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Tankerville lead mine

A Scheduled Monument in Worthen with Shelve, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.5894 / 52°35'21"N

Longitude: -2.9538 / 2°57'13"W

OS Eastings: 335481.5573

OS Northings: 299490.273631

OS Grid: SO354994

Mapcode National: GBR B8.9TQZ

Mapcode Global: WH8C9.L5NR

Entry Name: Tankerville lead mine

Scheduled Date: 14 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014865

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21657

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Worthen with Shelve

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Hope

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument is situated approximately 2.5km north east of the village of
Shelve in the southern part of Worthen with Shelve. It includes the ruins (a
number of which are Listed Grade II) and the earthwork and other remains of
Tankerville lead mine, together with part of its associated water management
Lead mining occurred at Tankerville from the early 19th century, but was
originally only concerned with the workings of a small pipe vein worked by
means of a crosscut and a small shaft sunk in the 1850s. The established mine
was thus known as the Oven Pipe. In 1864 it was leased to Heighway Jones and
managed by Arthur Waters, who exploited the full potential of the veins by
deepening the shaft and locating the richest lead vein in Shropshire. In 1870
a joint stock company, the Tankerville Mining Company, was floated to raise
the capital investment to expand the mine. A new shaft, known as Watson's, was
sunk and ultimately became the deepest shaft in the orefield, reaching a depth
of c.520m below the surface. A 32" engine was installed for both pumping and
winding, but as the shaft was further deepened it was found to be incapable of
draining the workings efficiently. By the autumn of 1875 a new engine house
was being constructed adjacent to Watson's shaft to house a 40" Cornish steam
engine which began pumping the following August. The old Oven Pipe workings
are believed to have been gradually abandoned as work concentrated on the new
vein. Despite the investment in the mine, the gradual working out of the lead
ore, coupled with a fall in the price of lead from the mid-1870s onwards,
resulted in the company operating at a loss after 1878. The mine finally
closed in May 1884. An attempt to re-open the mine was made between 1891 and
1893 by the Shropshire United Mining Co.Ltd. but although some lead was
produced, it is believed to have been obtained from ore already at the surface
or from re-working the spoil. Finally, between 1911 and 1913, the mine was
leased by Shropshire Lead Mines Ltd., who also appear to have been
unsuccessful, and the site and its fittings were eventually sold.
Standing and other remains associated with the early mining operations at
Tankerville are located in the north eastern part of the site, close to the
original shaft. With the exception of the shaft itself, these are included in
the scheduling. The rubblestone engine house, which is Listed Grade II, is a
relatively small structure measuring approximately 4m by 3m. Its south gable
wall is thicker than the other walls and is believed to have served as the bob
wall on which the balance beam of the engine pivoted. The beam engine which
worked the original Oven Pipe, or Old Engine, shaft was described as `a small
colliery engine' which, in turn, raised the ore, worked the roller crushers,
and drained the mine. The pit for the valve gear is thought to lie at the
southern end of the building and, although it has been infilled, it will
survive as a buried feature. To the west of the Oven Pipe engine house is the
stump of a masonry chimney which is built of roughly coursed rubble and is
slightly tapered. It stands approximately 5m high, is Listed Grade II and is
included in the scheduling. It is believed to have been associated with a
boiler house which served the engine house but is no longer visible on the
ground surface. Map evidence indicates that it was located between the chimney
and the engine house, and it will survive as a buried feature.
Following the sinking of Watson's shaft in the western part of the site, a 32"
steam engine was installed at the shaft head. It is thought to have been
housed in a building to the east of the shaft which is shown on photographs of
the mine, dated c.1874, as a structure with a hipped roof. There is now little
surface evidence for this structure, apart from its western gable wall and the
western ends of its two side walls, but the rest of the walls will survive as
buried features. The weight of the pumping rods in the shaft were
counterbalanced by a balance bob (a heavy weight moving up and down within a
bob pit). The balance bob tunnel is situated between the eastern side of
Watson's shaft and the west wall of the engine house and is a tall, stone-
lined and brick-vaulted tunnel.
The Cornish engine house which was erected in 1875 to replace the existing
engine house lies to the west of Watson's shaft and was the last major
structure to be built at the mine. The increasing problems with drainage as
the shaft was deepened led to the decision to install an engine specifically
for pumping the mine workings whilst the existing steam engine was retained
for winding. The engine house is built of roughly coursed local Tankerville
shale and measures 8.3m by 6.1m. It is Listed Grade II and is included in the
scheduling. It originally had three main storeys and a basement pit in the
western portion of the building. Three of its walls are 0.82m thick whilst its
bob wall, facing the shaft, is approximately 1.15m thick. The machine bed for
the engine cylinder remains visible within the engine house, though partly
buried under debris, and is of good quality stone. A series of empty beam
sockets in the external wall of its north wall indicates that a single storey
structure was, at some stage, erected against this side of the engine house.
Approximately 8m to the west of the engine house is a small well with a square
entry which is thought to be associated with the mine and is included in the
To the north east of the Cornish engine house is a tapering chimney which is
Listed Grade II and included in the scheduling. It is octagonal in section,
built in red brick above an ashlar capped rubblestone plinth. It is believed
to have served the boiler house immediately to the north east. The boiler
house is thought to have been associated with both engine houses at Watson's
shaft. The traces of the demolished boiler house are fragmentary. It is known
that it used an existing revetment wall to the west as one of its walls,
within which are the stubs of returning walls.
Once the lead ore was brought to the surface, via the shaft, it was taken to
the dressing floors, where processing involved crushing the ore and separating
out the impurities. Immediately to the south of the Cornish engine house are
the standing remains of the ore hoppers. The ore was deposited at the ore
hopper level and broken up into sufficiently small pieces to go through the
grills of the hopper gratings. The ore hoppers have been partly built into the
adjacent hillside with a masonry revetment wall along their eastern side.
There are six hoppers in all, each with stone-lined sloping sides, narrowing
to a square opening within the revetment wall at the level of the crushing
floor situated to the east. The crushing floor is a raised area, defined to
the north, west and east by retaining walls which continue to the north of
Watson's shaft. Its western revetment wall, north of the Cornish engine, is
curved and it is thought that there was an access track or road leading to the
engine house immediately to the west of the wall. Photographic evidence
indicates that the southern half of the crushing floor was covered by two
sheds or shelters, and some powered processes are believed to have occurred
here. Immediately to the east and below the level of the crushing floor is the
site of the lower dressing floor. Documentary records indicate that new
machinery, including machine jiggers, classifiers and round buddles,
had been installed here by the autumn of 1877, and buried deposits associated
with several of these features are believed to survive beneath the ground
surface. Many of the dressing processes required a good water supply, and the
level below the crushing floor, which is also occupied by the original
Watson's shaft engine house and the boiler house, is situated immediately
below the dam of the mine's lower reservoir. It is a rectangular, stone-lined
reservoir and there are traces of a sluice at the eastern end of its masonry
The spar (quartz and calcite chips) removed during the dressing processes
would have been taken to the spoil or spar tip to the north of the mine
complex. The spar is believed to have been carried here by a tramway system,
and the linear embankment on the north west side of the site is thought to be
the trackbed for a tramway which ran from the northern end of the crushing
floor via a bridge into the spar tip. The embankment is approximately 100m
long, and a 14m sample length of this feature is included in the scheduling in
order to preserve the relationship between the spar tip and the mine complex.
The milking parlour and associated farm buildings to the east of the crushing
floor, the surfaces of all paths and farm tracks, the concrete surface of the
farmyard and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground
beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Approximately 10,000 lead industry sites are estimated to survive in England,
spanning nearly three millennia of mining history from the later Bronze Age
(c.1000 BC) until the present day, though before the Roman period it is likely
to have been on a small scale. Two hundred and fifty one lead industry sites,
representing approximately 2.5% of the estimated national archaeological
resource for the industry, have been identified as being of national
importance. This selection of nationally important monuments, compiled and
assessed through a comprehensive survey of the lead industry, is designed to
represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and
regional diversity.
Nucleated lead mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by lead
mining. They consist of a range of features grouped around the adits/and or
shafts of a mine. The simplest examples contain merely a shaft or adit with
associated spoil tip, but more complex and (in general) later examples may
include remains of engine houses for pumping and/or winding from shafts,
housing, lodging shops and offices, powder houses for storing gunpowder, power
transmission features such as flat rod systems, transport systems such as
railways and inclines, and water power and water supply features such as
wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated lead mines also included
ore works where the ore, once extracted, was processed.
The majority of nucleated lead mines are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier
mining being normally by rake or hush (a gully or ravine partly excavated by
use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of mineral
ore). They often illustrate the great advances in industrial technology
associated with the period known as the Industrial Revolution and, sometimes,
also inform an understanding of the great changes in social conditions which
accompanied it. Because of the greatly increased scale of working associated
with nucleated mining such features can be a major component of upland
landscapes. It is estimated that at least 10,000 sites, exist the majority
being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains
at many larger mines have been greatly modified or destroyed by continued
working or modern reworking. A sample of the better preserved sites,
illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of the class,
is considered to merit protection.

Tankerville lead mine survives well and is regarded as one of the finest
surviving 19th century mining complexes in Shropshire. It is a compact site
where the buildings are clearly inter-related and where the original layout of
the complex has been little altered by subsequent development. Its surface
remains, particularly in the central and western parts of the site which
retains terraces and a high concentration of ruined structures, represent an
up-to-date lead mine of the Victorian period retaining evidence of mining
techniques and mechanised ore processing. The ore hoppers and the compact
crushing and dressing floors are considered to be unique to Shropshire and are
rare nationally.
Additionally, there is a considerable archive of documentary material,
including a number of early 20th century photographs, providing information on
mining operations at Tankerville during this period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brook, F, Allbut, M, The South Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 54-64
Brook, F, Allbut, M, The South Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 61-3
City of Hereford Archaeology Unit, , 'Hereford Archaeology Series' in Tankerville Lead Mine, , Vol. 102, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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