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Lead mine and ore works at Greenhead Gill, Grasmere

A Scheduled Monument in Lakes, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4688 / 54°28'7"N

Longitude: -3.0048 / 3°0'17"W

OS Eastings: 334971.43862

OS Northings: 508620.405766

OS Grid: NY349086

Mapcode National: GBR 7JGR.8V

Mapcode Global: WH81Z.TY91

Entry Name: Lead mine and ore works at Greenhead Gill, Grasmere

Scheduled Date: 8 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015651

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27748

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Lakes

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Grasmere St Oswald

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the remains of a 16th century lead mine located in
the narrow valley of Greenhead Gill between the confluences of Grains Gill and
Rowantree Gill with Greenhead Gill. There are two areas about 140m apart on
the east side of Greenhead Gill where the ground is relatively flat and here
are found remains of stone buildings and walls. Associated with these
structures are a leat, a washing floor, a mine shaft, an adit - that is a
horizontal tunnel driven into the hillside for access to the mineral vein or
to drain water from the mine, two bridge abutments, and a number of square
depressions in the ground which are thought to be the site of box buddles
which housed apparatus for separating ore from the veinstone.
The northernmost building measures approximately 3m square internally with
walls of drystone construction up to 1.4m high. A short distance to the south
west is a second building measuring c.4.7m by 3.4m with a doorway at the south
east end of the east wall. The walls are up to 1m high except for that at the
north end which is slightly taller and might have been gabled. This second
building stands close to the gill and between it and the stream on the west
there is a wall up to 1.2m high which continues at an obtuse angle to the
south of the building. Other walls can be seen to the south and east of this
second building and may represent the remains of a larger building within
which this second building was latterly constructed. Alternatively some of
these walls may have been constructed to protect the second building from
flooding when the gill was in spate. Between these two buildings at the
northern end of the complex is a sloping patch of ground covered with broken
veinstone of irregular size; this is a washing or dressing floor where the
reduction and sorting of veinstone into grades suitable for further processing
took place. A cutting running diagonally across the fellside down towards the
two buildings marks the course of a leat which brought water from Rowantree
Gill to power a water mill which is known from documentary sources to have
provided the power for a stamp mill and box buddles during the 16th century. A
short distance below the larger of the two northern buildings, and adjacent to
the gill, is a square depression c.1.5m across which is thought to be the site
of a box buddle and depressions further down the gill may mark the site of
other box buddles. On the west side of the gill opposite the northern
buildings are some small open cast workings and two shafts one of which, St
Benedict's, is mentioned in company account books for 1569. A short distance
south of these workings and close to the second of the two northern buildings
are the remains of two low stone pillars, one either side of the gill. These
are interpreted as bridge abutments. Downstream at the southern end of the
complex are fragments of substantial walls up to 1.2m high located on
irregular terracing covering an area measuring c.20m by 11m. None of these
walls now form a complete building outline and they appear to have been
considerably disturbed. Close by on the west side of Greenhead Gill there is a
partly blocked drilled level running into the hillside.
Documentary sources indicate that German miners and engineers began work at
Grasmere in 1564, however, this may relate to a smithy nearby rather than at
the mines themselves where work may not have started until later in the
decade. Galena and gangue were mined here until 1573 when the mine closed
down. An inventory of all property at Grasmere drawn up by the Company of
Mines Royal in 1586 indicates that the main building was a stamphouse
measuring 36 feet by 31 feet with a waterwheel, 12 stamps, and a loft to sleep
the workmen. There was also a small room behind the loft - possibly sleeping
quarters or an office. Another small building with a slated roof is also
mentioned at the complex. Other features described include 11 square box
buddles sunk into the ground, three supports for the launder to the
waterwheel, and a `rowle wagon servinge for within the Mynes' which suggests
use of an underground wagonway by the German miners.
The drilled level at the southern end of the complex indicates some work has
been carried out here since the 16th century and the second building at the
northern end of the complex may belong to an unrecorded mining venture
possibly undertaken in the early years of the 19th century.

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.

Despite some unrecorded small scale later mineworking, the 16th century
nucleated lead mine at Greenhead Gill survives reasonably well. The monument
contains the remains of a range of integral components such as shafts, open
cast workings, buildings, buddles, bridge abutments, a dressing floor and a
leat, and remains one of the few relatively undisturbed Elizabethan lead
mining complexes in existence.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bridge, D, Matheson, I, 'The Mine Explorer' in The Elizabethan Lead Mine at Greenhead Gill, Grassmere, , Vol. IV, (1994), 108-119

Source: Historic England

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