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Scordale lead mines

A Scheduled Monument in Murton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5965 / 54°35'47"N

Longitude: -2.3741 / 2°22'26"W

OS Eastings: 375925.079807

OS Northings: 522428.007517

OS Grid: NY759224

Mapcode National: GBR CHV9.T2

Mapcode Global: WH92V.HQPN

Entry Name: Scordale lead mines

Scheduled Date: 29 October 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018773

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27842

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Murton

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Appleby St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a number of lead mines and the remains of their
associated buildings, water management systems, hushes, trackways, tramways
and dressing areas, which collectively are known as the Scordale mines. These
mines are located over a large area but mainly lie on the steep valley sides
either side of Scordale Beck. In the upper reaches of Scordale, the Hilton
mines lie on the east side of the valley and the Murton mines on the west.
Approximately 800m further down the west side of the valley lies the Mason
Holes complex of mines, visible as a large opencut amongst the crags high
above the valley. A further 900m down the west side of the valley is Lowfield
Hush, an impressive steep-sided V-shaped valley which was deliberately gouged
out by controlled releases of water to expose the mineral.
The date when mining began at Scordale is unknown, although mining is known
to have been undertaken at Hilton and Murton mines and Mason Holes during the
18th century. Both the Hilton and Murton mines were worked for lead
concentrates by the London Lead Company from 1824-76. Twenty years later the
mines were re-opened by the Brough Barytes Company and again in 1912 by
Scordale Barytes Limited. This firm ceased work after 1919 and the plant at
Hilton was dismantled. In 1942 Warcop Military Training Area was established
and many of the mining remains were deliberately destroyed during military
exercises between 1960-80.
Mining on the east side of Scordale valley has been largely concentrated in
the area between a stream known as Little Augill at the northern extremity,
and an unnamed stream which flows into Scordale Beck approximately 1km further
down the valley. Many of these workings formed part of the Hilton mines and
they are described as follows from north to south; two small mines or levels
and associated spoil heaps, one adjacent to the south bank of Little Augill
the second approximately midway between Little Augill and Great Augill. Levels
associated with Hilton mines situated on the north side of Great Augill and
including Dow Scar High Level at NY76352275. Within the vicinity of Hilton
mines dressing waste is evident, indicating that reduction and sorting of the
veinstone into grades suitable for further processing took place here. Also
surviving are a few timbers of a wooden launder which was used for carrying
water down the valley side to power a waterwheel at one of the numerous
buildings which are known to have been located on the valley floor. The ruins
of one of these buildings, whose precise function is unknown, is located close
to the point where Great Augill is crossed by the main valley track. A short
distance to the south, on the opposite side of the track, lie the remains of a
large dressing mill at NY76252265, where machine operated reduction and
sorting of the veinstone took place. Adjacent are a series of circular and
rectangular pits representing settling tanks and buddle pits where the ore was
separated from the veinstone. Some of these features were originally situated
within a large building of which little remains except the ruined walls. There
are also the remains of stone pillars on the south side of this building,
which functioned as the bases for a high timber launder feeding a waterwheel.
A substantial wheelpit still survives but is largely infilled with rubble. A
stream revetment wall also still survives and prevents erosion of this area.
South of Stow Gill at NY76202247 there are remains of another structure of
uncertain function. However, a short leat running into it from the gill
suggests the structure may be a wheelpit. High on the valley side north and
south of Stow Gill are abandoned levels; a trackway or incline runs diagonally
up the hillside south of Stow Gill giving access to some of these mines.
Remains of Murton mines lie predominantly but not wholly on the west side of
Scordale valley in the area between a small reservoir at NY76342294 and Mason
Holes. The reservoir is retained by a dam on its south and east sides and
contains in, out and overflow channels. Remains of two small buildings lie
adjacent to the outflow channel. On the east side of Scordale Beck, opposite
the reservoir, lies Wilson's Level at NY76392292, and although the entrance
and portal have been destroyed, remains of bridge abutments which carried a
tramway from the level survive. This tramway runs through a cutting then along
an embankment and terrace above the remains of a crushing mill to a point
where early maps depict a set of nine bouse teams - ore bins constructed of
stone into which ore is tipped prior to milling - and a small building at the
south east end of this terrace. Nothing of these buildings survives above
ground but remains are considered to be buried under slumped waste material.
Nearby at NY76162272 is the location of Curley Level, now buried under fallen
scree, and adjacent to this are remains of a two-roomed building thought to
have been a mineshop. A square-headed culvert runs south east alongside the
aforementioned tramway and provided water for the crushing mill and bouse
teams. Additional water supply to power machinery in these buildings came from
Boilup Dam situated at NY76082292 on a natural shelf higher up the valley
side. The remains of the crushing mill at NY76242271 are largely buried under
slumped spoil and crusher waste but some timber-work, holding-down bolts and
iron rails still survive. The remains of Hartside Low Level can be seen
slightly above the crushing mill. Photographs depict a number of buildings
close to the crushing mill and remains of these may survive beneath slumped
spoil heaps. Some 60m north east of the crushing plant are the remains of High
Horse Level at NY76222278 and, although little remains of its entrance, a
spoil heap lying to the east identifies its location. A large area of the
valley side hereabouts has been terraced into a number of platforms defined by
revetment walls and steeper banks. There are extensive spreads of waste
material together with partially buried revetment walls surrounded by rubble
spreads. There is also a concrete machine base with several holding-down bolts
protruding vertically and several areas of exposed timberwork within a
collapsed building. Nearby are remains of another building. At the lowest
level a terraced area is revetted above the beck by a wall 2m high. Extensive
rubble and spoil spreads abound throughout much of this area.
A large single-storey three-roomed mineshop known as High Shop lies at
NY75912259 on a high natural terrace equidistant between Murton mines and
Mason Holes. Nearby are a number of unnamed shafts.
The Mason Holes complex is centred on NY75702230 and is represented by a large
opencut with associated hushes. Hushes are man-made gullies running down the
side of fell which were excavated by the releasing of water from a dam.
Hushing was a mining method in its own right, applied to wash ore from the
mineral vein by the sheer force of water. A level mid-way up the sheer face of
Mason Holes opencut is located at NY75712240 and a further level lies to the
north at NY75642253. On a plateau between the open cut and a large hush are
the remains of an unpowered dressing floor together with a number of shafts.
The dressing floor contains a number of areas of fine white dressing waste.
Adjacent is a sub-circular reservoir defined on its east side by a raised
bank. Earthwork platforms at the south end of the reservoir and an additional
platform further south beyond two large hushes may indicate the site of timber
buildings associated with dressing activities. A leat runs around the west
side of this reservoir to a ruined `Y'-shaped structure thought to have
contained a buddle i.e. apparatus for separating ore from veinstone. On the
east side of this structure there is a small stone-walled rectangular
enclosure positioned to overhang the opencut; the structure's function is
unclear but it may have been associated with lifting material out of the
opencut and onto the dressing floor.
Some 550m south west of Mason Holes at NY75482191 is a single-storey ruined
building with walls up to 3m high. Its function is unclear but its location
adjacent to a well-defined trackway running south west from Mason Holes to the
valley bottom suggests it may have been a small mineshop.
Lowfield Hush survives as a steep-sided `V'-shaped valley approximately 250m
long and 20m deep. Above and to the west of the hush is an area of reservoirs
and dams where water was held prior to release down the hush, whilst on the
north and south sides of the hush there are a series of small unpowered
dressing floors. Within the hush, about halfway up at NY75322166, there are
the remains of a coe or miner's hut with walls up to 1.5m high. At the base of
the hush there are traces of an earthwork and small dam which controlled the
movement of water and material out of the hush. There is also a small ruined
building of uncertain funtion nearby. At NY75402160 between the base of the
hush and Scordale Beck, there are remains of a number of features including a
crushing mill, a dressing floor, two bouse teams, a limekiln, various walls
and a dressing floor revetted by a stone wall. A square-headed culvert runs
from this dressing floor towards the beck.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern
field boundaries and fence posts, all signposts, and the surface of the main
valley track; the ground beneath all these features is, however,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.

A hush is a gully or ravine partly excavated by use of a controlled torrent of
water to reveal or exploit a vein of lead or other mineral ore. Dams and leats
to supply the water are usually associated, and some examples show tips of
waste from manual ore processing beside the hush itself. Shaft and adit
mineworkings sometimes occur in spatial association, though their workings
will not have been contemporary with that of the hush. There is documentary
evidence for hushing from the Roman period on the continent, and from the 16th
century in England; however a high proportion of surviving hushes are believed
to be of 17th to 18th century date, the technique dying out by the mid-19th
century. A sample of the better preserved isolated examples of hushes which
form part of more extensive lead mining complexes will merit protection.
Despite the demolition of some of the associated mining buildings by the army,
Scordale lead mines remain a well-preserved extensive and impressive
18th-20th century mining landscape. It contains a wide range of mining and ore
work components including hushes, levels and shafts, hand and machine-powered
dressing areas, water management systems for powering machinery, trackways and
tramways, buddles, settling tanks, remains of an assortment of associated
buildings, and spoil heaps and dressing waste.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dennison, E, North Pennines Lead Industry, (1997)
Dennison, E, North Pennines Lead Industry, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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