Jarvis Brook

Treacle Mines

A HISTORY OF TREACLE MINING IN JARVIS BROOK

 

The oldest known Treacle Mine in Jarvis Brook was known as the "Badger Sett". It was located in the area known now as the Crowborough Ghyll.

 

The treacle was found by Matt Malone whilst out with his treacle-tracking walking stick. The treacle he discovered was in long narrow veins of sorgo with lumps of solid treacle embedded along the veins; some of the veins were richer than others.

 

The veins Matt Malone found were close to the surface, this did not surprise him, because he had often found lumps of treacle whilst crossing ploughed fields, sometimes with his treacle tracking walking stick, but more often than not with his well trained eye.

 

Treacle Mining in Jarvis Brook dates back to the seventeenth century. The Badger Sett mine was even mentioned in Fred Appleyard's accounts of the famous Buxted Treacle Mines. There were several mine workings in Jarvis Brook, they were all small drift mines which appeared along the ley line between Tubwell Lane and Steel Cross.

 

These small drift mines were not worked continually; they were closed in wet weather when the working levels often flooded and it was too costly to drain them. The Malone family (five of them) used the methods and techniques that had been passed down to them through generations.

 

They worked by candle light. When large deposits of treacle were found, one of the Malone brothers used dynamite. He drilled holes, positioned and primed his dynamite, blasted and retired for his lunch to allow time for the dust to settle.

 

Other members of the family preferred to dowse for treacle, it was much more interesting and much safer. When sufficient treacle had been collected the Malone brothers undertook to produce slabs of smelted treacle using Lord Bergavenny's smelt mill at the end of Farringdon Road.

 

Using the smelting mill meant that they had to give Lord Bergavenny one third (later one fifth) of their treacle in return for the mine leases. They were known as 'Free Miners', but they were not free to mine where they chose, but were granted 'meers' of ground along the ley line. (A meer was 21 yards long by 5 yards).

 

The Badger Sett Treacle Mine, which was still shown on the 1932 O.S. Maps, was eight hundred yards of tunnelling or 38 meers, which was offered for sale when the Malone family was strapped for cash. Amos Wickens bought the lease and introduced many innovations, including 'PLUS' the Pipe Line Under Sussex.

 

Amos Wickens had found that his eight hundred yards of tunnel - went much further and, by accident, whilst out exploring a new tunnel, he arrived at a vast lake of treacle, which he had hoped to pipe down to Brighton and Eastbourne to be made into treacle floss (like candy floss), treacle rock with the words Jarvis Brook right through it; and treacle toffee to be eaten by everybody on Bon-fire Nights.

 

But sadly he had to accept what Grandpa Malone had told him - "It's only iron that pays". It is recorded that in 1731 there was a major dispute over conflicting claims over Wicken's Sea of Treacle - most of it was no where near Jarvis Brook, in fact it was well on its way to Hadlow Down near Hastingford.

 

A 'barmoot' was held in 1737 to settle the claims of the Treacle Miners, but it came to a sudden halt when Amos Wickens closed down his mine and blew up the 'lake' - it was a very sticky business.

 

For many families in Jarvis Brook, they found that when drawing water from their wells (some of these wells still exist today) that instead of drawing water - they found treacle in their buckets. This discovery encouraged more families to take up treacle mining. However, there were strict laws to be followed; churchyards, road and orchards could not be mined; mines had to be registered.

 

One wealthy gentleman from Crowborough decided to go into the production of treacle in a big way. He anchored a dolerite dome over an outcrop of a sienna seam of sucritic oolite (treacle). Then he drilled hexagonal holes into the dome and injected sodium bicarbonate at a high temperature. The experiment worked and Mr Fox created tons of hexagonal sticks of treacle.

 

On an old map of the Crowborough area you can find 'places of interest' marked and named - "Wickens Well", "Fox's Folly, Malone's Mine, Della's Drift and Dr Holder's Hoot. All these places are ancient sites of treacle mines.

 

In more recent years an incident in Jarvis Brook was censored by the press. It was the time of the Jarvis Brook Carnival in 1980, when one of the decorated floats produced a great deal of interest. There were five 'floats' in the parade, which assembled in the railway-yard for judging. 'Noah's Arc' from the Guides was an excellent construction with the Guides and Brownies dressed up as the animals. Next, 'Thomas the Tank' engine from a children's story book, which looked like the real thing with smoke puffing out of the funnel; then the Scouts had a fine effort of a "summer camp" displayed on a long low-loader - with tent, camp fire and all the the exciting kitchen utensils made out of branches and twigs. The scouts were actually cooking sausages and handing them out to the crowd. The local Youth Club, on their float, had set out all their gymnasium apparatus and were giving a moving demonstration of their acrobatic skills. But, the final 'float' was A FLYING-SAUCER manned by a crew of three, in black rubber suits.

 

This caught the imagination of the crowd and also the eye of the judges. Not only did the crew members entertain with flashing eyes, and swirling antennae, but during the parade, round Jarvis Brook, they shot out of their rockets sticks of rock!

 

Without doubt, the 'Flying Saucer' was worthy of a prize, but sadly the judges had not received an official entry-form. But, the Jarvis Brook Social Club committee - invited the space ship crew for a game of darts and a few free pints.

 

Not only did the members of the crew show their skill with darts, but they insisted on treating everyone in the club to a round a drinks. Sadly, when they came to pay, they could only produce a gold coloured coin the size of a saucer! The bar steward accepted this strange looking coin - because everyone was having such a good time.

 

It was only at closing time that events made the JBSC a 'no-go area'. The 'crew' members were the last to leave, they climbed back into their Flyinging Saucer and the bar steward saw it disappear high into the sky, heading towards the constellation of Taurus!

 

"It's a load of bull," said the Committee Chairman, after interviewing the Club Steward. But, when the strange coin, left for payment, was sent away for examination, it was found to be made of "a metal not known on earth"!

 

When a large crater appeared in the Jarvis Brook car park, where the Flying Saucer had been parked, it was suggested that the aliens from space had called to take on a supply of 'treacle' from an underground seam, and that the 'treacle' was a space ship fuel.

 

The 'press' refused to publish the story.
Published by the 'Freinds of Horwich' 1998
700t 7IJdV

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