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Mine Exploration Forum

Author Illumination before the Striking Match
Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 09:56:36
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Arthur Price in his recent excellent book "Cheltenham Stone" identified several boxes fashioned in stone with a stone slab as a lid in which the remains of candles and tinder were identified. These are believed to be 'candle/tinder boxes' in which dry tinder was kept along with a number of candles. This was done before the invention of the striking match in the 1820s. Has anyone given consideration to how candles were lit underground before the match came into use? Are you aware of any unexplained storage items that might fit this bill? The Chaldon quarries (Surrey) contain such a candle box, the purpose of which could not be explained until Arthur's excellent book. If you wanted a light, you had to have dry tinder available on which to use your steel and flint.
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Vanoord

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:10:09
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Found this little soul in Cwmorthin:



(click image to open full size image in new window)

Seems to be a tinder box - certainly has very fine sawdust and some form of wadding?

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Peter Burgess

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:17:34
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That looks highly plausible. It wouldn't be as old as 1820 would it? I wonder how long it took for matches to come into common use. IP: 81.144.191.248
royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:30:41
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Isn't it a detonator tin?

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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
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Vanoord

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:32:54
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Hmmmm - that might be a question best answered by Grahami, who may be able to cast light (no pun intended) on when Floor 4 in Cwmorthin was last worked.

The box was found in which I think was the remains of Chamber 10, Old Vein although as it is still accessible, it's possible that the box /tin was put there long after the chamber was worked - and indeed it collapsed sometime in the nineteenth century.

I suspect that there's no likelihood that there was any work on that floor after 1898, but in reality it seems to have been worked out a couple of decades before that, with work concentrating on the floors below lake level.

So, something pre-1880 I'd reckon?

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IP: 217.39.127.209 Edited: 07/07/2008 10:33:20 by Vanoord
royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:40:25
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Dynamite was introduced about 1871, but would only be used for driving levels. Not best practice anyway as it could lead to unstable levels.
The bringing down of slate blocks would always be done by powder, the object being to bring them down not shatter them to a 1000 pieces.
These tins have been seen by me underground everywhere, Wales and of course lots up at Nenthead, in the areas reworked by the Vieille Montagne up to about 1921.


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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
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Peter Burgess

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 10:43:25
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Two pics of the Chaldon box:





This object probably dates from the 16th century, possibly early 17th.

Another factor to consider is the number of men working together. Unless all lights went out together, there would always be someone else close by to lend a candle to light a new one. I suspect quarrymen often worked for periods alone or in small groups, in what was almost a cottage industry rather than a large-scale industrial concern. A contemporary account of a quarry in Purbeck includes an account of finding the stone tinder box underground and lighting candles at the start of the day.
IP: 81.144.191.248 Edited: 07/07/2008 10:48:03 by Peter Burgess
royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 11:20:32
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Here is an interesting thought.
If I were a miner or underground quarryman in the 19th century and wished to take matches underground in way that would hopefully keep them dry. What better a way that to 'recycle' old detonator tins for this purpose.
This is more than just hair splitting, as the presence of these tins could be taken in error by some people as indication of the use of high explosive.
From what I have just gleaned off the web matches where introduced in 1827, but obviously the first detonator tins would not appear until the 1870s
Just a thought.


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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
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Vanoord

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 11:21:58
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Thanks Roy - assuming that is a detonator tin, it places the time it was put there pretty closely I'd think.

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Gwyn

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 11:47:09
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I waterproof matches by dipping in hot wax. Works a treat and the wax helps fire starting!
One part of the secret is to have dry kindling, the problem often being that it takes on the relative humidity of the surrounding environment and becomes difficult to "light".
I assume that small mechanical devices, not disimilar to the flintlock of guns, were available for creating sparks/fire.
Cloth/fibre soaked in saltpetre is very useful.
Friction devices can be remarkably easy to use, once the knack has been mastered.
I disapprove of modern, gas lighters!
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royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 12:31:23
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Gwyn wrote:


I assume that small mechanical devices, not disimilar to the flintlock of guns, were available for creating sparks/fire.


Absolutely correct. I believe that they often turn up at antique fairs and shops etc

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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
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Gwyn

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 12:54:33
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Why is the tin double-skinned? IP: 92.0.200.145
carnkie

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 12:59:40
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After all this talk of detonators I've added the National Explosive Works to the DB. It's obviously a MSF so if anyone feels the pressing need to draw up a list of the mines it served I won't be heartbroken Smile Iclock, you may a have an interest in the engine they used on the Spur-Line. IP: 88.105.191.10
Peter Burgess

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 13:09:22
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This idea of a stone candle box is one that I had most expected to find an equivalent for in the slate quarries, as some are probably old enough, and there is plenty of raw material around to make them. Also, are there frequenters of the Wiltshire freestone quarries here, who might have seen something similar in Box, for example? The boxes that Arthur identified are in the Chilterns - Jurassic limestone.
IP: 81.144.191.248 Edited: 07/07/2008 13:10:07 by Peter Burgess
royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 13:15:50
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Peter Burgess wrote:

Also, are there frequenters of the Wiltshire freestone quarries here, who might have seen something similar in Box, for example?


Yes, used as drinking troughs for the horses.

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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
IP: 89.243.9.44
Peter Burgess

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 13:23:40
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But without the close-fitting lid, I suspect, and a good deal larger. IP: 81.144.191.248
Gwyn

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 13:40:38
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Slate doesn't lend itself to this sort of thing particularly well. I've never seen anything similar made from a single block of slate. It's why I dream of blocks of Portland! IP: 92.0.200.145
royfellows

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 13:42:38
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Peter Burgess wrote:

But without the close-fitting lid, I suspect, and a good deal larger.


Yes, there are some photos on here. This is Browns Folley, Monkton Farleigh


(click image to open full size image in new window)

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'There's a lot of activity for a disused mine!' - Bond in 'A view to a kill'
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Mr.C

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 15:38:37
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royfellows wrote:

Gwyn wrote:


I assume that small mechanical devices, not disimilar to the flintlock of guns, were available for creating sparks/fire.


Absolutely correct. I believe that they often turn up at antique fairs and shops etc

A type of this device was also used for testing the fitness of powder for use.

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If things dunner change - the'll stop as the' are.
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Gwyn

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Illumination before the Striking Match
Posted: 07/07/2008 17:40:33
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Thanks Adrian. IP: 92.0.200.145
Safety LED Miners Caplamps Moore Books: Specialist Books I.A. Recordings: Mining and Industrial History DVDs Starless River - Caving Store Explore a Disused Welsh Slate Mine
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