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Smallcleugh Mine - Barons Sump (01/10/04)

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About a year and a half ago I came across a picture on James Redfern's web site of a sight in Smallcleugh which I have never seen before - Barons Sump. This was an impressive brick lined chamber around 12m high with many artifacts and intact features. James gave me a description of how to get there, but the trip notes where over 10 years old and they did not make complete sense (recognition of the places). Looking in a copy of Mine Explorer Vol 5, the location of Barons Sump was shown on a section of map, but I still did not have any reference as to what part of Smallcleugh it was in, shortly after Mark and Karli gave me a new map of Smallcleugh and its location was found by correlating the layout of the passages. We now knew the location and that to get there you had to drop down or climb up into sub levels to by-pass falls.

We headed straight for the Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein, and then took the branch into Carr's Cross Vein. At this point you have to pass two very bad collapses which are not in the best of health! Some people on the trip had to take helmets of to get through. Once past this, the passages condition turns out to be very good. There are many workings above, but these were ignored as we wanted to find the sump. After a short while we reached some intersections and had lunch. We did some exploration here to try and find a suitable rise to bypass falls roughly in the direction of our target. A few false starts and Karl found a collapsed ore shoot that looked like it had some traffic through it. A small climb of about 5m and we were in a level above, with many passages which showed good examples of stone arching. We split up and started to look for possible routes. Karli then found another rise which had pegs in the walls (not original) and proceeded up into another level. From here a drop was found and we broke back into the Smallcleugh Level. A bit of scrambling about and Barons Sump was found.

Barons Sump is magnificent and well worth the effort to find it. The chamber itself looks like it was the beginning of a hydraulic engine installation which never got completed and it may have something to do with the price drop in lead causing the London Lead Company to stop operations in 1882. There are many artifacts and it is part of the through trip from the surface via Longcleugh Shaft (Frog Shaft) and Armstrong's Rise which intersects the Middlecleugh Level. The whole area is deep in the mine, not very accessible and warrants a re-visit to carry our further exploration. There are climbing links to Middlecleugh Level, Cowhill Cross Vein, and the High / Low Flats in the Great Limestone - a playground. Just a warning note, if the dug out collapses you have to pass where to fall, the only other way out from this part of the mine would be the 120m up Armstrong's Rise and Longcleugh shaft to the surface!