Calcite

Calcite is one of those absolute British Classics that anyone seriously into the northern England orefields simply has to have. Pallaflat, Bigrigg, Parkside, Cleator Moor - the names just roll out of the pages of any books on classic pieces. Most of these mines were closed by the 1950's,and pieces just get harder to find. Other areas of Britain produce magnificent specimens of calcite - Alston Moor, and the Weardale, together with Derbyshire are the major contributors.

Personal Experiences

Calcite seems to be one of those things you collect when you're out looking for something else.. I can't remember a trip when we set out to find calcite - other than the odd Derbyshire mine - but we often came back with amazing specimens associated with things like Sphalerite from the Alston Moor, or Fluorite from the Weardale.

One mine in particular stands out - we used to drive past when it was working, and you could always tell when they were into some good stuff from the look of the material on the conveyor belt going into the crusher. I drove past one day and the belt was covered in sparkly quartz and calcite crystals. That evening, as the afternoon shift emerged from the decline, we dodged past them (having left the night watchman with a case of beer...) and scarpered into the workings. It didnt take long to find an exploratory drive that was following a quartz stringer which had opened up into a continuous series of big cavities. I can honestly say that in a lifetime of collecting, I've never seen anything like it - the walls of the cavity, which was 4 feet high, and up to 3 feet wide, were completely lined with huge fluorite crystals up to a foot on edge, and covered in quartz crystals. The middle of the cavity was packed with brecciated material - but no ordinary breccia. Every single piece was a museum quality fluorite specimen, with or without calcite crystals stacked like pagodas, with occasional groups of glittering pyrite scattered amongst the rubble. I worked the cavity, and four mates supported me, wrapping and carrying specimens through the workings and up to surface. We worked all night, never stopping. By morning my hands and fingers were numb - blood was dribbling from my elbows from deep gashes all over my hands and arms where the razor sharp calcites had caught them. We must have packed thousands of pieces that night, from an inch to over a foot across. By morning, I had tunnelled nearly 15 yards down the cavity and there was still more to come. We suddenly realised that the morning shift would be arriving, so packed up and dragged a final load of bags wearily up the decline - only to meet the morning shift coming down. Its funny how you manage to blag your way out of a situation sometimes .... we just tipped our hats forward a bit, and kept walking - they barely glanced at us.!!! A quick dash across the carpark to the landrovers, and off we went. It was the most amazing experience of my collecting life - few people ever get to experience the thrill of finding such a massive cavity, let alone finding it full of loose, museum quality specimens not even needing a prybar to loosen them... Those were the days ...

Pallaflat

Calcite - Pallaflat mine, Bigrigg

This mine produced arguably the best calcites ever seen. Known for their perfection, clarity and stunning appearance. This piece from the David Corse Glen collection in Glasgow, and exchanged with Dick Barstow for Yorkshire cerussite specimens, on the 14th April 1979.

The Ward collection

Pallaflat

Bigrigg

Calcite - Egremont, West Cumberland

Recently obtained specimen from the RW Barstow collection. 3.5x2.5"

The Ward collection

Aragonite

Aragonite - Egremont, West Cumberland.

No collection would be complete without aragonite from the area. Sometimes quite small, these are nonetheless superb pieces. This is a small specimen with a Butler, of Brompton Road, London label - probably around 1930's.

The Ward collection

 

Weardale

Calcite - Blackdene mine, Ireshopeburn, Weardale.

Classic combination from the Weardale. Collected late 1970's 5x4"

The Ward collection

Calcite - blackdene

Same specimen, different view . Collected late 1970's 5x4" - The Ward collection

Stank mine

Calcite - Stank Mine, Ulverstone, Lancashire

Classic dogtooth specimen from the West Cumberland iron mines. 4x3" Ex RW Barstow.

The Ward collection

Ladywash

Calcite - Ladywash mine, Eyam, Derbyshire

Superb specimen of classic material from this mine. The best pieces always had high lustre, and were almost water clear. Many had the characteristic marcasite inclusions this one shows. 2x2" Obtained in the late 1970's from Ike Wilson.

The Ward collection

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