Water wars: Meerbrook Sough
Early lead workings extracted ores from near the limestone surface. By the 17th Century, deeper mines were encountering water and required extensive drainage tunnels (known locally as soughs) to be dug. One of the first was begun in 1632 under Cromford Hill by the Dutch water engineer, Sir Cornelius Vermuyden. Fifty years later a deeper tunnel, the Cromford Sough, was started.
Textile mills relied upon a constant clean water supply both to power water wheels and to process textiles. The discharge from Cromford Sough and the Bonsall Brook, provided the water to power Arkwright's first mills at Cromford in 1771.
However, in an effort to reach even deeper lead veins around Wirksworth, the Meerbrook Sough (more than 30m lower) was driven from the Derwent, near Whatstandwell starting in 1772.
By 1836 it was causing serious problems to Cromford Mills and they ceased production in 1846. Later, the Meerbrook Sough was extended to over 4 miles and now produces 3.75 million litres a day for the public water supply.
Over 150 soughs were excavated in the Peak District, mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries radically changing the pattern of underground water flows in the eastern White Peak.