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Snailbeach lead mine

A Scheduled Monument in Worthen with Shelve, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.6126 / 52°36'45"N

Longitude: -2.9248 / 2°55'29"W

OS Eastings: 337480.163

OS Northings: 302052.3843

OS Grid: SJ374020

Mapcode National: GBR B9.8GM6

Mapcode Global: WH8C4.1LJF

Entry Name: Snailbeach lead mine

Scheduled Date: 20 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014866

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21658

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Worthen with Shelve

Built-Up Area: Snailbeach

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Hope

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument is situated within the village of Snailbeach on a west facing
scarp slope at the northernmost limit of the Stiperstones ridge. It includes
intact buildings and ruins (a number of which are Listed Buildings),
earthworks and other remains of parts of Snailbeach lead mine. It also
includes parts of an extensive water management system and parts of the
associated tramway and railway networks.
Although lead mining in the Snailbeach area is believed to have occurred
during the Roman period, the first clear references to mining at Snailbeach
take the form of leases to Derbyshire miners in 1676 and 1686, whilst
systematic working of the main lead vein was begun by Thomas Powys and
partners in the 1760s. In 1783 the Snailbeach Mining Company was formed and
it operated the mine continuously through the next century. Most surface
remains at the site date from the mid or late 19th century when a long
programmme of major refitting was undertaken. Snailbeach was a rich mine with
a large output of lead ore, and throughout the latter half of the 19th century
it was one of the top national producers. As the output of lead declined
towards the end of the 19th century, the extraction of barytes (used in paint
manufacturing) became an important secondary activity and completely eclipsed
lead production after 1910, becoming the main ore extracted at the site. Large
quantities of barytes were produced not only from underground mining, but also
from reworking old spoil tips and, in 1900, the Halvans Company was formed
specifically for this operation. During the 20th century the level of
operations gradually declined and underground working ceased completely in
1955, although some reworking of spoil for spar (quartz and calcite chips) was
still undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s.
Snailbeach mine is spread over an area of half a square kilometre. The main
ore processing areas and spoil heaps are situated along the foot of the scarp
slope, at the mouth of a small valley within which the actual mines and their
associated surface remains, including shafts, chimneys and engine houses, are
located. There are a large number of old shafts and adits, some of which
formed the centre of mining operations, whilst many were used for exploration
or were unsuccessful ventures to extract the lead ore. There were four main
shafts: Old Engine (also known as George's Shaft), Black Tom, Engine and
Chapel. The latter, together with several adits and collapsed stopes further
to the north east, all of which are some distance to the south east of the
core of the mining operations, are not included in the scheduling.
An estate map of 1766, the earliest cartographic record of the Snailbeach
landscape, indicates that a number of shafts had been sunk by this date in the
western part of the site (in the vicinity of Old Engine Shaft), and on a
north-south alignment beneath the present White Tip. The latter are believed
to be a series of exploration shafts used to locate the main vein and,
although now overlaid by White Tip, they, together with any associated
structures, will survive as buried features.
By 1797 mining had reached a depth of approximately 80m and the company was
employing a Boulton and Watt engine to pump the workings dry, probably through
Old Engine Shaft. A number of structures associated with this shaft remain
standing, including the ruins of a late 18th century building situated to the
west of the shaft. It is thought to be the earliest standing structure at
Snailbeach and is important for understanding the early development of this
part of the site. The building is square in plan and has a thickened east
wall, suggesting that it originally functioned as an engine house with the
east wall acting as a pivot point for the beam of a pumping engine serving Old
Engine Shaft. By the mid 19th-century this building formed part of a
blacksmith's shop complex, the main block of which retains many internal
fixtures and fittings, including bellows, a water tank, tools and workboxes.
The blacksmith's shop is Listed Grade II and is included in the scheduling.
Other structures grouped around Old Engine Shaft include a winding engine
house, erected in 1872 when the shaft was deepened, the miner changing house
or barracks, built in the 1870s, and an early 20th century boiler house. The
stone-built engine house is a Grade II Listed Building and is included in the
scheduling. It originally contained a horizontal steam winder and is believed
to have replaced the earlier engine house when the shaft was deepened in the
1870s. To the west of this structure are the earthwork remains of a small pond
which was excavated in the late 18th or early 19th century to provide a water
supply to the boilers.
Approximately 120m to the south of Old Engine Shaft, on the upper slopes of
Resting Hill, is a second shaft, known as Engine Shaft, and its associated
surface remains which constitute a set of well preserved mine components and
are included in the scheduling. Engine Shaft is believed to have been sunk in
the 1790s and was used for pumping water out of the mine and for winding. To
the east of the shaft are the remains of a mid-19th century winding engine
house (a Grade II Listed Building) and its boiler house, and to the west are
the ruins of the three-storey pumping engine house. This building was erected
in 1858 and housed a 61' Cornish engine which replaced an existing flatrod
system of drainage. It is also Listed Grade II and is included in the
scheduling. Approximately 1km to the north west of Snailbeach mine are the
ruins and earthwork remains of the earlier flatrod drainage system, replaced
by Engine Shaft, which are situated at the head of Wagbeach Adit. It operated
between c.1795 and 1858 and is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The lead ore was not raised to the surface via Engine Shaft, but was removed
from the underground workings by a tramway along the Day Level, an adit which
connects Engine Shaft with the ore processing area and dressing floors on the
valley floor. The portal for this adit is dated 1848 and is visible at the
base of the hill, immediately to the east of the miners' barracks. Following
the construction of the Snailbeach District Railway in 1877, an inclined plane
was built between Engine Shaft and the new rail system on the valley floor.
The upper half of the incline survives as a raised linear earthwork, but its
lower section has been cut away for new housing in the last decade. An 1872
map of the site indicates that, prior to the construction of the incline the
carefully constructed track which currently provides access to Engine Shaft
and its buildings was the principal means of access to this area, and this was
used again following the abandonment of the incline.
Black Tom Shaft is situated approximately 160m north east of Old Engine Shaft.
Mine working was being undertaken in this area prior to 1820, and the original
Black Tom Shaft is thought to be the same as a shaft shown in this vicinity on
the 1766 estate map. Thereafter the area is believed to have remained a centre
of mining activity, and during the late 19th and early 20th centuries barytes
mining and treatment was concentrated here. Map evidence indicates that a
horse-gin for winding was employed at Black Tom during the mid-19th century
and, although there are no surface remains of the gin, it will survive as a
buried feature to the south of the shaft. The extant winding engine house is
thought to date from the use of Black Tom, from 1900, for mining barytes. It
is of timber construction and is included in the scheduling. Surface features
associated with the treatment of the barytes are visible to the north west of
Black Tom Shaft where an ore dressing plant was located from c.1900. This area
is defined by low earthworks which seem to form a grid pattern, and includes
concrete plinths and a jig and spiral classifier which are included in the
scheduling. To the east of Black Tom Shaft is an adit which dates from pre-
1900 and includes a stone-lined tunnel vault running back into a collapsed
The line of a tramway leading out of the adit towards Black Tom Shaft is
traceable on the ground and rails are in situ within the tunnel and included
in the scheduling.
In 1863 the mine's old smelt mill at Pontesford was abandoned in favour of a
new reverbatory mill completed the previous year. This new mill is located
some 0.8km to the north west of the mine and is the subject of a separate
scheduling. The two were connected by a tramway which transported the dressed
ore from the ore house situated immediately to the south east of White Tip, to
the smelter. The ore house is a rectangular, stone building which is thought
to have been erected between 1864 and 1869 when the dressing floors within the
core area of the mine were remodelled, and the dressed ore was stored here
prior to its being transported to the smelt mill. It is a Grade II Listed
building which is now in use as a Baptist church and therefore not included in
the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.
The new smelt mill to the north west had a partly buried flue, approximately
1km in length, which ran across the mine site up to Resting Hill where the
fumes, together with the smoke from the Engine Shaft boilers, were discharged
via a chimney. The present chimney, which is Listed Grade II and included in
the scheduling, was erected in 1885 following the collapse of the original
chimney. The flue ran for part of its length in a trench below ground level
but it remains visible between the chimney and the track leading to Engine
Shaft. It can also be traced intermittently in the northern part of the site,
close to Black Tom Shaft, and where it crosses White Tip it is thought to
survive as a buried feature. Maps of the mine from 1864 to 1901 show a group
of four buildings to the south west of Black Tom Shaft which are believed to
date from the construction of the smelter flue in c.1862. On the 1872 map the
most northerly building is marked as the `condensing house' and lies on the
line of the flue. Although there is no surface evidence for these buildings
they will survive as buried features.
The core area of the mine, to the north and east of Old Engine Shaft, retains
the highest density of standing and buried remains of Snailbeach mine and from
the late 18th century onwards it served as the main ore processing area. On
emerging at the surface the ore was tipped down chutes leading to the dressing
floors where it was crushed and separated. The crusher house complex is
situated 35m to the east of Old Engine Shaft. Although the bulk of this
complex is thought to date from between 1847 and 1864, the foundations of
earlier buildings which are marked on tithe maps in this location are believed
to survive as buried features. The crusher house is a square structure with
walls standing up to 2m high. The crushing engine is believed to have been
reconstructed in 1873 and, in 1876, was connected to new jiggers to save on
labour costs. The north wall of the associated engine house incorporates a
circular opening for the drive to the crusher house and a circular recess for
a flywheel. The crusher house itself is Listed Grade II and, together with the
rest of this complex, is included in the scheduling. To the south west are the
ruins of a late 19th century compressor house, and its boiler house and
chimney. It originally contained two Siemens and Edwards compressors which
provided compressed air for rock drills and winches underground. The
compressor house and its adjacent chimney are Listed Grade II and, together
with the ruins of its boiler house, are included in the scheduling.
After the ore had been crushed it was then taken to the dressing floors to be
separated by means of an assortment of buddles and jiggers. The mineral
dressing floors situated to the north of the crushing house complex underwent
several periods of remodelling during their use. The dressing floors at the
southern edge of White Tip are marked on the 1838 tithe map at which time they
included two buildings and a semi-circular yard area. Parts of the mine are
believed to have been reorganised in 1848, at the time of the construction of
the Day Level, and after this date the dressing area was considerably larger,
extending south beyond the present approach road to the mine. The floor was
again remodelled in the 1870s and maps after this date show a rectangular
enclosure incorporating several buildings, a length of tramway, two circular
buddles and a waterwheel in this area. The ruins which remain visible at the
southern edge of White Tip are thought to date from the late 19th century and
the remains of earlier structures will survive as buried features. A second
dressing floor, dating from the mid-19th century, is situated between the road
and the crusher house. Map and photographic evidence indicates that it also
underwent a number of alterations between 1864 and 1901. With the exception of
traces of timberwork, there is little surface evidence for the dressing floor
itself, but buried features, including circular buddles which are shown on
early maps, will survive here. At the end of the dressing processes, the ore
was taken by tram via a tunnel beneath the road to the ore house for storage.
Sections of the tram rails remain in situ on the northern edge of this
dressing floor and are included in the scheduling.
The core area retains the ruins, earthworks and buried remains of further
significant features associated with operation of the mine. These include the
ruins of the manager's office and the locomotive shed (a Grade II Listed
Building), and the foundations of the site office, the weighbridge and
buildings associated with the carpenter's yard located to the north east of
the crusher house. The locomotive shed was built in c.1877 as part of the
Snailbeach District Railway to accommodate two locomotives. Map evidence
indicates that it stands within an area previously occupied by two buildings,
each with a semi-circular yard area, which have been described as dressing
floors. The remains of these structures will survive as buried features and
provide evidence of early 19th century ore dressing at the site. To the south
east of the mine's core area is the substantially intact candle house,
together with the plot in which it is set and its approach roads. The powder
magazine is located to the north east of the candle house (a Grade II Listed
Building); it has a double skin of walling and was constructed in 1863. These
structures are included in the scheduling.
In 1872 a reservoir was constructed to the east of the core area as a solution
to the mine's water shortage problems. The 1864 map of the site shows a large
spoil heap in this area which is thought to have been used to construct the
reservoir dam. The dam was originally fed from a stream to the south east of
Snailbeach by means of a leat. The route of this leat, consisting of open
channels and pipes along different parts of its length, can still be traced. A
60m length of the leat, where it enters the reservoir, is included in the
scheduling in order to preserve the relationship between the two features. The
reservoir valve house is located immediately to the west of the dam and is a
low, earth-covered structure of brick and stone. Internally, it retains a
section of the main scour pipe and the valve and is included in the
scheduling. The overflow channel for the reservoir runs from the north western
end of the dam to join a second channel leading from the valve house. This
combined channel runs beneath the track that leads to the eastern part of the
mine, and then curves westwards and connects with a pond. This small reservoir
is marked on the 1766 map of the site and is thought to have originally
supplied water for the dressing floors and the boilers. It is believed to be
the earliest visible feature on the site and lies to the east of the
carpenters' yard.
Further up the valley, to the south east of the reservoir, is a short adit,
Perkin's Level, which dates from c.1820. It was an important access point into
the eastern part of the mine and gave access to a subsidiary vein from which
barytes was excavated by the late 19th century. To the north of Perkin's Level
is an area of earthworks, including a platform and an embankment of earth and
stone, and spoil heaps which are associated with the working of Perkin's
Level. A second adit, marked as an `Old Level' on the 1901 Ordnance Survey
map, is situated approximately 40m to the north east and is also included in
the scheduling. The area between the 1872 reservoir and Perkin's Level is the
site of a mid-20th century ore processing plant which was erected to separate
calcite from the barytes and is included in the scheduling. The plant consists
of a collapsed timber-built shed, with a corrugated iron roof, and was powered
by a steam engine driving the shaft through pulleys, one of which still
remains. A short length of tramway extends north from the shed, and a second
length runs east. Close to the shed are the remains of several kibbles, a jaw
crusher, iron piping and a heap of barytes.
The waste material both from the processing plants and the underground
workings was transported by tram to the spoil heaps which now form a
distinctive feature of the western approach to the site. From at least 1872 a
tramway ran from the Day Level to the spoil heap situated to the west of Old
Engine Shaft and sections of the tramway bed remain visible. The construction
of the branch line from the Snailbeach District Railway into the mine in 1877
involved making a cutting through this spoil and a bridge (which is also
included in the scheduling) was erected over the cutting in order to retain
the tramway. A further tramway ran between the dressing floors and White Tip
and is believed to survive as a buried feature. White Tip holds a considerable
volume of waste material from the mine and from the processing works. Most of
the area it now covers was established between 1838 and 1864. From 1911 a
Halvans (the Cornish term for waste material) Company was formed to work the
waste heaps and to extract barytes from the upper levels of the mine mainly
via Black Tom Shaft. At the south western edge of White Tip are the ruins of
the company's engine house. It was erected in c.1900 and housed a steam engine
used to drive the tip-reprocessing plant. The interior of the building retains
the foundations for the cylinder together with the flywheel pit and is
included in the scheduling. Map evidence indicates that several generations of
spar (quartz and calcite chips) processing plant were sited on White Tip and
these will survive as buried features.
The ore house (a Grade II Listed Building), number 19 and number 8 Snailbeach
and their associated outbuildings which occupy the area around Black Tom Shaft
and the early reservoir, the farm buildings to the east of this shaft, the
road bridge across the former Snailbeach District Railway to the west of White
Tip, the electricity and telegraph poles, fence posts, sign posts, modern
walling and the surfaces of all roads and pathways are excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground beneath all 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 wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of
nucleated lead mines also included ore works, where the mixture of ore and
waste rock extracted from the ground was separated ('dressed') to form a
smeltable concentrate. The range of processes used can be summarised as:
picking out of clean lumps of ore and waste; breaking down of lumps to smaller
sizes (either by manual hammering or mechanical crushing); sorting of broken
material by size; separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in
a tub of water ('jigging'); and separation of finer material by washing away
the lighter waste in a current of water ('buddling'). The field remains of ore
works vary widely and include the remains of crushing devices, separating
structures and tanks, tips of distinctive waste from the various processes,
together with associated water supply and power installations, such as wheel
pits and, more rarely, steam engine houses.
The majority of nucleated lead mines with ore works are of 18th to 20th
century date, earlier mining being normally by rake or hush and including
scattered ore dressing features (a 'hush' is a gully or ravine partly
excavated by use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein
of mineral ore). Nucleated lead mines 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 many upland landscapes. It is estimated that several thousand
sites exist, the majority being small mines of limited importance, although
the important early remains of many larger mines have often been greatly
modified or destroyed by continued working or by modern reworking. A sample of
the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and
technological range of the class, is considered to merit protection.

Snailbeach mine ranks as one of the best surviving examples of a lead mining
complex. It retains a remarkable concentration of ruined structures which
preserve evidence for an evolving sequence of mining techniques from the late
18th century through to the 20th century and, together with earthworks and
buried remains, illustrates the whole surface history of the industry during
that period. Many of the structures survive particularly well and form a
large group illustrating the mine's general layout during its period of peak
production in the 19th century. Ore processing works are less well represented
nationally, but archaeological surveys and documentary evidence have
indicated that buried remains will survive here, particularly beneath White
Tip, and the survival of extensive spoil tips is itself unusual.
The Snailbeach complex has been recognised as being the best preserved of the
Shropshire lead mining sites. Distinct regional variations in mining practice
were recognisable until the beginning of the 19th century, and the early
remains at Snailbeach, such as the 18th century winding engine house at Old
Engine Shaft and the early exploratory shafts and their associated structures,
are therefore particularly valuable examples.
There is a considerable archive of documentary material relating to the
history of lead mining at Snailbeach, including information on site ownership,
management, output and employment and this, too, enhances the value of the
site. The mine serves as an important educational resource and many of the
surface remains are now accessible to the general public.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Brook, F, Allbutt, M, The Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 65
Brook, F, Allbutt, M, The Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 67
Brown, I J, Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study, (1984), 18
Lancaster University Archaeology Unit, , Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study - Archaeological Survey Volume II, (1990), 15
Lancaster University Archaeology Unit, , Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study - Archaeological Survey Volume II, (1990), 17-18
Lancaster University Archaeology Unit, , Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study - Archaeological Survey Volume II, (1990), 37
Lancaster University Archaeology Unit, , Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study - Archaeological Survey Volume II, (1990), 3-4
Lancaster University Archaeology Unit, , Snailbeach Mine Stage 2 Study - Archaeological Survey Volume II, (1990), 27-8
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire, (1968), 322-3

Source: Historic England

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