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Brewery Shaft Winch Trip, (03 - 04/12/05).

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AT LAST! After years of looking down it, reading about it, seeing other sites on it, we have made it down. During the summer I sold some plans to a mine explorer that belongs to the Wirksworth Mines Research Group and he informed me that they will be doing this winch trip at the end of the year and that our group could come along, so this is how it came about, our thanks to you Peter. The day before the trip I came up to the shaft top to photograph the shaft and winch gear saving time on the next day. It was an excellent opportunity with the top hatch open for an unobstructed view down it.

On Sunday morning at about 11:15 we descended the shaft, this was relatively straight forward, with a little bit of spin, but if you kept your feet out and spread apart then you could control that easily. When you landed, it was not actually at the shaft bottom, but rather on a pile of debris some 3m deep, this was the accumulation of rocks and rubbish that has been thrown down over the years along with shaft fittings and the wooden stagings which have fallen down from the shaft itself. Climbing down to the actual bottom the first thing we saw was the massive air receiver tank which was over 4m high. The tank was situated just to the side of the shaft bottom in a chamber whose roof was arched with concrete. Marks of the shuttering to cast the concrete where clearly visible. The tank also had a glass level gauge which was surprisingly intact.

Past the air receiver we headed out into a widening passage. On the right there was a back filled passage with some empty concrete machine beds - what was on these we have no idea, further on a left turn took you into the compressor room and workshop. Here is where everyone started to cooh at the amazing relics - it was like children in a sweet shop - everyone really needs to get out more. We took numerous photographs and examined many artifacts pondering how it all was brought down here and assembled. It's easy to dismiss all the machinery as simple technology when compared to todays advances, but you must remember that this was state of art 100 years ago - foundations to modern principles. From the compressor room and workshop we headed out the way we came in and turned left back into the passage, towards the end were it meets the Rampgill Deep Level is the twin pelton electricity generator. One of the peltons is exposed and still turns. The generators control wheels still turn and operate as if new - probably due to the bronze bearings in them.

From the generator we took a right heading southwest towards the water wheel and the Nent Force Level. The passage was lined with a concrete channel and was approximately 60m long. In the channel there were a number of slots for sluice boards to control the water flow. Past the channel we entered the chamber which contained the large 4.3m diameter water wheel. There was a lot of debris on the floor including iron cog wheels, general timber, a balance bob beam, pulleys and chains. The water wheel was used to pump water from the workings below, access was gained to these by the choked shaft on the far side of the wheel. Past the wheel heading north, northwest is the beginning of the Nent Force Level marked by two ore truck tubs - one interesting thing to note is that the current water level is a lot higher than in a picture taken by NORPEX in 1982, around the 0.6m mark higher. With Karli, I continued down the level for around 10m discovering that the level had raised rail tracks and that the water was not getting deeper as you went on, it was the roof getting lower. We presume the raised tracks where to allow water drainage underneath. We returned to the wheel to meet up with Karl, and headed back to the compressor room to have lunch. At this point we also took the opportunity to take some photographs of the shaft bottom and air receiver.

Now it was time to see how far the Rampgill Deep Level was open for, it was also going to be interesting as there had been rumors that someone had been digging down here (a very keen endeavor if true). Before we set of, members of the WMRG informed us that they had encountered bad air, and that they had been as far as a rise at which point their Davy lamp had gone out. At the generator we turned left bearing northeast, for some 200m along the Scaleburn North Vein, on this stretch of passage we saw ore truck wheels, and the body of a ore truck. We also came across Jim and Michael on their way back to the surface. After the 200m we came to a partial collapse, which was the junction with Carr's Vein, with only one way to go we turned right bearing south east. From here we continued on for 120m until reaching a crossroads, this was where the Davy lamp had gone out, however the air did not seem bad. To the right was the rise and to the left the passage ended after a few metres. Heading past the junction the passage beared left in an northeast, east direction following the Rampgill Vein. There should have been a level going straight on here, but we could find no sign of it - maybe it was blocked or walled up or it may have been a continuation via the rise we passed.

Whilst on the Rampgill Vein Karli and Karl where starting to question the air, but to me it was fine with no effects of tiredness or tight chest. So we carried on until our progress was brought to a halt by a black calcified collapse. The collapse itself looked like it may have been a rise. At this point Karli decided to get his lighter out, it would not light, then his MOD matches came out and just smouldered, yes the oxygen content of the air was rather low. We took some quick photographs and returned. Maybe 50m or so into the journey back we met some of the WMRG team and informed them of what we had found, they decided to have a quick look and we met them again at the rise junction. In the Rampgill Vein section of the level it was difficult to judge how far we went but I think it was in the region of 150m bringing us into the Fairhill Cross Vein area (however speaking to Jim he thought it was more like 300m, just 60m short of the Patterdale Cross Vein). Apart from the odd collapse the level was in very good condition and there were a few small artifacts, but not as many as we had expected. The compressed air piping was in good condition and was present with us for most of the accessible passage.

After returning back to the compressor room Karl returned to the surface, myself and Karli stayed down to try the Nent Force Level again with the remaining members of WMRG. We reached a point in the Nent Force Level where the air space was around 15cm, and after this we probably went on a further 30m or so - there was no sign of the air space changing for better or worse, but for me it was too much - I got rather cold as my neck was exposed and water up the nose was the final straw. One interesting point to note was that the day before the air here was gassy, but today it had been fresh - there must be a flow meaning that potentially there still is a link with the bottom of Wellgill shaft (next shaft in the level after Brewery) however small - could this be dug? We returned to the compressor room yet again and took a final group photograph before all returning to the surface.

To put it simply, the trip was excellent and the atmosphere with everyone present was really good. We also had the chance to meet a number of people that we have had contact with via email but never face to face and that was good too. There was no sign of the rumored dig, was the rumor false or could it have been somewhere else like the rise on Carr's Vein or even along the Nent Force Level? A big thank you to the Wirksworth Mines Research Group team for allowing us to make use of their winch.