But for at least years until business fizzled out in , it played host to an unusual small-scale industry: a sticky coal-like substance known as Bideford Black was extracted from seams running under the town and used as a pigment for paint and even mascara. Former workers found it hard to forget. So, with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the museum embarked on a project to fill in the detail. The findings went on view in February, bringing together three elements: art, geology and history. The culm was used in the burning of lime as fertiliser. It was found in a mile seam running west to east from the coast near Abbotsham through Bideford to Hawkridge Wood near Umberleigh, ranging in thickness from about 10ft to just a few inches.
Caroline Rees reveals the fascinating history of Bideford Black, mined in North Devon
Post a comment. Pages Home What's it all about? Our region was on a coastal plain covered in forests and cut by rivers feeding lagoons. The vegetation was Tree Ferns and other early plant, through which primitive animals such as giant dragonflies flitted and centipedes crawled. Within this envirement, the anthracite lenses formed in the river channels and the Bideford Black formed as over-bank clay deposits carried from the river channels during flooding and settling. Under these conditions, the outer layers of leaf and bark were removed and swept away; the naked trunks were then deposited and trapped beneath layers of river sediment, and soil. Under compression, the organic mater has developed flat hexagonal platelets, similar to that of graphite which we find in pencils. The mineral consists of roughly equal parts of carbon, silica and alumina — the carbon providing the exceptionally rich black colouration that made it so popular as a pigment. The seams stretch from Hartland and Abbotsham on the coast in a southeasterly direction beneath Bideford and inland as far as Umberleigh.
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