The mysterious origins and unique history of Mintcake
This information is taken from our main website www.mintcakemine.com

Geologists believe that mintcake was formed from natural processes that started over 40 million years ago during a time known as the inta-dental period. During this time the Lake District fells were covered in a dense scrubland consisting of an extinct relative of the mint plant. Each autumn, for several million years, these plants dropped their leaves to the ground. This built up a thick minty layer or "mush" that coated the surrounding area, up to six metres deep in parts. On the fells around lake Windermere the harsh weather conditions colluded with the geology to push the mush deep into the ground through fissures in the slate and into empty caves & caverns. Some of these fissures reached several kilometres into the earth and were eventually filled to the brim. A combination of pressure and natural fermentation purified this mush releasing a natural alco-minty gas that is still noticeable today. During the ice age, glaciers pushed through this area creating the Lake District as we see it now. The deep Windermere glacier applied massive pressure to the mush deposits and a fantastic, almost alchemical, transformation took place. A pure white, marble like, soft rock was created in many of the fissures and a light brown version filled the caves and caverns. This rock is mintcake, as we now know it.


Due to its natural origins mintcake is still edible when taken directly from the ground and its properties are legendary, sometimes disturbing and often unfathomable!



Man Finds Mintcake.
Archaeologists have recorded that our ancient ancestors discovered and exploited mintcake deposits. Pre-historic slate carvings show representations of excavation and storage. The most important slate carved image, now on display in the British Museum, depicts a tongue "licking" a rock taken from the ground. This so called "Claife Mint Codex" is believed to be the earliest representation of mintcake consumption although some experts believe it to be a 19th century fake. What is beyond doubt is the fact than man settled in and around mintcake deposits from very early times. As these areas are often less than hospitable it can be concluded that mintcake formed an important part of their lives. Whether this was in a purely nutritional role or had a more mystical influence is debatable but other local slate carvings show grey mountains with inset white, quartz centres that still twinkle magically after thousands of years.

Man Loses Mintcake.
At some point in pre-history the mintcake tribes died out. This was possibly due to the negative effects of raw mintcake consumption (lethargy, weight gain, rotten teeth and brain rot), the difficulty of reaching deposits with rudimentary tools, the end of full mintcake worship or the arrival of the Romans. Julius Caesar's northern British scribe, Hippocampus recorded mintcake use as a local tradition in 34BC but by the 2nd century AD emperor Hadrian’s friend, Tronsus, sent to over-see the building of Galava fort at Ambleside couldn't find any existing local knowledge. Was this down to a local conspiracy? The Roman army was the most efficient fighting force ever seen but one fuelled by mintcake would be invincible!

Secret Local Knowledge
Over the next few centuries mintcake literally and metaphorically remained underground. Glimpses of its influence around Wynander's Mere, as the lake was known, can, however, be seen from the Roman occupation, through the dark ages and into mediaeval times. The area around the lake had a terrible reputation and wasn't fully under the influence of any monarch or government until relatively recent times. Wynander, himself was a fearsome warrior rumoured to be the defender of an un-named local secret. In the Anglo Saxon "Chronicles of the Lakes" he is recorded as "wyde eyed and frytefulle with ye ryte cobbe on" and able to "smyte his enymies all daye long". Most tellingly at one point he is said to be possessed by "ye whyte deville!"

Dunmail Raise
Recent visitors to the Lake District may have driven up the steep pass between Grasmere and Thirlmere called Dunmail Raise. It is most famous for the natural rock formation called "the lion & the lamb" seen on a nearby high fell. This pass was named after the resting place of King Dunmail, possibly the most notorious keeper of the mintcake secret. In near by Thirlmere village deep storage pits, lined with smooth slabs of slate were found by Victorian engineers in 1891. Known as mintcake pits these are the largest ever found. These pits re-create the natural conditions around Windermere Lake where the mintcake was originally formed. But why here? Thirlmere village is thought to be the original trading post of mintcake. Here King Dunmail processed and stored his most precious asset. Away from curious prospectors roaming the Windermere fells and in the heart of his military stronghold Dunmail was able to send the "myntkake" northwards along the Lake Road (a sort of Cumbrian silk route). Unfortunately the Thirlmere valley was flooded in 1894 to supply drinking water to Manchester so now all traces of the mintcake pits are only accessible to well equipped divers and curious fish.


King Dunmail
Other kings grew jealous of Dunmail and the "mynt route" that had now reached from the "Lakes to the Lochs" by 932AD. The danger of Scottish warrior clans using the still secret and mysterious substance against them in battle terrified the Saxon king Edmund 1 and his ally Malcolm MacDonald, king of Scotland. Together they not only wanted to break the trade route but also end the monopoly held by the Cumbrian king. Unfortunately for his enemies, mintcake wasn't just a commodity but a religion to Dunmail. Threatening trade came a poor second to a chance for his Wyndermere Mynt Warriors to get the "whyte myst". Similar to the state that Viking warriors worked up to in battle the whyte myst was, of course fuelled by mintcake. As used, a century, before by Wynander, this high-energy rage made the already tough warrior class of Cumbria into a wild half human half devil of a creature. Capable of unparalled bouts of violent, ingenious cruelty, mynt warriors were given a wide berth by anybody other than Cumbrian's, brave highland chieftains and the clinically unhinged.

The Mintcake War
In August 945AD several hundred well trained Anglo Saxon troops poured into the south of Cumbria, joining together on the Furness peninsular at Dalton. Malcolm McDonalds’ new Scottish army marched south from Edinburgh, harassing Dunmail's border friends (later to become the reavers), forming a camp in Penrith and annoying the people of Rheged no end. A small, conscripted Yorkshire army was also force-marched from the Leeds area but all were lost in the Pennines never reaching Cumbria to fight. On September 9th there was a push from north and south into Dunmail’s Cumbria. With his troops fighting on two fronts Dunmail was hopelessly out numbered. The Scots were held back in the narrow valley of St Johns in-the-Vale, two miles from Thirlmere, for many hours but it was at the battle of Newby Bridge, right at the southern end of Windermere lake, where the true carnage took place. The mynt warriors were at the height of their powers when Edmunds' troops arrived. The Kings scribe famously wrote that (despite being outnumbered 40 to 1) the river Leven, that empties Windermere lake, "poured more Southern English blood than Wynander’s water that day!" It is possible to visit Whitewater village, just down stream from where the battle took place and ponder why it wasn't called Redwater village (think about the mintcake connection to local place names).


River of Blood!
Six hours into the battles and the white mist was evaporating. Mintcake is a cruel mistress and needs to be carefully controlled. A mynt warrior could eat half his own bodyweight in mintcake during battle but only if he could pause between lopping off limbs and splitting skulls. When the enemy troops are numerous and expendable there is no time to stop and consume a minty snack so eventually the warriors had to retreat up each side of Windermere Lake. Dunmail’s eldest son Boneass made his last stand in the bay that still bears his name. His body floating away to be lost down-stream with his brethren at Newby Bridge. Wray, the eldest, fell back to his castle near Hawkshead (the current one is more recent) where he gathered the surviving mynt warriors together. Legend says he gave the order that all the locally stored mintcake was to be hidden from the invaders and that the mynt elders were to be escorted to the fells where their secrets could be safeguarded.


Dunmail Defeated
Meanwhile, Dunmail was being overwhelmed by the Scottish hoards and decided to make a last stand in Thirlmere. Again the myntcake elders fled to the hills, taking as much mintcake with them as they could manage. Villagers desperately threw any remaining stocks into the river to be washed away. Despite much bloodletting and carnage Dunmail was eventually brought down by a rock thrown by Malcolm himself. After the battle, Malcolm let the surviving villagers bury Dunmail at the top of the pass that now bears his name. They chose to heap a magnificent pile of rocks on his grave to mark the spot, which is still visible today. It is said that one day Dunmail will rise from his rocky tomb to claim back his mighty mintcake kingdom.

Hiding The Secret Again
With Dunmail and Bownass dead it fell to Wray to ensure that the invaders were kept from their goal. The only way forward was to go underground both as a resistance movement and as a place to hide. Living in the hidden mintcake mineshafts the mynt warriors fought an ongoing war against the new administration for the next couple of years. Over the following decades their sporadic bouts of mindless violence eventually turned into mischief making and disruption. Wray decided to close and hide all of his mintcake mines and the secret was successfully hidden from the newly created Sherriff of Westmerland. One day the sheriff, Dikwoad, made a huge mistake. In a poorly judged plan to drive Wray out of the area forever, he decided to demolish Wray's old castle. Exactly one week after the last tower fell, Dikwoad mysteriously disappeared. Within a few days small bits of the sheriff were turning up in duck droppings all around the shores of Windermere and a strange minty taste permeated the mists over the lake. These mists are now called "Wray’s Breath" and often form early on crisp spring mornings.

Wray and his followers successfully kept the mintcake mines hidden for many years and the secrets of mintcake mining became a part of local tradition.

The Romance Of Mintcake
It is a known fact that the so-called lake poets were enamoured with mintcake and that William Wordsworth was particularly passionate about it. Wordsworth is thought to have introduced the delights of raw mintcake consumption to Thomas DeQuincy on his first visit to Dove Cottage in Grasmere (near the foot of Dunmail Raise!) DeQuincy already had an opium addiction at the time and Wordsworth felt that his friend needed a pick-me-up. Unfortunately he soon added mintcake to his list of dubious habits and Wordsworth had to procure ever-larger amounts for him. A disagreement over finances with Dorothy Wordsworth highlighted more mintcake debt than they could cope with and DeQuincy fled to Edinburgh and the debtor’s sanctuary at Holyrood. Several literary works were penned during this time including "The White Rock Becomes Misty", "Wynander’s Way" and "After The Prelude But Before The Daffodils Go Roaming" but none of these are considered to be among either writers best work. Somehow a "get lump" of mintcake even made it into the possession of a young Lord Byron whilst living at Newstead Abby in Nottinghamshire. Experts believe his consumption of it, in just one sitting, is at the root of his life of creativity, debauchery, violence and oddness.

In 1724, Daniel Defoe published the first volume of A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain. He commented on Westmorland that it was:
the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales itself; the west side, which borders on Cumberland, is indeed bounded by a chain of almost unpassable mountains which, in the language of the country, are called fells. From under the fells comes myntcake, a most obnoxious substance designed only to mess with the mind!

Exploitation!
With the industrial revolution came entrepreneurs from the big cities looking to exploit the Lake District and its natural wonders. As well as the scenery, the stories of mintcake fascinated the movers and shakers of the times so expeditions were sent to the Windermere area to find out more. Through careful investigation and outright bribery the story of the mines started to come to light. Soon a branch was added to the main London to Edinburgh railway, running from Oxenholme through Kendal to Windermere. Wordsworth was horrified and helped block any further progress into the Lakes but this wasn't enough to halt the flow of mintcake prospectors looking to make their fortune.

The Sugar Rush!
In 1846 the great Mintcake sugar rush started with the re-discovery of the old Hawkshead brown mine. Hidden for hundreds of years, it's location was known only to the Braggat family and friends. Hugh Dunsmore Bragget was a well-known "Mynty" as over-indulgers were known but unfortunately he also liked a drink or ten. Agents from the London firm of Snetch, Filbert & Ramp took advantage of his weaknesses one night in the Outgate Inn and were rewarded with the information they were seeking. Within a week a team of Irish navvies were excavating the mint face and transporting "get lumps" to the newly completed Windermere railway station for delivery to London and beyond. This led to the sudden disappearance of the Braggart family and, soon after, the formation of the British North Western Mintcake Company.

The BNWMC took the extraction of mintcake from an occasional occupation for locals to a major industry within twenty turbulent years. Heavy machinery and specialised equipment was developed and all the brown mintcake mines in the lakes were being exploited by the turn of the century. Only three white mines were identified during this time, however, and these were exclusively worked by a locally owned and run company called "The Windermere Lake Mintcake Mine Co."


A National Phenomenon!
Brown mintcake soon became a hit with the upper classes all over Britain, being seen as the ultimate indulgence. Mintcake parties started this trend in the salons of London but often ended in violent disagreements and fights when the ladies of society over indulged. Men occasionally joined in the punch-ups too but being less affected by the "whyte myst" usually came off much worse. As production increased prices fell allowing artists and other free thinkers access to this new form of inspiration and folly. At this point the British government stepped in and introduced a set of wide ranging laws applicable to mintcake consumption, distribution and control. Most of these laws were completely ignored but it did encourage the BNWMC to look into exporting mintcake to the rest of the world. Meanwhile white mintcake stocks stayed in the Lake District and were only sold to locals. Every Christmas for 32 years a "get lump" of white mintcake was sent to the British royal family but this stopped in 1903 when somebody at the WLMMCo. forgot and from then on, couldn't be bothered. During this time the mintcake railway infrastructure was expanded dramatically.


A Multi-National Problem!
In 1906 mintcake was banned throughout mainland Europe after many years of (mis)use by artists and bohemians. In a highly unusual move, all the different governments of every single European country united together in its condemnation and signed the "Mintcake Treaty of Gothenburg". Along with the "green fairy" of Absinthe, the "whyte myst" of mintcake was seen as the biggest threat to the stability of these countries by its leaders. Without doubt the (false?) rumours that the young and free spirited were munching away on "get lumps" and drinking absinthe at the same time or "playing with the gods", as it was known, was the most disturbing thought they could have.


War!


Did mintcake consumption start the First World War? No!


Or the second? Well maybe!


Battle!
After WW1 food was scarce and mintcake was rationed throughout the UK. A black market flourished, however, and the Royal Mintcake Corps was formed to guard the mines. Unfortunately the new troops were drawn from the local area and illicit supplies increased rather than stopped. In 1943 the RMC were taken from their normal duties and posted to the front line in Africa. Despite only having 36 soldiers in the regiment and just being equipped with bicycles and step ladders they were responsible for the total annihilation of a full German Panzer tank division in the little known battle of Ummnaatah. The RMC were quickly returned to the mines after the battle. Recently released documents show that Churchill was upset at the "frightfully un-British" way that the Germans were dispatched, later likening the incident to having our own "H-Bomb" but being unwilling to unleash it on the world. Some members of the RMC were drafted into the newly created Special Air Service, however, and military tactics were changed forever.


Post War Panic!
After WW2 rationing continued and the mine owners started to panic. Excavation had been increased and brown mintcake was being stock piled. Huge storage sheds were built in Ambleside, Windermere and Bowness. Then on Thursday 9th September 1949 the there was a cave-in at the Clappersgate No.2 brown mine, the biggest working mine at the time. Twenty mintcake miners were trapped for three days whilst desperate co-workers, friends and family members scrambled to dig them out. Rescuers were less worried about lack of air, water or food than they were about the effects of the mintcake. Sure enough when the collapse was cleared only four miners remained. All other facts from this incident are still officially classed as "top secret" and it is unwise to ask any locals about it.

With this tragedy hanging over the mintcake mining industry all the mine owners held an extraordinary general meeting at the Old England hotel in Bowness on Windermere. For the first time information and statistics were freely shared between them. It immediately became obvious that the brown mines were reaching their demise and most owners admitted to reaching the end of practical extraction within nine months. The large brown stock piles were calculated to last for another two years and no other mines had been found for the last twenty years despite major exploration and interrogation projects being funded in that time.

Only the very rare white mintcake mines were predicted to continue into the long term. White mine owners acted accordingly by increasing security measures and putting their prices up 500%.

Kendal Mint Cake.

As the brown mintcake stocks declined an enterprising mine owner called Wilson Romney-Quiggin invested a substantial part of his profits into a top secret project. His aim was to develop an artificial mintcake substitute using natural ingredients. Codenamed "project sweet-tooth" his experiments became local knowledge in June 1950 when the rear portion of his secret factory, a stable, two houses and one of Kendal's famous yards were destroyed in a mysterious explosion. The Mayor of Kendal launched an immediate enquiry but the findings were never published.

In September 1951 all the remaining mintcake mine owners, workers and their families were invited to a huge gala dinner, held in Kendal town hall and hosted by the Mayor himself. At the culmination of the dinner it was revealed that a new product had been developed that could secure the future of the guests. It was to be called Kendal Mint Cake and a parcel of land on the edge of town had been reserved for the construction of brand new, state of the art factories. The press were also present and on the Friday following the announcement the Westmorland Gazette carried a front page feature describing the event. It also speculated that the gala dinner may have been funded by project sweet-tooth.

Mine owners soon discovered that there was a price to be paid for joining the Kendal Mint Cake revolution. Not only would the work force have to abandon their way of life to become factory workers, they, themselves, would have to invest very heavily in an untried product. This started with the purchase of a limited number of "licences" from Wilson Romney-Quiggin to use his fully patented production processes.

The Mintcake Quarry
In 1953 there was a bit of a buzz around Bowness on Windermere. A heavily intoxicated patron of the Stags Head let slip that Mintcake had been discovered in the village. Bowness was not known as a rich source of Mintcake so locals were sceptical at first. Then police caught Helen “Minty” McKilligan, a local vagabond and part time Mintcake prospector, with her pickaxe in the main road. She eventually admitted that she had found the edge of the rumoured Mintcake seam and “was making a start on it”. The local Mintcake “mafia”* soon took control of the situation and McKilligan was “disappeared” (sent to live near Barrow with a small pension and discount voucher for the local pubs (she also turned out to be the patron mentioned above)). Unfortunately the head of the Mintcake seam was located in the middle of the main road, McKilligan was already 6ft down when she was caught, so decisions had to be made quickly. The road was moved 25 yards to the left in the space of two weeks and, as the seam was explored, major works commenced. The Bowness Mintcake seam proved difficult to follow so it was decided to try a new approach and the worlds first open cast Mintcake quarry was created. The method proved to be so effective that the seam was exhausted within a year and the village was left with a bit of a problem. The quarry now covered over a third of the original village and was a complete eyesore. Houses had been knocked down, gardens removed and people uprooted all in the pursuit of Mintcake! Slowly nature took over the quarry area and re-landscaped it. In the late 1960s the land was sold and a large shopping and housing development was built over the entire area. This was named Quarry Rigg and the Mintcake history was consigned to memory. This was until 2010 when The Mintcake Mine opened its gift shop at 66 Quarry Rigg (tucked away in the far corner).
*Mafia may sound like a strong name for this bunch but it is entirely justified!

The English Electric Mintcake Company
In 1967 a newly formed subsidiary of the Bowness based Mintcake Mine Co. named The English Electric Mintcake Company approached the government with an ambitious plan to add Mintcake to the UK water supply. This, they claimed, would improve the moral fibre of the country at a time when young people were becoming feckless and immoral”. The EEMC were given a tentative green light by the MOD to start testing their product in the Lake District and to report back with their results within 12 months. During this initial test period information and statistics were to be gathered in the county of Westmorland and compared with other un-minted counties of the UK chosen at random. Immediately after Mintification of the supply it was noticed that people in the area cheered up. A heightened awareness and chirpy demeanour was noticeable throughout the county and the experiment looked to be a success. Unfortunately after just one glorious month darkness seemed to descend on Westmorland despite the sunny weather of 1967. Traffic accidents tripled, the pubs were full during work time and street violence became commonplace. A huge meeting in Windermere town hall even proposed to form “The Peoples Republic of South Lakeland” and a riot ensued during which every policeman on duty had his helmet stolen. Then the testing was abruptly halted when Donald Campbell was killed on Coniston Water. His last words after he insisted on having one more run before flipping his speedboat, Bluebird, were said to have been “Here I go… Woahh… god my breath is minty fresh… Weeee… is that a duck?… it is looking at me all funny and that… oh bugger”. The English Electric Mintcake Co. officially ceased to exist shortly after “the experiment”, however, certain, recent “black ops” have been accredited to them by conspiracy buffs but no concrete proof has ever been revealed. The Mintcake Mine can neither confirm nor deny their current existence.


More history due soon.