International Mining History Congress Linares 6th – 11th September 2016
Rob & Boo Vernon
Three members of the South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group (Rob Vernon, Boo Vernon and Roger
Gosling) attended the 11
International Mining History Congress held at Linares, Spain between 6th and
11th September 2016. It is said that 'Lead is the soul of Linares' and I think those who attended the Congress
can verify that fact. In the 19th century the Linares / La Carolina area became the largest producer of lead in
Europe. The combined annual tonnage of lead ore just from the three John Taylor and Sons mines (Linares
Lead, Fortuna and Alamillos) reached 16,000 tons in the 1880s when much of Britain's lead industry was
starting to decline.
Pozo Ancho mine, worked by John Taylor and Sons.
The lead mining landscape around Linares and la Carolina is amazing. The area has the largest grouping of
Cornish type engines houses outside the UK. The Romans and others had left their evidence and artefacts, as
well. However, the area grew from 1850 when British, French, German and Belgian mining companies
introduced innovative technology and culture. The local mining history group the Colectivo Proyecto
Arrayanes have been recording, photographing, preserving and interpreting the mining remains since the
final decline of the industry about twenty years ago, and were the principal organisers of the Congress.
This was an action-packed Congress enjoyed by delegates from Spain, UK, Japan, Sardinia, Scandinavia,
Australia, USA, S America, Canada, Poland, Portugal, etc. It was organised by the Colectivo with the
support of Linares town council, and collaborating Sponsors, that included amongst many others, Jaén
University, the local Chamber of Commerce and many of the surrounding towns.
The La Tortilla lead works (T. Sopwith and Co. Ltd.) about 1907.
The Congress started with a presentation of two lead ingots to the town, as a gesture as a thank you to
Linares for holding the event. The lead ingots have an interesting history. About 10 years ago Odyssey
Marine Exploration discovered a shipwreck in the English Channel laden with a cargo of lead ingots bearing
the initials, T. S. and Co. Ltd. Spain. Odyssey approached the British Museum to try and discover more
about the ingots and the BM put out a request for help in identifying the initials. Rob Vernon was able to
identify the initials as Thomas Sopwith & Co. Ltd. Thomas Sopwith junior, originally came to Linares from
the northern Pennines, and operated the La Tortilla mine and lead-works close to the city. Together with the
Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes, Linares, Rob worked with Odyssey to research the haul. It was fortunate,
because a few months previously he had seen a miniature ingot (the type give to visitors to the works)
bearing the same initials. The resulting paper about the ingots can now be downloaded from:
Odyssey agreed to donate two ingots to the town, and so with paperwork completed, including a statement
of release from the British Receiver of Wrecks, Rob and Boo took the two ingots, weighing about 40
kilogrammes each, back to Linares in their car.
The Inauguration session of the International Mining History Congress on the 6th September 2016
commenced with the formal presentation of the ingots to Linares and much publicity was given to the event
by the local press (See Photograph). A Civic Reception then followed the presentation.
Photographed with the two ingots from left to right are: Ana Cobo Carmona, Andalucian Government;
Mabel Selfa, Linares Town Council; Juan Fernández Gutiérrez, Mayor of Linares; Rob Vernon - SGMRG
member; Claudio Lozano Guerra-Librero, representing Odyssey Marine Exploration, and marine
archaeologist, University of Huelva; Eduardo Tamarit, Andalucian Government, José (Pepe) Dueñas,
President del Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes - IMHC organisers.
Research Papers on a variety of mining topics, were welcomed by an International Scientific Committee.
Lectures were held in tandem at the local Town Museum (el Posito) with simultaneous translation, as well as
at the new Linares campus of Jaén University. There were over 70 varied and enlightening lectures and these
will be made available in a publication later this year.
The Congress was nearly two years in planning, and the modest fee for delegates included all bus travel,
lunch and dinner, as well as evening entertainment.
The first and last days of the Congress were full day field excursions, to the mining village of Centenillo and
the la Carolina museum and surrounding area, whilst the last day was a visit to the British worked Alquife
iron mine, near Granada in addition to a visit to the World Heritage site, the Moorish Alhambra, Granada.
A coffee break at Centenillo!
At the start of each day there was a short field trip to one of the many mines in the area, as well as the
Roman city of Castulo. The high temperatures were exceptional for the time of year and we were glad of the
straw hats and fans provided in our conference packs. The catering staff who laid out the occasional buffet
in the field, were also appreciated in their bow ties and immaculate dress, providing water, juice, drinks,
fresh fruit and local tasty treats on perfect table displays.
One morning, in an area of countryside of bad repute, delegates were even besieged by bandits brandishing
swords and rifles (the local Napoleonic battle re-enactment group). Although they ambushed Pepe, the
President of the Colectivo, and tried to frighten the ladies with noisy explosions and verbal threats, we
The afternoon, when it got much hotter in the open air, was reserved for our lectures in two air-conditioned
lecture halls. And at sunset there was always more excitement – flamenco events, chirigota performance (a
comic performance by a singing group dressed as miners), ‘mining’ art exhibition, a visit to the English
cemetery, tapas suppers and a bar crawl. Even accompanying people enjoyed their day visits (instead of
attending the lectures) to places of interest – an olive oil factory, a pottery, museums and local historic
Boo Vernon (wearing a cap lamp) and choir provided entertainment at the Congress dinner
Our memorable final dinner was held in the courtyard to the Linares Bullring. The wine and drinks flowed
as usual and we lost count of the number of courses of typically Andalucían food, which kept coming. Boo
Vernon (with the help of a cap lamp and mobile phone lamp) presented a concluding entertainment of music
from the places that had influenced mining in Linares. A talented Welsh Male Voice Quartet composed of
Welsh Mines Society members and an Australian ex-pat ably assisted her in a Welsh song.
The Colectivo, Museum staff, translators, technicians, catering teams, drivers, local Hotels, restaurants and
bars etc, are all to be thanked for their help. Indeed, the friendliness of the local townspeople and the pride
and interest they hold in their mining heritage was very apparent. The Congress was an undoubted success,
so much so that one Australian wants to return to Linares next Spring!
Gracias a todos en Linares, y ¡además a ti! Thank you so much Linares! We already look forward to
Boo and Rob Vernon - September 2016