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In the early days it was enough for the common man to be identified by a single name. In England during the 1300's, the time of Chaucer, first names were no longer enough and family surnames came into use. Some were simply the suffix 'son' as in Johnson. People also became identified with where they lived and what they did. The Miner family of Chew Magna could have descended from someone whose name originated from an association with mining in the nearby Mendip Hills area.


Mendip Hills The Mendip Hills are a range of limestone hills in the northern part of the county Somerset, England. They are situated to the south of Bristol and Bath, and they run east to west between Weston-super-Mare and Frome. The Mendips overlook the Somerset Levels to the south and the Avon and Chew valleys to the north. They are composed largely beds of Carboniferous limestone originating as sediment from aquatic life laid down in a warm shallow sea 300 million years ago. Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the mineral calcite.

In some areas the limestone has been mineralized with metal ores deposited as vertical veins in the faults. The Mendip Hills had rich veins of lead running just beneath the surface in seams. These seams were dug out and then dug up again over generations as machinery and techniques improved. This activity has led to the industrial wasteland or gruffy ground of lumps, bumps and rock outcrops that you may see today.


Great Britain Lead-mining took place in Britain before the Roman invasion and archaeological remains of mining occur in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, the Pennines, and Wales. Demand for lead grew during the Roman period when the metal was used for various purposes including making water-pipes. Much of the attraction of the lead mines may have been their silver content.

Lead mining revived in the 12th century, but was an insignificant source of wealth when compared with the development of a prosperous clothing industry in the surrounding villages and towns. After about 1670, the lead industry began to decline but revived in the mid 19th century when the rock dumps were re-worked. Much of the present evidence of mining dates from that period. Mining in England dwindled rapidly in importance after 1850 when cheaper supplies of lead from overseas became available.

Updated 16 December 2016.

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