Ashley, the last flint miner active on Lingheath, near Brandon,
photographed in the late 1930s.
is a very hard black mineral similar in composition to glass, which
when worked correctly, is capable of a very sharp cutting edge.
However this material blunts very quickly.
It is found
naturally in chalk and it often forms layers in various shapes and
sizes. Hard black flint is the best.
It was Neolithic miners who first dug flint out from the chalk at
Grimes Graves, near Thetford, some 4000 years ago.
Graves is a bit of a misnomer. There are no burials to be found
here. The word graves actually means pits or mines.
at the bottom of one of the mine shafts at Grimes Graves.
the Devil's holes of the pagan god Grim, the miners used the flint
to make all kinds of blades, from scrapers to axes and spear-heads.
of Grimes Graves was once covered with birch, but this material
was removed in the 1970s to leave a heathland clearing around Thetford
Brandon, close to Grimes Graves on the Suffolk border, was the centre
of the flint-knapping industry for 200 years.
at the block
In more recent
times, flint was mined in the area by solitary miners. Much of this
was knapped into gun-flints.
flint cottages in Nether Row, Thetford.
Flint was also
used with stone to create buildings. In the 14th century, it began
to be used decoratively in architecture too, as displayed
on many of the fine old ecclesiastical and civic buildings around
on Elveden Church.
has some of the best medieval flintwork in existence.
A very beautiful alphabet made of knapped flint is on display in
the Ancient House Museum in Thetford. It apparently took its maker,
master flint knapper Bill Basham, two years to make in his spare
Like most knappers, this craftsman died of silicosis in 1932, aged
38. There are few flint-knappers working today.
Today visitors can explore one of the 300 shafts and galleries at
Grimes Graves' .The site is managed by English Heritage.
Ancient House Museum
BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites