Utilising a wealth of rare and unpublished images from official archives, authors Alastair Cameron and Liz Withey tell the story behind the development of the Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.
Though the exact date that mining at the site began is unknown, it was undoubtedly in operation shortly after the Norman Conquest. Slate was initially won from the surface of Honister Crag. Later, during Elizabethan times, skilled immigrant miners from the Tyrol taught native slate workers how to drive tunnels into the Crag to obtain slate from deeper underground. By the Victorian era operations had expanded considerably with large-scale underground mining under way. The many miles of rail track made the transport of slate much easier and processing sheds were constructed at the head of Honister Pass.
In the 1980s the Honister Mine had closed down. The large-scale operation was uneconomic. Honister was much more suited to small-scale slate working with a greater environmental concern. But no one seemed to be prepared to take on such an undertaking. However, in 1997 news broke that the lease had been taken up by Mark Weir, the son of a local hill-farmer, with the intention of working slate again. The extraordinary story of Weir's development of Honister Slate Mine is given in full in this book.
Alastair Cameron was born and brought up in the slate-working village of Coniston, in the southern part of the Lake District. Since those early days he has travelled the world but has maintained close contacts with the village of Coniston and, in particular, with those who have worked in the industry. He has written extensively on the industrial archaeology of the Lake District fells, in particular about the slate and ore mining industries that are very much part of the history and culture of the area. Liz Withey has lived and worked in the Lake District and surrounding areas for many years and is very familiar with many of the metal-mining sites in the mountains. She is an experienced photographer with images displayed on many websites.