A project to celebrate the history, geology and uses of a unique natural resource
Running alongside seams of anthracite across North Devon is a black clay-like material that was mined for 200 years in Bideford for its uses as a strong black pigment. The unique ‘Mineral Black’, or ‘Biddiblack’ as it was known, was commercially produced for applications in the boat building industry, for colouring rubber products, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and was even bought by Max Factor for the production of mascara. The mines were closed in 1969 when the production of cheaper oil-based blacks and the depletion of the seam made the operation financially unviable, but many locals still remember the ‘Treacle Mines’ and have tales to tell of using the paint or going into the now defunct mine shafts.
However, these memories, and the chance of finding any other physical artifacts, relating to the mining industry are becoming scarcer as time passes. It is hoped that this project, led by local artist Peter Ward, will provide an opportunity to explore this unique local resource and to bring these memories together before it is too late.
We're in the very early stages of this project which is funded by The Heritage Lottery & The Friends of The Burton Art Gallery & Museum. Our plan is to set about recording people's memories of Bideford black - a special pigment which has been put to lots of uses over the years, from the industrial to the artistic. There are going to be events, educational opportunities and at the end of the project a new permanent display, telling the Story of Bideford Black, located at The Burton.
While we're preparing to post details of the project over the coming year why not visit HERE and discover more about the pigment itself? You can also check out more work by Peter Ward who works with this pigment - visit HERE and HERE.
Details of what we're up to will be posted to The Burton Art Gallery & Museum facebook page which is HERE as well as on this blog.