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Pulloxhill Gold Mine

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The Record describes a supposed gold mine in Pulloxhill [HER 10809]

The "mine" was discovered in 1680. It was immediately seized as a royal mine but whatever was found there proved not to be worth the cost of separation. There are reports that Pulloxhill was beseiged by would-be gold miners for months after the discovery. It is unclear when the mine was abandoned: one report says it was closed by 1683, another that it was not abandoned until 1750. The biggest mystery surrounding the mine is what, in fact, was found there?

The following article was published in the Bedfordshire Mercury of 15th March 1890:

"The report of gold at Pulloxhill is due to a bed of sand which may be traced from Pulloxhill Church in a north-easterly direction to the Thrift Wood. This bed of sand contains an interesting agglomerate. A specimen of this was submitted last summer by Mr Cameron to Mr Rudler of the Jermyn-street Museum. He writes as follows : The rock containing the brilliant gold-suggesting flashes is a highly micaceous sandstone, mainly consisting of crystalline quartz with abundant mica. Crushed in a mortar, and the powder examined under microscope, the quartz is much iron-stained, giving the material a yellow, brownish tint, which conspires with the glistering bronze colour of the mica to suggest gold-bearing material."

"The history of the various attempts to find gold is confused; but about forty years ago I believe a quantity of the rock was dug and taken away to be tested, apparently without result. This, however, was not the first trial. A grass field, about 25 chains north-east from the church, has long been called “Gold Close," and in or near the Thrift Wood, about a mile north-east from the church, you may see “Gold Copse” marked on Ordnance Survey (Map). Curiously enough, whilst the above correspondence was proceeding between Crouch and myself, an old book was brought under my notice by Miss Higgins, of Luton. It is entitled ‘Geology and History of England ‘, Dodsley, Pall Mall, no date (probably fifty years old). Under the heading Bedfordshire, p. 3, it says : 'At Pulloxhill, near Ampthill, some years ago a gold mine was discovered, but it is now entirely neglected, the profit falling short of the expense of extracting the metal from the ore ’ As the book from which this extract is taken is simply a compilation, its authority is very doubtful, and it may fairly be assumed that the operations in search of gold have been referred to erroneously as though they had been successful in a limited degree. Apparently in every instance the seekers have been deceived by the glitter of the iron-stained mica, and have never found any of the precious metal, at least in appreciable quantity.”

In 1950 the Bedfordshire Magazine identified the mineral found as Fool's Gold, which "consisted merely of flakes of mica in stones and gravel which had drifted to Bedfordshire with the melting of the glacial snows at the end of the last ice age". However, an article in the Biggleswade Chronicle in 1952 says that samples of gold sent to the Mint were reported to be of good quality.

The mine was still remembered in the 19th century. Thomas Fisher drew a picture of "The Gold Mine in Pulloxhill" around 1820. A few years later an eccentric alchemist and race horse owner, Dr Kellerman, rather optimistically proposed "to pay off the National Debt with a vein of gold discovered at Pulloxhill".

The only local reminder of the Pulloxhill gold rush is the field name Gold Close, where a site visit by the Historic Environment Officer in 1980 found water-filled depressions in the field believed to be the remains of mining.