Ancient Monuments

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Dale Head copper mine dressing floors and associated buildings 400m north of Dale Head

A Scheduled Monument in Borrowdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5306 / 54°31'50"N

Longitude: -3.2037 / 3°12'13"W

OS Eastings: 322203.531133

OS Northings: 515704.986655

OS Grid: NY222157

Mapcode National: GBR 6J21.6N

Mapcode Global: WH70K.RDM3

Entry Name: Dale Head copper mine dressing floors and associated buildings 400m north of Dale Head

Scheduled Date: 25 June 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019942

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34951

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Borrowdale

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Thornthwaite cum Braithwaite with Newlands

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes an area of dressing floors together with the remains of
two structures, a prospecting trench and a prospecting pit associated with
Dale Head copper mines. It is located on relatively gently-sloping ground high
on the fellside above the Newlands Valley below and immediately north west of
Dale Head Crags.
Copper is known to have been mined in the Newlands Valley during the 16th
century when many mines in the Keswick area were worked by the Mines Royal
Company who, during the 16th and 17th centuries, were leaders in European
mining technology. However, it is not known if Dale Head was one of those
mines worked during this period. It is thought that Dale Head mine was being
worked in about 1700 by one Thomas Robinson and that Cornish mining engineers
were employed here around 1775. There are no records of any mining at Dale
Head from the 19th century onwards.
Remains of a two-roomed stone building up to 1.5m high with an annexe attached
to its south side lie at NY22211567. This building has an entrance on its
western side and contains in situ internal fireplace uprights. It has been
variously described as a smithy, a mine shop or a store. To the north of the
building lies a large area of dressing waste consisting of numerous low mounds
of gravel-sized waste spotted with the copper ore malachite. Amongst this
dressing waste, a short distance north west of the building, there are the
remains of a roughly rectangular drystone structure with a paved floor which
is considered to be a sheltered hand-dressing floor. A stone mortar or anvil
for hand-crushing the copper ore was found amongst the stones which had formed
part of the protecting wall of the dressing floor. This mortar was removed by
a local mining history society during the 1990s. A short distance below the
ore-dressing area there is a short prospecting trench dug into the surface of
the hillslope while close to the path leading up from the valley there is a
prospecting pit.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Copper was extracted in Britain intermittently from the Early Bronze Age
(about 2000 BC) until the early 20th century, after when the industry was
confined to by-product production and small scale reworkings of mines and
dumps. There is very limited evidence for copper mining before the 15th and
16th centuries, and most known sites are of later date, principally of the
industry's 18th and 19th century peak after it had been revitalised by
developments in smelting technology. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as
perhaps it had also been in prehistory, British production was important on a
European scale.
Nucleated copper mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by
copper 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 and power transmission features such as
wheel pits and leats. The majority of nucleated copper mines are of 18th to
20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rakes, opencuts and open
levels, and including scattered ore dressing features.
An essential part of a copper mining site is the 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 can be summarised as:
picking out clean lumps of ore and waste; hammering (breaking down lumps to a
smaller size by manual hammering or by mechanical crushing); jigging
(separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in a tub of water;
and buddling (separation of finer material by washing away the lighter waste
in a current of water). Field remains of ore works include crushing devices,
separating structures and tanks and tips of distinctive waste from the various
processes, together with associated water supplies. Simple ore dressing
devices had been developed by the 16th century, but the large majority date
from the 18th to 20th centuries, when technology evolved rapidly.
During English Heritage's national evaluation of the copper industry, 130
sites were assessed. This is a highly select sample of the numbers of sites
that historically existed in England; although there are no national
estimates, for the south west alone an estimate has been made of over 10,000
sites. It is considered that protection by scheduling is appropriate for less
than 50, with alternative means of protection or management being considered
more appropriate for the other nationally important sites.

Dale Head copper mine dressing floors and associated buildings 400m north of
Dale Head survive well and are a rare example of an 18th century copper ore
dressing site which has remained untouched since abandonment. As such it
offers an exceptionally good opportunity to study 18th century copper dressing

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Adams, J, Mines of the Lake District Fells, (1995), 67
'Cumbria Amenity Mining History Soc' in Dale Head Mine, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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