Unlocking the mystery of Buxton’s First World War practice trenches

Carl Banton of the Coal Authority
Carl Banton of the Coal Authority

Previously unrecorded First World War practice trenches have been discovered in Buxton.

The find, on a farm at the top of Macclesfield Old Road in Burbage, was made by the Coal Authority, who used aerial survey specialists Bluesky to map the area with their airborne mapping system LiDAR.

The authority was studying the area as part of its research and development programme, which is looking at alternative ways to inspect mine entries in remote and rural areas.

Simon Crutchley, from the Remote Sensing team at English Heritage, said: “While conducting analysis on the mining remains I noticed what appeared to be the classic crenelated forms of First World War trenches to the east of the mining.

“Further examination revealed what appears to be the extensive and unrecorded remains of First World War practice trenches, which could help tell the story of Derbyshire’s soldiers as they prepared to go to war.”

He added: “We are at a very early stage. The site has been identified from the imagery and the next stage will be to investigate it in more detail on the ground and hopefully get some background information about how the trenches might have been used.”

Although only one set of trenches has so far been found, Simon believes there could be many more in the area yet to be discovered.

“As a rule these trenches were used in a training capacity, sometimes just (for soldiers) to practice digging and other times to actually engage in mock battles so they would know what they were going up against,” he said.

“Although we can see just one site from the imagery, there are certainly suggestions of a lot more in this area which would need to be looked at on the ground.”

Simon is now hoping that local information could be key to unlocking the history of the trenches.

Anyone with any background information about the trenches is asked to contact Simon by calling 01793 414704, or by writing to him at Simon Crutchley, English Heritage, The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH.