Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Monday, 16 February 2015

Historical Graffiti

Written on the rocky wall in copperplate hand writing the words - I Archer August 23 1855 - will be recognisable to anybody who has strayed even very slightly off the beaten track in Smallcleugh Mine, Nenthead.

I love Smallcleugh and spend much time working in it with groups and on a personal level exploring its further reaches and connections through to other mines. Its a fascinating place, in many ways a time capsule, with a rich social history attached to it. Today we explored the mine following the well trod path through to the remarkable Ballroom and returning via a short abseil above Wheel Flats and a squeeze through the letterbox underneath Gulley Back Cross Cut. However, it was later discussion on Mr Archer's graffiti that prompted the gist of this post.

Sure there will have been great change in what has gone on at Smallcleugh since 1855 as the mine's fortunes have fluctuated ultimately leaving it now as an abandoned historical ruin, no longer an engine for industrial and economic growth, rather a venue for leisure time pursuits. However, it is difficult to imagine that Mr Archer wouldn't find the setting most familiar should he return to his former workplace today. I did a quick Google search on I Archer 23 August 1855 and it turned up nothing, so at the time of writing I know little about him other than the assumption that he visited this place presumably as a mine worker of some kind on at least that day in history.

As mentioned above the mine will have seen much change in the years that have passed, the world indeed has seen much more: a revolution in the way society is organised; major conflicts; and the dawn of a new technological age that would have been difficult to predict even 50 years ago - to name but a few. Today's trip through time in Smallcleugh involved a mother and her teenage son with an agenda to spend some time together - in relationship. It was a time of shared experience, endeavour, conversation and challenge: a good time which prompted us to consider how society's interaction between its members might have evolved since the days of Mr Archer and whether we are richer or poorer in this respect some 160 years on?

After a good three hours or more underground we left the mine to a clear cold North Pennine evening, the sky touched slightly pink by the setting sun, our journey back to the van undoubtedly was a scene featuring elements that would have been very familiar to one I Archer on 23 August 1855.



  1. Thanks Tig
    I love the mines of Nenthead and also the rich social history thats a part of them.

    For anybody reading this post I have found out a little more about Mr I Archer. It would appear that he is likely one Isaac Archer born locally in September 1833. Roy Fellows (and others) cite his name as appearing elsewhere as "historical graffiti" in Caplecleugh Mine where the words are written: "Isaac Archer" and "Priorsdale House Age 18 1850". Mine features which I guess refer to the same person are Archers Rise & Archers Vein?

    Also of interest is some further "Historical Graffiti" referred to by Roy fellows, from Caplecleugh Mine, are words from the Methodist Hymn Book:

    In darkest shades if thou appear

    My dawning is begun

    Thou art my souls bright shining star

    And thou my rising sun.

    L.W. Pattinson (a member of Thos Waltons survey group) Feb 23 1926

    Thos F Walton appears as a signatory on the mine abandonment plan.

    All this goes to show just how little I know of the history of the mines in this area and just how much exploration I still have to do!


  2. Oh how interesting Mal, it was the history of the place that captivated me yesterday and I am impressed that you have been researching Mr Archer, please let me know if you find out anymore

  3. Oh how interesting Mal, it was the history that captivated me yesterday and I'm am impressed at what you have managed to find out about Mr Archer, please do let me know if you find out anything else

  4. Hi Jane. I'm quite intrigued by it all at the moment. As we discussed yesterday I enjoy the "sharp end" of mine exploration & also taking groups through the mines but there is no doubt that the whole dimension of the fact that these places were created by people who will each have had a story is fascinating.