Moira Furnace, Ashby Canal & the South Derbyshire Mining Preservation Society

Last Saturday was a busy day! We started with a tour of the furnace with Steve Scotney, sharing the mysteries and stories of the building. We learnt that Moira village didn’t exist before Earl Francis Rawson built the Furnace in 1806. The building was only actually in use as a furnace for a few years before it became clear that business was unprofitable and was turned into housing for the expanding colliery and clay workers.

Within a 200-year period this area went from green to black – with industries of blasting, mining and extraction  on this site – and now to green again with the new foresting of the area as part of the modern industries of leisure, tourism and environment.

After peering down chimneys and through underground tunnels, we also found out about the mysterious hand prints by the furnace chimney – were they the handprints of some poor worker trapped and trying to escape the raging heat of the fire? They are more likely to have been made by the person who created the mould for the cast metal supports when the furnace was being built. Those handprints must be over 200 years old – and quite small too – suggesting a boy of 12/13 – so, in the same way that it’s hard to resist making a footprint in wet concrete, perhaps he couldn’t resist leaving his mark either.

Big thanks to Steve.


We then climbed aboard the Joseph Wilkes barge with some experienced canal boaters and took a trip down the Ashby Canal. A wonderful way to travel through the landscape, getting up close to the wildlife and going through the mechanics of the lock. After Moira the boat became a bit slowed down by the weeds – we were even being towed by Nigel at one point! So we hopped out to continue our way to Conkers on foot. Many thanks to all the narrowboat crew.


On arrival at Conkers we were greeted by the South Mining Preservation Society who introduced us to their exhibition of artefacts, maps and photos – showing us how to light a miner’s safety lamp, how much kit you’d have to carry down with you (alot!), the miles you may have to walk underground before you even got the seam you were working – how dangerous it could be, but also how much modern mining had invested in safety and technology. Best of all was the list of miners nicknames – Banger, Jelly, Nipper, Joggy, Jelly and Plum – to name but a few!

Many thanks to Maurice and colleagues.