photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
Hajar | profile | all galleries >> Northern England >> Echoes of Westgarth Forster at Garrigill tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Echoes of Westgarth Forster at Garrigill

We found this tomb of the ancestors on a gloriously sunny day (14th July 2013). The graveyard was very overgrown. My great-great-great grandmother appears as "Pheobe" on the tomb, but I have seen this spelled "Phoebe" elsewhere (e.g. Caine, 1908, pg. 178). She is mentioned in Welford (1895), in the context of Westgarth Forster the younger contemplating a third edition of his famous "Strata" book, as follows: "In September [1829] he informed his sister Phoebe that he [Westgarth Forster] had some idea that he might soon want the plates and blocks which were used in the production of his work." Westgarth Forster died on the 9th November 1835. The third edition of the "Strata", much revised by the Reverand Nall, was published posthumously in 1883.

Forbes (2015) noted how Westgarth Forster and his contemporaries (Winch, Millar and Hutchinson) tended to compile the works of others with either no or only partial acknowledgements (though of this group, Forster does cite his major sources, being Whitehurst 1792 and Williams 1796) and suggested that Nicholas Walton (1796, unpublished) had priority in compiling a section of the strata in the region - though his source materials, presumably various earlier mine plans, are not known either. Even the much earlier Strachey (1719) used long established stratigraphic names developed by the miners.

There is a highly intriguing quote from Turner (1793) on a visit to Allenheads where the Westgarth Forsters, father and son, showed him "various plans and sections illustrative of the position and quality of the strata, the course of the veins, and the various mining operations" and wrote of Westgarth Forster junior, "I cannot help here congratulating the Society upon the expectation they may reasonably form of much information and entertainment from the communications of this ingenious young man, for whose nomination as an honorary member, we are much obliged to the gentleman who proposed him." Turner (1793) apparently saw the draft form of Forster's "nearly finished" section "of the strata which comprises the mining country to the depth of 500 fathoms."

The question of what inhibited the young Westgarth from publishing in those early years is an interesting one to ponder (though you should see the number of unfinished manuscripts from the past quarter century that I still carry with me!). Forbes argues that the first edition of "Strata" is more of a textbook format of collated previous work than a record of original thought and that it was produced as a way of generating income at a time of personal financial crisis. All of the early published sections would have been compilations from multiple sources, but there was no culture of providing detailed acknowledgements from any of the known authors. Dunham & Johnson (1962) phrased it as follows: "Westgarth Forster ... summarized a sequence worked out during many centuries of lead mining." As Hodge (1965) notes, the first stratigraphic sections in the area are found in various old mine plans dating to earlier in the 18th century. He writes, "Treatise on a Section of the Strata (first edition, 1809) contains an organised stratigraphical sequence for the Alston Block. The names used for individual beds are those which were derived during centuries of lead mining in the area."

The excellent research conducted by Wilkinson (1997) threw much light on Westgarth Forster's life before 1809, making abundant use of the Blackett/Beaumont papers. He was third agent at Allenheads from 1786 to 1788 (when he was sixteen), then second agent until 1795, when J.E. Blackett offered him the position of second agent at Coalcleugh (October 13th 1795). Forster worked at Coalcleugh for the next decade. A letter to C. Blackett dated January 23rd 1805 recommended that Westgarth Forster and others be discontinued as part of a planned major reorganization. The "irascible and sometimes unscrupulous" chief agent John Erasmus Blackett had himself been discontinued in 1804. Wilkinson (1997) wrote that Westgarth Forster may have been, "spending an increasing amount of time on his geological research, as there are in existence a number of cross sections and notes for that period, which are not related to his area of employment." Wilkinson further suggests that he may not have "fit into the new categories of agents who specialised in a particular department... Fragments of information from several sources describe him as a shy retiring man of somewhat eccentric habits, with a kind and gentle disposition. He was also variously noted as being studious and at times absent-minded, a rather remarkable man, well-dressed and of smart appearance, but wearing his hair long", perhaps "not the ideal candidate for a mine agent within the more fixed regime" planned following the reorganization.

Nall (1882, 1883) provides an account of numerous surveys undertaken by Forster between about 1813 and 1826 in his role as mine surveyor. He also describes the later financial ruin resulting from Forster taking possession of a Welsh lead mine in lieu of payment by the bankrupt company which owned the lease. Most unfortunately for Forster, this was at a time of extremely low lead prices and the mine, though productive, was not economically viable. A comparable circumstance in the present is the consequence of greatly reduced oil prices on employment in the oil and gas industry. Nall writes (page xliv):
" ..the directors then made him all the compensation they were able to make by putting him in possession of the lead-ore deposit which he had discovered. The transaction proved to be an unfortunate one for Forster. The mine was productive, but lead was then selling at a very low price - much lower than that at which it is now selling."

An obituary note in the Carlisle Journal for Saturday 21 November 1835 states: "His modest unassuming manners caused him to be beloved and respected, and his extensive knowledge in mining operations made his company to be sought after by persons employed in that pursuit to whom his mind was ever open."

References:

- Caine, C. 1908. Capella de Gerardegile : or, The story of a Cumberland chapelry (Garrigill). R.M. Saint, Haltwhistle.
- Dukesfield and Smelters Project. http://www.dukesfield.org.uk/research/dukesfield-documents/archive-sources/
- Dunham, K.C. & Johnson, G.A.L. 1962. Sub-surface data on the Namurian strata of Allenheads, South Northumberland. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 33, 235-254.
- Forbes, I. 2015. Westgarth Forster’s Strata – a reappraisal of a geological pioneer. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society.
- Hodge, B.L. 1965. The Great Cyclothem of Northern England. PhD Thesis, University of Durham.
- Hunt, C.J. 1970. The lead miners of the northern Pennines. Augustus M. Kelley. New York.
- Nall ("Tyne") 1882 (March to May). serialised life of Westgarth Forster in "Our Literary Club", Newcastle Courant, Tyne and Wear, England.
- Nall, W. 1883. A Treatise on a Section of the Strata from Newcastle upon Tyne to Cross Fell, Third Edition, revised and corrected by W. Nall with a memoir of the author's life. Andrew Reid, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edward Stanford, London.
- Strachey, John, 1719. A curious description of the strata observ'd in the coal-mines of Mendip in Somersetshire; being a letter of John Strachey Esq; to Dr. Robert Welsted, M. D. and R. S. Soc. and by him communicated to the Society. Philosophical Transactions. 968-973.
- Turner, W. 1793. Account of a short Tour through the Lead Mine Districts. Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1 part 1 (1831), 66–81.
- Walton, N. 1796. A Section of Strata met with in working Lead Mines in the Manor of Alston Moor and at Dufton Fell in the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland. MSS in Banks Papers. Sutro Library, San Francisco.
- Welford, Richard, 1895. Men of Mark ’twixt Tyne and Tweed, Vol II, 260-265.
- Wilkinson, B.P. 1997. Leadmining Families - The Westgarths and the Forsters. In: Chambers, B. (ed.) Out of the Pennines. Friends of Killhope, Houghton-le-Spring.

See also:
- Adam Sedgwick on Forster (1823-4) - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2015/06/adam-sedgwick-on-forster-1827.html?view=magazine
- Westgarth Forster and Ivy House - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2015/05/westgarth-forster-and-ivy-house.html?view=magazine
- The Westgarths Forster and Allenheads - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2014/11/westgarth-forster-and-allenheads-mine.html?view=magazine
- Westgarth Forster fame and misfortune - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2014/11/westgarth-forster-fame-and-misfortune.html?view=magazine
- Westgarth Forster on fluorspar - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2014/11/westgarth-forster-1821-fluor-spar.html?view=magazine
- Westgarth Forster on baryte - http://westgarthforster.blogspot.com/2014/11/westgarth-forster-1821-cauk-or-barytic.html?view=magazine
St John's, Garrigill, 2013
St John's, Garrigill, 2013
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
Tomb of the Westgarth Forster family. The original limestone slab was replaced in 1930.
My great-great-great grandmother, Phoebe or Pheobe as shown here
My great-great-great grandmother, Phoebe or Pheobe as shown here
Ivy House, Garrigill, 2013
Ivy House, Garrigill, 2013
Ivy House, Garrigill, 2013
Ivy House, Garrigill, 2013
Mine waste above Garrigill. I picked up fluorite, quartz and galena here.
Mine waste above Garrigill. I picked up fluorite, quartz and galena here.
Capella de Gerardegile (Caine 1908).
Capella de Gerardegile (Caine 1908).
Garrigill Village (Caine 1908)
Garrigill Village (Caine 1908)
Ivy House (Caine 1908)
Ivy House (Caine 1908)
Westgarth Forster family tree (Caine 1908)
Westgarth Forster family tree (Caine 1908)