, stretching back at least 2,000 years (or so some claim), nothing but a giant financial hoax from the very start?

A phony bonanza founded on little more than rudimentary, yet ruthless, sleights of hand?   Relying on time-worn scams well-known to those versed in the tricks of the trade?

Was there ever any real evidence of Roman mining in this area?   Was much lead, if any at all, ever mined commercially in south Shropshire?

Could the entire industry have been just another fraud from those notorious days of industrial capitalism? The heyday of industrial plunder.  Get-rich-quick tricks played out on an industrial scale. In an era rife with financial swindles of one form or another.


"Roman" pig of lead

“ROMAN” PIG OF LEAD — Curious Latin; use of genitive case (HADRIANI) instead of  nominative (HADRIANVS) as found on all coinage of Hadrian

Shropshire’s history of lead mining dates back, so it’s said, to the Romans.

Evidenced, we’re told, by the discovery of “Roman” ingots of lead known as “lead pigs”.

In not so many years, no less than six ingots were supposedly discovered. All within a few square miles of rural south Shropshire. [1]


Illustrated London News (oct 4 1856) - an excursion to the roman lead mines at shelve, etc. (two page montage)

ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS  (Oct 4 1856) – “an excursion to the Roman lead mines at Shelve”, etc.   [click for full size]

Several of those ingots were supposedly found actually inside the “old” mine workings!  [2]

Each ingot bearing the impress of IMP HADRIANI AVG.

Surely dating their manufacture, unequivocally, to the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD)?

Irrefutable proof that the Romans were mining here all those centuries ago?


A promising place indeed to start mining for lead once again?

Yet before we accept these claims without question, should we perhaps apply a sceptical critique?

HADRIANUS AUGUSTUS (117-138AD in Scaligerian chronology)

Hadrian must be the most famous emperor to have ruled Provincia Britannia (Britain).

Ask any child today to name a famous Roman, and he’ll probably name Hadrian; recalling that legacy of Hadrian’s Wall, the 70 mile monolith across our land.

In Britain, Hadrian is one of the most emblematic Romans, even now.

Appropriate that these ingots of lead, unmistakably date by their inscription alone, to the reign of “Hadrian” – the nation’s favourite emperor!

Insightful, too, that the ingots should surface so providentially at the zenith of Shropshire’s mining eldorado!

And perhaps even more telling, not a single “Roman” ingot, of any imperial dynasty, has been discovered here since!



THE GIMMICK – a tricky or ingenious device for attracting publicity

At the time, those ingots served as effective devices for the mining stock promoters.

Persuasive ‘stage props‘ for those men in the City reeling in an endless stream of would-be investors.  Punters eager to secure their stakes in the new mining bonanza of deepest Shropshire.  An area “known since the Romans for its rich lead deposits,” or so they were told!

Those ingots were the lures to draw in the gullible;  gimmicks for fleecing their wealth, in that den of vipers: the City of London!

Missing "Roman" ingots


Now here’s where our scepticism grows even stronger.

At least four of those six “Roman” ingots of lead purportedly discovered at the time, all disappeared sometime afterwards.

Mysteriously vanishing after their public exhibition.


The sixth, last surviving ingot remaining hidden away, in safe keeping at Linley Hall, near Bishops Castle. [3]

“ROMAN” LEAD PIG AT LINLEY    [photo credit: P. Stamper; 2003]

Photographed in 2003 by former county archaeologist, Paul Stamper, is a rare image of that last existing “Roman” ingot.  [4]

Yet there’s a problem with it — where is its patina?

Over time, lead reacts naturally to the atmosphere and starts to tarnish.


In a complex three-stage chemical process – which is difficult to reproduce artificially  – the dull grey metal slowly develops an off-white coating, or patina, of lead sulphate.  [5]

NATURAL LEAD PATINA: early 19th centruy musket-balls

NATURAL LEAD PATINA: early 19th century lead musket-balls  (compare against the “Roman” lead ingot at Linley)

Even lead musket-balls lying in the ground for just a century or two develop that dusty white patina.

Thus, that ingot, after two thousand years of lying in Shropshire’s sodden soils should have gained a very rich patina of its own. And yet it hasn’t.  Why not?

That “Roman” ingot at Linley Hall looks fresh from its mould.  As if preserved since manufacture in a warm, dry display cabinet.  As if kept well away from the brutal elements that raged outside during its “2,000 year” alleged history.  How so?!


Perhaps it’s no surprise that those “Roman” ingots have gone astray or else remain out-of-reach.  Today’s forensic metallurgists might otherwise have a field-day, analysing them all.

Applying, for example, modern techniques of mass spectrometry. To determine their exact elemental composition; matching their chemical structure to their alleged geographical locale; confirming their method of casting; and ultimately their true date of manufacture.

Were these really Roman ingots from 117-138 AD?   Or, more likely, modern Victorian fakes from the latter half of the 19th century?

Counterfeit “Roman” ingots  used in a series of grand share-ramping scams?   Devices of City conmen, for selling worthless Shropshire mining stock to the naïve masses?





Back though to Linley Hall where that last ingot was “found”.

Linley was the country seat of the Mores; a prominent family of country landowners, barristers, and parliamentarians.  [6]

Over the years, the More family produced several Members of Parliament for Ludlow and South Shropshire, both Liberal and Tory.

Not surprising, the Mores, wealthy by any standard, had a vested interest in hyping these schemes.


LINLEY HALL NOW (2014)     (Google Street View at [7] )

With influence in the City, the Mores doubtless enjoyed a share of capital from the mining stock issues; and through land-rents and royalties from mining prospects opened up on their estates; with lucrative insider share-dealing and metal-trading to be had in between.


MORE’S TOURS OF ROMAN FAKERY?   [click for full size]



To promote these stock market ventures, the Mores even gave local history tours to visitors from as far as London.



On display at Linley was that infamous “Roman” ingot. Together with other, equally impressive “Roman” artefacts.

Wooden “Roman” spades,  pottery, and even “Roman” tallow candles, abandoned by miners way back in Hadrian’s day, apparently!

Only to be discovered by the Mores two millennia later in remarkable condition, and just in time for the mining bonanza!

Though not everyone was quite so convinced of that Roman provenance.

The incumbent at Linley, the Rev. T.F. More (Oxon), received a sceptical reception from Thomas Wright Esq., a well-known 19th century antiquarian scholar.

When shown the “Roman” exhibits, Wright could scarcely conceal his disbelief.  Politely challenging the “extraordinary preservation” and thus the true antiquity of these “Roman” relics.   [2]

Wiser then than now, it seems!



Invariably the financiers behind these schemes had little interest in whether the miners struck it rich or not.   In fact they were expecting failure!

By the time a mining prospect was formally declared barren and bankrupt, the promoters were long gone; their fortunes secured years before.



Though even before that inevitable collapse, the really audacious swindlers would take several bites at the same cherry.

Launching further raids on their victims’ capital; tapping the same investors in multiple demands. (see press article, right)

Appealing in desperate pleas for more “emergency” funds. With threats that if extra cash were not forthcoming, the venture would go bust, and investors would lose the lot. Which they always did anyway!


In practice, the capital actually spent on these (fruitless) mining enterprises was minimal. Funding just enough work to convince the casual observer of productive activity. Generating just enough bustle to assure any doubting investors; those demanding to witness the workings for themselves.

Even so, there were occasional reports of disgruntled shareholders ordering meetings with the “captains” of these mines; skilled conmen who worked in collusion with the financiers themselves.

In angry confrontations, distressed stockholders would put the managers on the spot. Ordering them to demonstrate, there and then, that their finances weren’t being squandered or stolen.

The scams relied heavily on the credibility of a tight-knit team of confidence tricksters.


CALCITE: worthless mineral used for pebble-dashing and as grave chippings

CALCITE: worthless mineral used for pebble-dashing and grave-dressing

Typically, at several of these “mines” were incidental stone quarrying operations; making work for the miners when their mines lay idle(!)

Calcite, an almost worthless white mineral used in decorative stonework for pebble-dash and grave-dressing, is found throughout the Stiperstones.

Along with roadstone aggregates it was recovered and processed for minimal profit, all supposedly secondary to the metal mining itself.

While generating negligible returns, quarrying for base minerals nevertheless provided tangible evidence of human activity. Visible proof to show any mining investor that their cash was at least paying for some activity of sorts.

While the real money was being quietly siphoned off in the City by the financiers behind these schemes.



 For example in 1873, the promoters of “The Stiperstone’s Consols (Limited)” — one of many such scams — sought £35,000 from investors – around £3.5m in today’s money – through a single share subscription issue.







Prospectuses were placed in the London and provincial presses to attract hapless investors.

The capital raised from the stock issue, the promoters said, would be used to work Disgwylfa Hill near Lydham.

To extract its “well-defined lodes” of lead (as well as copper, ochre, barytes, and nickel!), they claimed.


Yet at Disgwylfa (Squilver) today, there’s no evidence at all, beyond that 1950’s Tarmac quarry, that any workings were ever undertaken.

So what became of the investors’ £35,000 from the Disgwylfa prospect?   Need we ask?!

These share issues were replicated in numerous scams which sprung up to purportedly mine the Stiperstones over a decade or two, from the late 1850s onwards.

£110,000 TANKERVILLE SHARE ISSUE    [click for full size]

£110,000 TANKERVILLE SHARE ISSUE  (equivalent to £13 million today) [click for full size]

Interestingly, the directors chosen for each new mining company were usually different in each case.

More often gentlemen drawn from outside the area.

Given the fraudulent nature to all these schemes, that was surely no accident, and likely expedient!

There was nevertheless a plentiful supply of peers, baronets and honourable gentlemen, willing to lend their names as directors of each new venture.

Strongly suggesting that the mining scams were coordinated by powerful hidden hands in the City.   Those directors lending credence through their association were just expendable puppets in the frauds.


White Grit "engine house"

WHITE GRIT “ENGINE-HOUSE”  [photo credit: John M 2011]

That distinct lack of industrial activity at Disgwylfa is evident throughout the so-called mining district of south Shropshire.

There’s very little tangible proof of any workings, except for a few ‘prospect’ shafts, and those romantic yet conspicuously odd “engine-houses”.

Structures which rise so prominently above the rolling pasture land.


Otherwise, though, precious little proof that extensive mining activities occurred anywhere here.

And notably, of those “engine-houses”, why do they look like they’ve never housed an engine?!

Stand inside one. Take a studious look around. Try and determine where the engine mountings would, or should have been; and where the drive-shafts might supposedly have secured to the stone and brick walls.

It would seem from their internal configuration that these buildings could never have housed an engine!

LADYWELL ENGINE-HOUSE  [photo credit:  Ian Castledine 2012]

LADYWELL “ENGINE-HOUSE”   [photo credit: Ian Castledine 2008]

Furthermore, those ‘engine houses’, while standing so prominently on the skyline – appear as if they were sited foremost to be seen.

Why are they so far from any signs of underground workings?

The Ladywell and White Grit engine houses are perhaps the most obvious examples here. Very obtrusively placed.

And where are the accompanying stacks to these “engine houses”?

A steam engine needs a stack!  And what about the access roads to and from these buildings, for delivering coal to fuel the furnaces? And where is all the combusted clinker?

For a really obvious example of a fake set-up, study the above-ground workings near the (redundant) Lordshill Particular Baptist Church.   Google Street View of it here. [8]



Where is the “engine house” at that site? Why isn’t it adjacent to that splendid stack which dominates the skyline?

And why is there a stack but no engine house?

Further, why build the stack there, on the precarious sloping hillside (except to be seen)?

Why not build the stack (and missing engine house) at the bottom of the hill?

Why wasn’t it sited next to the “Chapel Shaft” and the lane? Surely that would be the most practical place; where one could easily service the (missing) engine with coal and water?

Just imagine trying to haul coal right up that hillside!

And please examine for signs of a track up to that engine-house site. There are none.

It looks very fake!   Built just to fool any curious investors.

At the very top of Lords Hill, Snailbeach is an even taller stack.

This stack supposedly had a kilometre-long brick flue running up to it!   Not remotely realistic nor practical.  Surely much simpler to build a taller stack in the right place?    Of course, building the stack at the top of the hill made sure it was seen from afar.  That was critical for the scammers.

TOP STACK: with kilometre-long flue!

BEST STACK OF ALL:   with its “kilometre-long flue” !


Perhaps the clearest hallmark of this wholesale fraud is this lack of any remains of industrial endeavour. An obvious indicator today is the near total absence of “tailings” at any of the supposed mining sites. Sites where underground hard-rock mining had purportedly taken place on a grand scale over some years.

Tailings are worthless piles of ‘gangue – unwanted rock by-product, devoid of any valuable mineral content.   The debris dug from deep underground and the discarded output of the milling process. It should be present as large heaps of crushed stone, found piled nearby to every (genuine) mine working.

The tailings are always found nearby to the mine and the ore-dressing plant, since moving the tailings elsewhere costs labour and capital, which eats into profit.   Back then environmental obligations were unheard of. So any genuine commercial mine operation simply left its tailings as is.

The scale of the tailings is thus an obvious indication, a reliable gauge, of the extent to an underground mine workings. The more tailings there are, the larger the workings there once were.


TYPICAL MINE TAILINGS — Comstock Gold Mine, CA (c.1885)

In the gold and silver mines of the American West, even mines deep into Death Valley, there are always extensive tailing piles; including at the earliest hand-worked mines from the days of the Forty-Niners.

And yet by contrast here in South Shropshire we find almost no mine tailings.

How can that be? In what was apparently the most productive lead-mining region of its time?

Just where are all our tailings?!


LEGENDARY: double entendre

Again, by way of explanation, the history books tell another bizarre tale.

Some have it that the (defunct) Shropshire County Council of the late-20th century “removed” (to where, and how?!) the tailing piles from the Stiperstones area, where most of the lead mines were supposedly worked.



Those tailings described, curiously, in one “photo” caption as “legendary”.   A double entendre, maybe?!  [9]

Certainly there’s a tall tale of tailings to tell. (sorry!)






Mining scams like these go back centuries; perhaps as far back as mining itself. Scams were commonplace in the feverish Gold Rush era in north America, decades earlier. There again, the smart money was rarely if ever made in mining, per se.



The real riches from the Gold Rush were reserved to those on the East Coast.  The money-men on Wall Street who secured the initial capital for prospecting ‘Out West‘; and who manipulated the mining stocks and metal prices thereafter.

Mining intelligence” reports, like the one to the left (for “Ritton Castle Lead Mine”) were planted in the press, to enable profiteering from the distorted or “cornered” markets they created.

With a plethora of confidence tricks, frauds and misrepresentations used, then as now, to draw-in and deceive the hordes of new investors.





As mining cons go, the simplest, and yet one of the hardest to detect is “salting“. That is when an ore sample from a mining prospect is sprinkled or “salted” with grains of a desirable metal, before being officially assayed. Fraudulently boosting the ore-to-metal ratio, the potential reserves, and the overall worth of a mine.

Surprising indeed if Shropshire’s mining promoters didn’t engage in at least a little “salting” of their own, to help along the bubble!

Let us turn now to perhaps the most important aspect of these scams: how things worked in the City of London:





Not coincidentally, at the dawn of this mining bonanza, lead was becoming an increasingly valuable commodity. Today, lead remains an important industrial metal, used mainly in the battery industry. [10]

But back then, it was prized for its malleability; an ideal material for use in ‘modern’ plumbing.

This was the era of the great Victorian public health programmes when domestic plumbing was finally coming of age.

The seamed copper piping used commonly today was not yet invented. Instead, lead piping was the best there was; a crucial metal in that public health initiative.

Empowered by the new Public Health Acts, local authorities were ordering sanitation for slum neighbourhoods where poor hygiene was the cause of disease. Installing running water and flushed water closets, reliant on pipework of lead. [11]

That public health programme, and that new demand for lead, ensured tremendous profits for those controlling the metal market. That, it would seem, was one of the key objectives behind the Shropshire lead mining scam.


ENGROSSING: dictionary definition

This was a scam to leverage control and manipulate the underlying metal price; possibly through a practice known as engrossing.

Publishing exaggerated figures for lead mining output to depress the metal price in the City. Causing lead to be dumped on the market in desperation by genuine mining operators, at rock-bottom prices.

The market manipulators could then snap up that cheap lead and stockpile it. Before turning the market around with bullish press reports – claiming shortages and surges in demand for the metal. Enabling them to re-sell that warehoused lead at great personal profit!


Falsified production figures for the sham lead mines of Shropshire could be used to leverage the lead price across the whole country and beyond; particularly the lead imported from Spain and Italy; which amounted in the 1870s to a significant 100,000 tons a year.  [12]

That manipulation could work the price up or down, as required by the speculators.

Similar to the world oil market where control is wielded through the “spot price” of Brent Crude oil, also set in London.

The Brent oilfield in the North Sea is just a tiny contributor (0.4%) to global oil production. Yet the Brent spot price nevertheless determines the price of crude for most of the world (60%).   Market leverage at work!    [13]

In the 1870s, trading of commodities was done semi-privately, absent any official exchange. Metals including lead were bought and sold by profiteering middlemen in dingy London coffee-houses like The Jerusalem in Exchange Alley, an old district of the City.

RING TRADING:  London Metal Exchange  [photo credit: Daily Telegraph 2013]

RING TRADING: London Metal Exchange [photo credit: Daily Telegraph 2013]

Shropshire’s sham mining bonanza foreshadowed, and was perhaps even a precursor to the founding of the official London Metal Exchange (LME) in 1877.







That Exchange is today the hub for a £14.5 trillion a year global market where strategic metals including lead are traded on a futures-basis.

With forward delivery of contracts to any number of domestic warehouses, foreign ports and entrepôts around the world. [14]



The LME is a key instrument of the real British empire – the City of London – an omnipotent cartel monopolising the world trade in strategic commodities – metals, minerals, hydrocarbons, and even raw food stuffs.  [15]



Today, the City oligarchy relies heavily on the derivatives trade to truly gouge out its fortunes (and/or fend off collapse!)

Derivatives – those so-called futures and options – are an entire layer of casino-like speculation in the City. This is commodity trading that exists on paper alone! [16]

In the oil market, derivatives traders even deal in “paper barrels!   Pure gambling where rarely a barrel of oil, or an ounce of metal, is ever delivered from seller to buyer.





“THE CLUB OF THE ISLES”: A LONDON-CENTRED RAW MATERIALS CARTEL   (see [15])    [click for full size]

Derivatives are a wholly speculative financial market that sits precariously atop the (barely) tangible metal-dealing and mineral extraction industries.

Derivatives are a trade created explicitly to manipulate the price of an underlying physical commodity, while rarely taking delivery of it.






The sham lead-mining bonanza of the 19th century, focussed on deepest south Shropshire, was likely a progenitor to the shenanigans of the commodities trade we witness today.


Let’s finish with a quotation from Petronius, a Roman courtier from the reign of Nero, apparently:


Which roughly translates to “In his hands, lead became gold”!    Perhaps that should be the latter-day motto for the financier-alchemists who gave Shropshire her “legendary” lead-mining heritage:

In his hands, lead became gold!























SHARE ISSUE: Perkins Beach Consuls Limited  [click for full size]















[1] http://www.aditnow.co.uk/documents/linley-lead-mine/mining-around-linley.pdf

[2] http://www.ludlow-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/illustrated_london_news_oct_04_1856_an_excursion_to_the_roman_lead_mines_shelve_etc.1-2.jpg

[3] http://www.search.secretshropshire.org.uk/engine/resource/default.asp?theme=&originator=%2Fengine%2Ftheme%2Fdefault.asp&page=2&records=9616&direction=1&pointer=16846&text=0&resource=2268

[4] http://www.iccgov.org/FilePagineStatiche/Files/EVENTS/Conferences/2013/Arctic/Presentations/Barbante.pdf

[5] http://www.rupertharris.com/final/sc_leads/examples/lead_dioxide/lead_dioxide_formation.php

[6] https://archive.org/details/countyseatsofshr00leac

[7] http://goo.gl/maps/s6dbi

[8] http://goo.gl/maps/AsIOF

[9] http://www.2shrop.net/2shropnet/AToZOfMini-sites/S/SnailbeachVillageHall/VirtualArchive

[10] http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/lead.aspx

[11] http://www.ludlow-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/19thcenturypublichealth1.pdf

[12] https://archive.org/details/mineralstatisti02britgoog

[13] http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2004/eirv31n23-20040611/index.html

[14] http://www.lme.com/about-us/history/

[15] http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/1996/eirv23n22-19960524/eirv23n22-19960524_043-raw_materials_cartels_lock_up_wo.pdf

[16] http://wlym.com/archive/oakland/brutish/Derivatieves.pdf