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Lead mines, ore works and smeltmill at Nenthead

A Scheduled Monument in Alston Moor, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.7818 / 54°46'54"N

Longitude: -2.3484 / 2°20'54"W

OS Eastings: 377688.395

OS Northings: 543048.8209

OS Grid: NY776430

Mapcode National: GBR DF14.CM

Mapcode Global: WH922.W2WH

Entry Name: Lead mines, ore works and smeltmill at Nenthead

Scheduled Date: 2 April 1982

Last Amended: 6 August 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015858

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28906

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 includes the structural, earthwork and other remains of the
Nenthead mines, ore works and smeltmill. The monument, falling within two
areas, lies at the head of the Nent Burn, south west and south east of
Nenthead village on Alston Moor.
The first documented mining activity on Alston Moor dates from the 12th
century and it is thought that exploitation was originally on a relatively
small and intermittent scale up to the 17th century. Major ore extraction
appears to have begun at Nenthead in the 17th century with the discovery of
the Rampgill Vein in 1690. It became one of the main mining areas of the
London Lead Company by the mid-18th century. They consolidated their leases as
production peaked in the 1820s, and this was subsequently followed by gradual
decline until 1882 when the company gave up the last of its Nenthead leases.
These were sold to the Nenthead and Tynedale Zinc Company, who were in turn
succeeded by the Veille Montagne Zinc Company in 1896. As these names suggest,
the focus of mining shifted from lead to zinc over this period. Intermittent
production continued until 1963, latterly reprocessing the old waste tips for
Standing and buried remains of the early mining operations at Nenthead are
situated immediately south of Nenthead village at the Rampgill Horse Level
which was begun in 1690. The level portal survives intact and measures up to
1.2m wide and 2m high, with walls of roughly coursed stone rubble and a roof
of flat stone slabs. The adjacent early 19th century building complex, which
includes a woodstore, smithy, workshops and other buildings with associated
walled yards, extends 110m to the south east. The workshop building, situated
to south of the level, is `L'-shaped and consists of a south west range
measuring 26m by 7m, and a narrow south east range measuring 12m by 3.6m. The
building is of a single build and is constructed of neat roughly-coursed
sandstone masonry. The woodstore situated to the south east consists of two
main phases. The original building was 25m by 5.8m but was later extended to
38m long. The walls of the building are of well-laid thin sandstone slabs with
the notable exception of the north east side which consists of a row of cast
iron pillars, supporting a timber lintel, in three sections, along the length
of the building. The buildings are included within the scheduling and were
surveyed in 1994 prior to their conversion to modern workshop units and
interpretative centre. The remains of the Rampgill dressing floors are
considered to survive as buried deposits to the north west of the level
entrance and are included within the scheduling. Approximately 220m north east
of Rampgill Level are the earthwork and buried remains of Brewery Shaft and an
associated spoil tip which was sunk to provide ventilation for this level. It
is included in the scheduling, within a second area of protection, to preserve
its relationship with Rampgill Level.
A small stamp mill lies immediately south east of the Rampgill Level and
contains the remains of the timber framework for a set of Cornish stamps
(iron-shod timbers vertically operated by cams on a water-powered axle which
were used to pulverise ore into finer particles) introduced in 1796. The
framework survives as a substantial timber and stone base, from which two
timber posts project upwards, with the remains of the inlet funnel and outlet
chute. A ruined single storey building, measuring 7.7m by 3.3m, lies on the
north side. The stamps themselves were removed to a museum in the early
1980s. In addition, a waste tip of fine material lies a short distance to the
west, a wheelpit, measuring 0.95m wide by 6.15m long , is visible to the south
east, and numerous culverts cross the site. The remainder of the stamps area
has been affected by later reprocessing though it is considered to retain
important buried remains and is thus included within the scheduling.
The site of the Nenthead smeltmill is located a short distance south east of
the stamps area. The first mill was built in 1737 but redesigned in 1745 when
the London Lead Company purchased the site. Most of the smeltmill buildings
were intact until about 1970 when much of the site was demolished for its
building material. However, a number of structures remain and three buildings
survive largely intact. The most notable survival is the spine wall, 1.7m
thick and surviving up to 6.4m high, which carried the flue from the hearths
and furnaces. Three arched passageways through the wall remain together with
many structural features. The flue for the smeltmill, which survives as two
parallel banks of rubble for much of its length, extends 1.1km south eastwards
to the collapsed remains of a chimney. In 1843 a Stagg condenser was added,
powered by a large waterwheel. Significant remains of the condenser, which was
used to precipitate lead oxide in water, are thought to survive as buried
features and its site is marked on the surface by a rectangular spread of
rubble 20m long by 10m wide. The associated wheelpit, measuring 16m by 2m by
5m deep, survives well and is of coursed squared sandstone rubble with an
unusual upward extension and a crenulated top to the south wall. South west of
the smeltmill, a cobbled and stone flagged surface marks the position of a
building. This is thought to be the remains of the early, pre-London Lead
Company smeltmill. A ruined series of bingsteads (storage bays for lead ore)
are situated just to the east.
The assay house, situated west of the smeltmill, is the best preserved
building within the site. It is of two storeys, with a slabstone hipped roof
and a large central chimney, and measures 15m by 6m externally. The two
buildings south of the assay house are considered to have been mineshops
(lodging houses for miners). The site of the Old Carrs Level, worked from
before 1737 until at least 1772, lies 150m south east of the smeltmill. The
site includes the Old Carrs Level arched portal which is collapsed for the
first 4m, two spoil tips and a building known as Carr's Shop. The building is
single storey with surviving roof timbers and an internal fireplace. Evidence
of an associated tramway shown on a mid-19th century map will survive as
buried deposits.
The monument also includes the surface remains of mining near Firestone Level,
NNE of the smeltmill. The roughly coursed arched portal of the level survives
and measures 1.3m wide by 2m high. The area below the level includes a large
sub-rectangular spoil tip, measuring approximately 90m by 50m, situated within
an area of shafts. A continuous line of shafts follows the Brigal Burn Vein
across the modern road above the level and extends as far as Low Whimsey near
Scaleburn Bridge on the modern Allenheads road. This area forms part of a
continuation of the core area of mining features and is included within the
scheduling. Mining features beyond the road north eastwards to High Whimsey
and also from High Whimsey to Slate Hill, are less well preserved and do not
add significantly to the understanding of the monument and are thus not
included within the scheduling.
The Smallcleugh dressing floors are situated south east of the smeltmill, on
the right bank of the Nent Burn. The remains of three buildings are visible,
together with the remains of other ruined structures including a wheelpit,
machine bed and settling tanks. The west edge of the dressing floors, which
overlook the burn, contains a number of timber and stone structures exposed up
to 1m below modern ground surface. This indicates that the extensive spreads
of dressing wastes retain additional buried features.
The remains of a core area of the Shawside workings on the left bank of
the Nent Burn, to the west of the Smallcleugh dressing floors, are also
included within the scheduling. The workings, which includes shafts, levels
and small hushes, are considered to have 17th century origins. The mining
features, which extend south eastward to the confluence of Old Carr Burns,
Middle Cleugh and Long Cleugh Burns which merge to form the River Nent, also
includes the remains of three buildings, a small holding dam, large spoil tips
and a well preserved stone lined leat to the south west.
The monument also includes the remains of the Middlecleugh mine. The
level, begun soon after 1758, is situated near the confluence Middle
Cleugh and Long Cleugh Burns. The portal is now buried though its
location can be located at the end of a road way crossing the Middle Cleugh
Burn, which flows through a culvert at this point. The remains of the
Middlecleugh mineshop, which survives to eaves height on three sides, lies
to the north west. A second building lies to the north at the confluence of
the Nent and Old Carr Burns. The building, which is still roofed, was built
by the Veille Montagne Zinc Company to house an hydraulic compressor
fed by a substantial pipeway from Perry's Dam 1km to the south. A sample
length of the pipeway, which lies on top of a substantial spoil tip to the
south, is included within the scheduling. A bridge situated to the west of
the compressor house contains an unusual sluicing arrangement and is also
included within the scheduling.
Extensive clusters of shaft mining features situated south of Middle Cleugh,
including Coulsons Level, Atkins Level and Hopes Shaft, many of which show
signs of later reworking for fluorspar, do not significantly add to the
understanding of the monument and are not included within the scheduling.
The remains of an extensive water management system, namely leats, culverts,
and the well preserved remains of substantial dams are also included in the
scheduling. The Smallcleugh Reservoir, built in 1820, lies south east of the
smelt mill above the Smallcleugh dressing floors and was fed by a leat from
the Rampgill Burn and later, at least in part, by a leat from the Firestone
Level. The pond is retained behind a crescent-shaped flat-topped earthen dam,
which stands 4m high, with sluicing arrangement at the north end and an
overflow arrangement at the south end. Two smaller dams at Low Capelcleugh
Level and to the east of the Rampgill workshops are also included within the
scheduling. Perry's Dam situated 1.3km to the south, which supplied the later
hydraulic system, is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The south west part of the monument is formed by the Dowgang hush. Its origin
is unknown though it is known to have been working in 1773. A number of shafts
and at least two levels lie along its course.
The monument also includes the remains of transport features such as tramways
and roadways. It is thought that part of the Rampgill Level and Old Carrs
Level tramways, which linked the levels with their dressing floors, will
survive as buried deposit. The remains of the tramway connecting the
Smallcleugh Level with its dressing floor on the opposite side of the burn
survives as a number of ruined revetments. In addition, the London Lead
Company constructed a number of roadways within the area of protection, many
of which remain in use, such as the main track leading through the site.
All drystone boundary walls, fenceposts, road surfaces and modern service
features are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is

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 Nenthead mining complex is regarded as the most intact mining landscape
within the North Pennines. The main importance of the site lies in the
unusually high level of preservation not only of the obvious features such as
the buildings and dams, but also the network of roadways built by the London
Lead Company. The wide range of mining features provide an important resource
for the study of the developments in mining technology in the 18th and 19th
centuries, particularly the development of deep mining based on long adits
(levels). The monument also preserves a good example of the
inter-relationships between the mining features, buildings and water
managements system.
Ore hearth smeltmills were introduced in the 16th century and continued to
develop until the late 19th century. They were the normal type of lead smelter
until the 18th century when they were partly replaced by the reverberatory
smeltmill. The ore hearth itself consisted of a low open hearth in which lead
ore was mixed with fuel. An air blast was supplied by bellows, normally
operated by waterwheel; more sophisticated arrangements were used at some 19th
century sites. Early sites were typically small and simple buildings with one
or two hearths, whereas late 18th and 19th century smeltmills (like Nenthead)
were often large complexes containing several ore and slag hearths, furnaces,
and sometimes complex flues, condensers and chimneys for recovering lead from
the fumes given off from the various hearths and furnaces.
The remains of the Nenthead smeltmill complex, including the assay house, are
an important source of evidence for the interpretation of 18th and 19th
century developments in smelting technology. Despite damage in c.1970,
substantial structural and processing evidence remains. The site also contains
the remains of the rare Stagg condenser with its unusual crenallated wheelpit.
In addition, the lack of ground disturbance indicates that buried deposits
will also survive.
A considerable archive of early photographs of many features of the site also
exists. It is accessible to the public and is a valuable educational resource.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 4-10
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 2
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 2
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Fairbairn, R A, 'British Mining' in The Mines of Alston Moor, (1993), 60-80
Fairbairn, R A, 'British Mining' in The Mines of Alston Moor, (1993), 178-182
Dennison, E, Nenthead Lead Mining Complex: Draft Management Plan, (1995)
Dennison, E, Nenthead Lead Mining Complex: Draft Management Plan, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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