Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Dale Head copper mine 300m north east of Dale Head

A Scheduled Monument in Borrowdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5291 / 54°31'44"N

Longitude: -3.1988 / 3°11'55"W

OS Eastings: 322514.022352

OS Northings: 515532.84595

OS Grid: NY225155

Mapcode National: GBR 6J32.86

Mapcode Global: WH70K.TFY7

Entry Name: Dale Head copper mine 300m north east of Dale Head

Scheduled Date: 25 June 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019943

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34952

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 two mines, a spoil heap and an ore dressing floor which
formed part of Dale Head copper mines. It is located high on the fellside
amongst Dale Head Crags above the Newlands Valley 300m north east of the
summit of Dale Head.
Copper is known to have been mined in the Newlands Valley during the 16th
century when many mines in the Keswick area were owned 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
from the 19th century onwards.
At NY22501551 there are the remains of an adit or level, its entrance now
blocked by scree which has tumbled from the steep fellside above. Immediately
below this level is a spoil heap on top of which is a small copper ore
dressing floor consisting of gravel-sized dressing waste, some of which has
spilled down the steep slope immediately to the north. A short distance lower
down the fellside, in precipitous ground at approximately NY22521556, there is
a waterfall at the head of which is an open level. This level is considered to
have been the one worked by Robinson and later the Cornish miners. It is
hand-drilled and contains an internal railway of iron strips laid on wooden
rails suggesting mid-18th century working.

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 and its associated spoil heap and dressing floor 300m
north east of Dale Head survives reasonably well and is a rare example of an
18th century copper mine which has remained untouched since abandonment. As
such it offers an exceptionally good opportunity to study 18th century copper
mining and dressing processes and in particular the application of non-local
technology as provided by the Cornish mining engineers.

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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