Ancient Monuments

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Site of Ravensworth coalmill, 600m north east of Ravensworth Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Lamesley, Gateshead

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Latitude: 54.9282 / 54°55'41"N

Longitude: -1.6304 / 1°37'49"W

OS Eastings: 423782.008297

OS Northings: 559344.363285

OS Grid: NZ237593

Mapcode National: GBR KC1G.T5

Mapcode Global: WHC3X.XDS9

Entry Name: Site of Ravensworth coalmill, 600m north east of Ravensworth Castle

Scheduled Date: 14 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015922

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21662

County: Gateshead

Civil Parish: Lamesley

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Lamesley

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument is situated approximately 600m north east of Ravensworth Castle
within the parishes of Lamesley and Gateshead, and includes the earthwork and
buried remains of the site of a coalmill, its water management system and the
standing and buried remains of a 19th century sawmill and the adjacent
wheelpit. Although coal pits are known to have existed within the manor of
Ravensworth since the 14th century, coal was not exploited on any large scale
until the early 17th century when the Ravensworth estate was held by the
Liddell family. Documentary records indicate that during the mid to late 17th
century Sir Thomas Liddell planned a large scale redevelopment of his
colliery, combining a waggon way from the mines to staiths on the River Team
with a complex pumping scheme to drain an area of almost 100ha in the low-
lying Team Valley and on the slopes of the ridge overlooking it. A coalmill
was installed to the north east of Ravensworth Castle and a long and
circuitous leat, known as The Trench, was constructed to provide sufficient
water to power the necessary pumps at the coalmill. The leat channelled the
water to a series of three interlinked waterwheels at the site which drove a
battery of pumps located in several connected shafts, operating them by timber
transmission shafts and cog-and-rung gearing. The Ravensworth coalmill was in
operation for some 70 years, but following the introduction of Newcomen
engines in the early 18th century which could drain mine workings to a greater
depth, it soon became an outdated system and by c.1750 the coalmill had ceased
to operate.
The coalmill site occupies a narrow side valley and is approximately 250m from
east to west. The ground level falls away towards the eastern part of the site
which is some 25m lower than the highest point to the west. The Trench is
approximately 3km in length and was fed from the Black Burn, which bounded the
Ravensworth estate to the north, approaching the coalmill site from the north
west. It now serves as a field drain for most of its length and has been
partly recut and is not included in the scheduling. The Trench enters a
rectangular holding pond, which is now mostly dry, in the western part of the
site. A low dam of earth, masonry and brick defines the eastern side of the
pond, beyond which are the earthwork remains of the leat that originally
supplied water-power to the coalmill. A sluice would have controlled the flow
of water into this channel and is believed to survive as a buried feature
towards the southern end of the dam. The leat runs in a north easterly
direction for 110m before turning south and then east towards the area which
has been identified as the location of the coalmill in the eastern part of the
site. Approximately 25m to the east of the holding pond the leat runs beneath
the ground surface for some 35m before re-emerging as a 1.5m deep ravine-like
channel. In the eastern part of the site the form of the leat is markedly
different than elsewhere on the site; here it is a narrow, shallow feature
which is faced with large masonry blocks, many of which remain in situ.
Documentary references indicate that the coalmill's three waterwheels were
each approximately 7m in diameter and are thought to have produced c.20hp.
They were placed in a line, one above ground supported on timber posts, the
next at ground level, and the third erected underground. There is no surface
evidence for the pumping installation, but buried features associated with its
operation, including the underground chamber for the sunken waterwheel, are
believed to survive in the area immediately west of Coach Road and beneath the
road itself. To the east of the road, where the ground falls away steeply, is
a stone-lined portal (the entrance to an adit) which is located approximately
2m below the level of Coach Road and is included in the scheduling. The adit
also appears to be of dry-stone construction and is thought to have served as
an underground watercourse carrying away water which was raised from the mine
workings by the water-powered pumps.
Following the abandonment of the coalmill in c.1750, a cornmill was built in
the central part of the site, approximately 35m to the north east of the
holding pond, taking advantage of the existing water features. The mill
building stands to the north of the leat but its course is believed to have
been diverted slightly northwards in order to drive the waterwheel of the
cornmill. This was attached to the southern wall of the mill building and set
within a 1.5m deep wheelpit. The building is of stone construction and is now
used as an outbuilding of Sawmill Cottage and is not included in the
scheduling. Immediately to the south of the wheelpit are the ruins of a late
18th or 19th century building which originally housed a sawmill that was also
powered by the waterwheel. The ruins are mostly of brick, although its lower
courses are of stone, and the opening into the wheelpit, which is now blocked,
is faced with ashlar blocks. Several machine bases are visible in the
interior. The ruins of the sawmill, together with the adjacent wheelpit, are
included in the scheduling and provide evidence for the later development of
the site.
The mid-18th century cornmill building, the brick-built extension which has
been constructed against its west wall, the surfaces of the paths and the
road, 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

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000
coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war
nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four
coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national
archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of
national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a
comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the
industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity.
Coalmills are water-powered pumping installations, generally consisting of a
series of waterwheels set in a vertical sequence which were employed to drain
single mines or areas of mine workings. They were developed towards the end of
the 16th century in response to the increased need for mechanical mine
drainage arising from the development of large-scale coal mining. They were
established primarily in the north eastern coalfields during the 17th and
early 18th centuries, although further examples are thought to have existed
elsewhere. Coalmills survive almost exclusively as earthworks. They represent
sophisticated examples of hydraulic engineering during this period and all
surviving coalmill sites are considered worthy of protection.

The site of Ravensworth coalmill represents a rare example of this class of
monument; only five surviving sites are known nationally, and it is
considered to be of technological and historical importance. The site has not
been disturbed by modern development and the earthworks of its water control
system survive well. These features, together with the buried remains of the
pumping installation itself, which are believed to include the underground
chamber of its third waterwheel and the stone-lined adit or tail-race, will
provide valuable information for the operation of this industrial site,
contributing to our understanding of 17th and 18th century coalmills.
The subsequent reuse of the western part of the site, following the
abandonment of the coalmill in the mid-18th century, is well represented by
the ruins of the sawmill, the wheelpit and the earthwork and buried remains of
its associated leat and tail-race. These remains provide evidence for the
continuing use of the site for industrial activities into the 19th and 20th

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clavering, E, Mining Before Powder - Coalmills in the Tyne and Wear Collieries, (1994), 124-32
Galloway, R, Annals of Coal Mining and the Coal Trade, (1898), 159
Cranstone, D and Gould, S, Ravensworth Coalmill, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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