Westgarth Forster 1821: "Cauk, or barytic, spar"

One of the treasured crystallized minerals from the mines of Northern England is the barium sulphate barite (or baryte).

Beautiful doubly-terminated 6 cm blue barite from Frizington, Cumbria, with red areas resulting from hematite inclusions.


Westgarth Forster (1821, pages 216-217), makes the following comments on this mineral:


Cauk, or barytic, spar, is not generally of so pure a white as the calcareous spars. The writer of this has seen cauk spar of a dead white, but commonly it is of a yellowish, a brownish, or a reddish white, or of a flesh colour, sometimes crystallized and transparent, as at Dufton-fell, in the county of Westmorland. It seems to affect the peculiarity of having its crystals laminated, as radiating from a centre, but this radiation seldom amounts to a whole circle. It is commonly a dull ill-looking spar, frequently rising in in globes and irregular masses, and so exceedingly heavy, that miners have always imagined it contained metal, only they think, that the proper flux for it is not discovered. No doubt this mineral body is replete with the vitriolic acid, which the art of the chemist may extract. At the same time, there is reason to believe it highly probable, that it is not the ore of any useful metal. This spar is so very ponderous, that it is often extremely difficult to separate it from the metallic ores in dressing them.”

Excellent specimens are known from West Cumbria, the Lake District, Alston Moor, Weardale and Yorkshire. The following specimens illustrate some of the forms and colours shown by this mineral in the Northern mines.

A 7 cm "cockscomb" of colourless transparent barite crystals from the Haggs Mine, Alston Moor, Cumbria.

Barite crystals, 45 mm, from the Murton Mine, Scordale, Cumbria.

Barite crystals to 3 cm in a 6 cm group, from the Force Crag Mine in the Lake District.

One of the famous old golden prismatic barite crystals from Frizington (probably Parkside Mine), this one 11.5 cm long.

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