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Roman Gravels lead mine

A Scheduled Monument in Worthen with Shelve, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.5928 / 52°35'33"N

Longitude: -2.9849 / 2°59'5"W

OS Eastings: 333380.863702

OS Northings: 299894.686853

OS Grid: SO333998

Mapcode National: GBR B6.9RV4

Mapcode Global: WH8C9.33X4

Entry Name: Roman Gravels lead mine

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018460

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31752

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Worthen with Shelve

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Shelve

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument is situated on steeply sloping land in the Hope Valley,
approximately 1km north of the village of Shelve. It includes the ruined
buildings, earthworks and buried remains of the Roman Gravels lead mine. This
is one of a group of lead mines in the area which were of great significance
in the lead industry of the 19th century and earlier. Prior to 1850 the site
was known as Gravels or Shelvefield Gravels. The discovery by miners in the
19th century of earlier shafts containing pottery and wooden shovels, as well
as the discovery of Roman coins and a lead pig (ingot) in spoil, and the
presence of Roman-style opencuts, suggest that the area was first mined during
the Roman period, possibly around AD 120. Mining was certainly taking place by
the 12th century, when sheriff's records mention `the King's miners at
Shelve', and during the 13th century the mine provided lead for Glastonbury
In the late 18th and early 19th century the mine was part of the Roman Mine
Complex. John Lawrence and Co., who ran Roman Gravels from 1784 in conjunction
with other local mines, were innovative in applying new technology to problems
of drainage and winding, and were among the first in the world to introduce
Boulton & Watt steam engines. Of nine such engines installed in the Shropshire
orefield by 1800, three were in place at Roman Gravels by 1790. The last of
these was an experimental suspended-beam design, whilst another was a `blowing
engine', presumably to supply a draught for smelting the lead.
Despite this large investment, Lawrence abandoned the mine as unprofitable
around 1820. Later owners included Lewis and Phillips, and the Grit and Gravel
Company. The mine was very productive in the mid-1830s, but declined and was
closed in the late 1840s; a first attempt at reopening in the mid-1850s was
defeated by drainage problems, and it was another effort led by Richard Palin
which succeeded. The mine became famously productive in the 1870s, striking
rich veins at depth. The New Engine shaft was sunk in 1871 and equipped with a
Cornish pumping engine. The tradition of technological innovation was upheld
with trials of compressed air drills and the subsequent installation of a
compressor, possibly in the former winding house at the Old Engine shaft.
The mine was badly affected by the late 19th century slump in lead prices
however, and closed for the last time in 1895.
Surface remains include a very large opencut working of up to 10m depth and
20m width, running north-south in the southern part of the site. This is the
largest of several workings thought to be Roman in origin. There is a similar,
shallower opencut to the west, and further small cuts to the south where
exposed working faces are visible. Evidence of Roman mining techniques will be
preserved in this area, as will remains of shafts and galleries described in
19th century sources as Roman.
The 18th and 19th century remains are mainly visible in the south eastern
corner and north western parts of the monument. At the south eastern corner of
the site are the remains of the New Engine shaft, and the associated engine
house to the east. The engine house survives as a collapsed slate building of
around 8.5m by 4m, the north wall standing to around 2m high. Pumping rods, a
form of power transmission, were seen protruding from the shaft in 1965, and
in 1979 a smaller ginged (timber-lined) shaft was seen nearby. These features
will survive as buried remains, providing information on 19th century mining
technology. Hillocky ground in woodland to the south west indicates that
further shafts and buried remains are preserved beneath later deposits in this
Further, extensive 18th and 19th century remains are preserved on a roadside
platform in the north west part of the monument. The northernmost of these
include the remains of the Old Engine House, where a Boulton & Watt steam
engine was installed in 1788, and associated buildings including a winding
house with intact engine bed and iron fixtures. These remains will provide
valuable data on the use and development of steam engines at this period. Also
preserved here are the Old Engine Shaft itself; an adit or mine entrance
connecting with shafts and pump rod systems elsewhere in the monument; the
ruins of mine buildings, including offices and ancillary workshops; and
sections of a tramway which formerly ran west over the nearby road to an ore
processing area, now much disturbed and therefore excluded from the
All modern fences, boundary walls and track surfaces, and the gravel surface
covering capped shafts, are excluded from the scheduling, although 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

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 flat rod systems, transport systems such as
railways and inclines, and water power and water supply features such as
wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated lead mines also included
ore works where the ore, once extracted, was processed.
The majority of nucleated lead mines are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier
mining being normally by rake or hush (a gully or ravine partly excavated by
use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of mineral
ore). They 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 upland
landscapes. It is estimated that at least 10,000 sites exist, the majority
being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains
at many larger mines have been greatly modified or destroyed by continued
working or 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 Roman Gravels lead mine will contribute significantly to the study of the
development of the Shropshire lead-mining industry over several centuries. A
wide range of technologies is preserved in earthworks, ruins and buried
remains which will contribute to a study of technological change at the site.
The discovery of tools and artefacts in early workings suggests that further
archaeological remains from the Roman period will survive.
The remains of opencuts, shafts and galleries used by Roman and medieval
miners, of steam-, water- and horse-power systems used in the 18th century,
and of steam-powered deep shafts of the late 19th century, will survive as
buried remains. The archaeological remains also preserve valuable information
about early and experimental Boulton & Watt steam engines, which influenced
engineering developments at a crucial stage of the Industrial Revolution.
Further evidence of methods for extraction, drainage, winding and transport
during the 18th and the 19th centuries is also preserved in buried and
earthwork remains. These will include parts of a pump-rod power transmission
system, and water-powered pumping engines of which at least three are known to
have been used on the site.
In addition to the archaeological remains, documentary evidence for the
history and development of Roman Gravels mine is available. This includes
details of processing methods, sketches of mine buildings and steam engines,
and correspondence with Watt about the performance of the earliest engines
used on the site. This combination of archaeology and historical information
offers a particularly rich source for studying the technological developments
in the Shropshire lead orefield.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire: Volume I, (1908), 263-5
Brook, F, Allbutt, M, The Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 32
Heathcote, J A, A Survey of the Metal Mines of South Shropshire, (1979), 51
Wardell Armstrong Chartered Surveyors, , Roman Gravels Mine - Mining History, (1995), 18-64
Davies, T et al, 'Shrops Mining and Caving Club Journal' in Mining Remains in SW Shropshire, (1993), 50-51
Shrops 984, Roman Gravels Mine, (1994)
Shrops SMR No 01318, Roman Gravels Mine, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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