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Whitesike and Bentyfield lead mines and ore works

A Scheduled Monument in Alston Moor, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.7772 / 54°46'38"N

Longitude: -2.383 / 2°22'58"W

OS Eastings: 375461.3642

OS Northings: 542546.9839

OS Grid: NY754425

Mapcode National: GBR CFS6.W8

Mapcode Global: WH922.C6H1

Entry Name: Whitesike and Bentyfield lead mines and ore works

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015832

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29012

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Alston Moor

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Alston Moor

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument is situated either side of Garrigill Burn and is crossed by the
B6277 Alston to Middleton road. The monument includes the core surviving
remains of a pair of 19th century nucleated lead mines with their associated
ore works, together with a culvert which allows the burn to pass under a large
spoil heap. Also included within the scheduling are all deposits of mining and
dressing wastes. The dispersed air and winding shafts that extend from the
burn up the fellside to the south east, together with the various dams and
other water management features associated with the mines, are not included
in the scheduling. These features are widely dispersed and form part of a
much more extensive mining landscape.
It is thought that Bentyfield and Whitesike mines, which were linked by a
tramway, now used as a footpath, on the north side of the Garrigill Burn,
were worked in close association with each other with Whitesikes being a
London Lead Company mine and Bentyfield partly worked by London Lead and
partly by the Alston Moor Company. Bentyfield Mine worked the vein of the same
name which is approximately marked at the surface by the course of Garrigill
Burn. A level was driven for 518m along the vein and the mine yielded 4868
tons of lead concentrate (processed ore ready for smelting) between 1848 and
1882 with 7.6oz of silver per ton of lead recovered between 1854 and 1875. The
main level for the Whitesikes Mine was Brown Gill Low Level which was driven
eastwards along Old Groves Cross Vein to reach Brown Gill Vein after 671m,
with the workings eventually joining those driven southwards from Nenthead
somewhere below Longholehead Whimsey Shaft. This shaft, which retains evidence
of a horse gin circle, used to power winding machinery, lies 2km to the east
and is the subject of a separate scheduling. A second level to Whitesike Mine,
Colonel's Level, lies to the east of Bentyfield Mine. The whole of Whitesikes
produced 7322 tons of lead concentrate between 1848 and 1882, with a yield of
7oz of silver per ton in the 1860s.
A low finger tip of spoil extends from Colonel's Level westwards and across
the stream to stop a few metres short of the intact portal of Bentyfield Level
which was driven north westwards from just above the bank of the burn. The
ruined remains of a two storey mineshop (lodging house for miners) survives
10m to the west. This square building stands nearly to eaves level on the
south side, but only to c.2m on the north side. Across the burn there are the
earthwork remains of a number of shafts sunk into the rising ground. These
workings are thought to pre-date the two nucleated mines. A leat crossing this
area leads to the ruined remains of a wheelpit. Lying on the south bank, and
truncated by stream erosion, c.90m west of the mineshop, this wheelpit would
have held a waterwheel powering a crushing mill used to break up the ore prior
to processing on the dressing floor which lies just to the west. This too has
been damaged by stream erosion, however a c.17m by 3m area remains, retaining
stratified deposits 1.5m-2m deep. Timbers exposed by the stream indicate
that well preserved remains will survive in situ.
Extending from opposite the mineshop westwards for 200m, there is a mine spoil
heap that rises to over 5m high. The collapsed remains of a third level lie a
further 40m to the west of the spoil heap on the south side of the burn with a
tramway running south westwards to the Whitesikes ore works. The portal to
Brown Gill Low Level is intact and gated, and lies at the east end of the ore
works, c.150m north east of the road. It is still issuing water and has the
grassed over earthwork remains of three small buildings at its entrance,
surviving up to 1m high. Immediately to the north of these remains there are
spreads of jigger waste (gravel sized ore processing waste) across a small
dressing area and c.10m to the west there is a 2m high revetment wall defining
a c.60m by 20m dressing area. This second dressing area retains evidence of
timbers, iron pipes and other features and is considered to retain important
in situ remains of 19th century ore processing equipment. The revetment wall
on the south side of this area is divided into nine bouse teams (storage bays
for unprocessed ore), the side walls of which survive as footings. To the west
there is another lower revetted area forming a third dressing floor. This 40m
by 15m area also retains waterlogged deposits with in situ metal and timber
work and is considered to retain the remains of ore processing equipment.
Built into the southern revetment of this area are the intact remains of a
single wash kiln. This stone built structure, 2m in diameter and tapering
towards the base, was functionally similar to a bouse team, but allowed the
unprocessed ore to be washed with water to remove mud. To the south west of
the lowest dressing floor a large spoil heap of dressing wastes rises to over
25m. This heap is estimated to contain over 60,000 tons of material and
carries the B6277 over Garrigill Burn, the burn passing under the heap through
a 3m wide arched culvert.
All drystone field walls and modern fences are excluded from the scheduling,
as is the surface and foundations of the B6277 that passes over the spoil heap
at the western end of the site, although the ground beneath all of 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.

The dressing floors of Whitesike and Bentyfield ore works retain especially
deep stratified deposits including areas that are waterlogged. Waterlogged
deposits create anaerobic conditions which are ideal for the preservation of
organic materials, such as wood and leather. Nationally important remains of
19th century ore processing equipment are considered to survive within these
deposits, which will provide very valuable information about ore processing
technology. The two linked mines form typical examples of mid-19th century
mine complexes and as they are crossed by a footpath, they are an educational
resource and public amenity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dunham, K C, 'Tyne to Stainmore' in Geology of the Northern Pennine Orefield, , Vol. Vol 1, (1990), indexed

Source: Historic England

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