And another publication…

While Tim Knebel and I and our cameramen were busy making the films of South West Peak folktales last summer, I followed up my earlier contact with a splendid eccentric called Frank Parker, who lives near Flash. Flash is the highest village in Britain (by ‘highest’ I mean ‘greatest altitude over sea level’ – I’m not implying communal indulgence in recreational substances) and it was associated with forgers until well into the 19th century. It’s said that no market trader in the area would accept a bank note from an inhabitant of Flash, and some people believe – almost certainly wrongly – that the village lent its name to the colloquial phrase ‘flash money’ denoting counterfeit coins. However undeserved the village’s specific reputation, it is an established fact that forgers were active in that area of Staffordshire Moorlands for hundreds of years.

Frank, who along with his wife Margaret (author of a local history book) has researched the traditions of the area, has identified forgers’ pits including one near his home on Goldsitch Moss. From these he’s collected splashes of metal alloys, clearly the disregarded leftovers of the illegal coiners’ activities. I used a contact in a local firm to have two of these samples analysed, and the results were interesting. There was a piece of fake silver that was more or less pewter, and a piece of fake gold that proved to be brass supplemented with about 20% by weight lead. The lead would make the alloy heavier and more malleable, so it would be easier to pass off as gold, and it would also reduce its melting temperature, making it easier to work. The forgers weren’t stupid. Trace element levels in the analyses strongly indicate that copper and zinc ores from local mines were used, partially refined.

Believing that these findings would interest many Peak District residents and visitors, we wrote an article containing photos of the finds and the analytical details, and sent it to the local magazineĀ Park Life. The editors considered it, but finally rejected it becauseĀ  they judged it too long and too academically heavy for most of their readers. They suggested alternative outlets, but those alternatives didn’t accept it either.

However, I’ve had confirmation today that the article has now been accepted (with minor editing changes) for publication in the Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Transactions. It might appear in print this summer. A very different sort of publication from my quasi-fantasy fiction, this piece of work almost takes me back to my days in medical-scientific research… Well, not quite. But the promise of publication is a pleasing outcome from our efforts.

What makes it particularly pleasing is that it will bring cheer to Frank, who is now in his 80s. He’s currently hospitalised and in considerable pain. I spoke on the phone to Margaret this afternoon and she promised to bear the glad tidings to him, sure the news would do him good.

That alone would make the effort of writing and submission worthwhile!


  • Fascinating to think of forgers at work in Flash (in the past of course). Having walked my bike up the last few hundred yards of the climb to the top, I can certify the heady altitude above sea-level. Phil

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