Specimens from the Worcester City Museum Collection are figured in a new book – Minerals of the English Midlands by Roy Starkey. Museums Worcestershire asks all collections researchers to share an outline of their research on this website, in our spirit of open research.
The mineral wealth of the English Midlands has been exploited for centuries – lead, copper, zinc, and to a lesser extent silver, have all been worked. Deposits of coal, iron ore and limestone powered the Industrial Revolution, providing the raw materials for such visionaries as Sir Richard Arkwright, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, William Murdoch and Josiah Wedgwood.
In Worcestershire, the extraction of salt from brine has been of considerable historical importance at Droitwich and Stoke Prior, and the book features a fascinating account of the local salt industry with many archive images.
A lecture, delivered by Dr Charles Hastings, to the Worcestershire Natural History Society, and later published in The Analyst, provides an account of the history of discovery and early geological understanding of the Worcestershire salt deposits, and working of brine.
Hastings, a local medical practitioner and keen amateur naturalist, was the founder of the British Medical Association. He also established the Museum of the Worcester Natural History Society in 1833, the fore-runner of the present City Museum. Of particular interest is Hastings’ assertion that rock salt was mined at Stoke Prior, and this led the author, Roy Starkey, to examine the collections in Worcester Museum. Three convincing specimens recorded as being from the Worcestershire halite deposits were identified in the collection.
The Midlands has produced a wide range of interesting mineral specimens. Examples of these are to be found in local and regional museum collections, and especially at the Natural History Museum in London. However, such was the importance of Britain in the development of mineralogy as a science that specimens from the English Midlands are to be seen in collections all over the world. Minerals such as phosgenite, matlockite and mottramite are recognised as having been first described from the English Midlands. The hard rock quarrying industry of Leicestershire means that fresh exposures are constantly being created, and new mineralogical discoveries continue to be made today.
Roy Starkey can be contacted here, where you can also purchase a copy of his book.