Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Cat and Fiddle

David Morton, Signpost Officer

This article is from Signpost 62, Spring 2020

Reading Mark Cocker’s Country Diary in The Guardian of 4 February 2020, I came across several points of interest relating to Buxton in the PNFS heartland. The first was the very good news for walking groups and bikers that the Cat and Fiddle pub, which has been standing empty for quite a long time, is due to reopen in April with a distillery attached.

The second was that in the 18th century, Buxton miners had to trudge out to Axe Edge and the upper Goyt Valley in all conditions to work down some of the 238 mine shafts, producing low-quality coal with pick and shovel from the shallow seams. For working 12 hours per day, six days a week, they were paid a meagre £32 per annum. Remains of shafts can be found just north of the A537, where Hartington Upper Quarter footpaths 83, 84 and 85 converge. Footpath Inspector Derek Bodey has suggested that we put a signpost there on what may have once been well-worn miners’ tracks. On my visit I assumed that I was looking at old lead workings. Thanks to Mark Cocker for putting me right.

Mark also refers to Alan Roberts’s and John Leach’s book The Coal Mines of Buxton (1985). They describe the effort of two men hauling the coal up the shafts to the surface in 1790. The pair hauled a hundredweight (112 lb or approx 50 kg) basket of coal, called a corf, every two minutes over a period of 144 hours, almost 200 tonnes. Could this have been the outcome of a foolish bet in the Cat and Fiddle? They also note that many of the miners’ surnames in 1790 are still to be found in modern Buxton directories.

Little did those 18th century miners know of how year on year production of hydrocarbons would accelerate and lead in little more than two centuries to today’s climate catastrophe of extreme weather events all over the world from Australia to Mytholmroyd.

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