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Finding Silver in the British Isles.

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In Search of Silver

The British Isles has always been a land of great opportunities and a land of plenty. This is what made this area a highly desirable Island to many an invader in the Island's ancient history. In a previous Hub "Britain's lost gold mine." We mentioned areas of the British Isles that had been successfully worked by the indigenous population. Almost all British gold extraction has traditionally taken place in the the mountainous regions of northern Wales and western Scotland.

There is only very limited amounts of gold in the rest of the British Isles. The only other area which could be a viable location for commercial mining of gold is parts of Devon as it is on the same seam that carries on through Wales and Scotland's remote hillsides.

If gold is not a viable mining option, then what about silver?

We know from historical sources that the refined silver ingots that were found in Wales were sent all over the Roman Empire for minting.

An old Silver works in Sark.

An old Silver works in Sark.

Location of an English Silver Mine

Roman era Silver mined from British Isle's

Roman era Silver mined from British Isle's

Cornwall and Devon.

Silver has been mined in the British Isles sporadically over the last thousand years. There is much more silver readily available in the United Kingdom than there is gold. There have been prominent mines south of Tavistock in Devon which used deep mine shafts to collect the silver ore throughout the Medieval period of English history. There are remnants of those operations which show us of the methods of extraction that our ancestors once used.

The Bere Ferrers mines totalled four individual mines at their peak, and these mines produced the majority of England's silver needs until the Welsh silver mines took over the burden of production. The English silver mines in Cornwall lacked the expertise to refine the ore, it was only by adapting their historic methods that the Devon mines could produce good quality English silver. Much of the workforce in the Berre Ferrers mines were effectively press gang miners. The Cornish tin miners had a better standard of working conditions, even though their product did not have the same value. The greed involved with silver miner, meant that an already hazardous operation was made even worse due to the eagerness of the mine owners..

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A Greater Resource Hidden Underground.

As a general rule, where you find lead you will find silver. As I stated earlier Britain has more silver reserves than gold. The majority of the reserves are like the gold reserves situated in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. This is due to the seams of rock which lay under these countries. The Islands that lay off the western Scottish coast such as Sark produce a fair amount of workable silver ore per year. When the Normans conquered the British Isles they inherited a lot of small silver mines in the north of England.

These mines stretched from Durham across the Pennines and onto Carlisle. There are many Silver mines that have been lost to time in the Yorkshire/ Lancashire area. Maybe there is potential for these mines to be opened on a small industrial scale in the future. But the hard part is tracking down the mines that operated over 900 years ago, and checking if they are still viable.

Rural areas of Great Britain will hold the largest reserves of silver but mining for the precious metal will cost money and spoil the landscape of these picturesque areas. With the price of a troy ounce continuing to rise, the benefits of mining will ultimately overcome any negative feelings about the practice. In these times of economic woe, exploiting the vast mineral reserves under our feet seems a logical step.

© 2010 Andrew Stewart


Andrew Stewart (author) from England on February 14, 2018:

Thank you John, I was unaware that the precious metals collected along with the targeted ore was used like that. Thank you for sharing that with me.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona USA on February 14, 2018:

You noted that generally you find lead and silver together. In Arizona, USA where copper is king, there is generally gold and silver also to be found. The mines in my state actually pay for their operations with the precious metal extracted from the copper ore. Platinum, silver, gold and other metals are separated during refining. Copper is said to be pure profit. Enjoyed your article and will read others. Thanks.

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