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Silverband mine aerial ropeway, brake house and inclined plane

A Scheduled Monument in Milburn, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.6716 / 54°40'17"N

Longitude: -2.4731 / 2°28'23"W

OS Eastings: 369585.64212

OS Northings: 530825.259987

OS Grid: NY695308

Mapcode National: GBR CG5F.C4

Mapcode Global: WH92D.ZVH2

Entry Name: Silverband mine aerial ropeway, brake house and inclined plane

Scheduled Date: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021009

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34997

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Milburn

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Milburn St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes an approximately 1.75km length of Silverband mine
aerial ropeway, an associated brake house, and the remains of an inclined
plane located high on the south western slopes of Great Dun Fell. The
aerial ropeway was used to transport ore from Silverband Mine at over
700m, down the steep fellside to the ore processing works at Milburn
Grange approximately 5km away. Part of the earlier inclined plane, down
which ore-filled trucks ran on rails, runs parallel to the aerial ropeway.

Lead mining started in this area of Cumbria during the 14th century.
During the 19th century the London Lead Company worked Silverband Mine
periodically for galena, a sulphide of lead. There was a small amount of
barytes, a sulphate of the barium mineral, mined here between 1914-18, but
productivity increased dramatically when the La Porte Chemical Company
took over in 1939. Almost immediately the aerial ropeway was installed
using buckets suspended from cables which passed over two different types
of metal pylon. Between 1939 and 1963 a staggering 215,000 tons (211,603
tonnes) of dressed barytes ore was produced at Silverband. After closure
of the mine in the 1960s the aerial ropeway was dismantled. The mine
reopened in the 1970s and an ore procesing mill was built adjacent. It is
worked periodically to the present day.

At least 17 iron pylons supported the aerial ropeway on its descent of the
steep fellside and these are described in descending order. At NY70143155
only the base of the pylon remains in situ. It has been twisted as though
attempts have been made to rip it out of the ground. Remains of an
external ladder are still attached. A pylon standing virtually to its full
height but minus its wheel arrangement stands at NY70073146 at the top of
an earlier spoil tip. At NY70023139 a pylon has been toppled; it
originally stood about 6.5m high and has a base of 1.6 sq m. Only one of
its wheels survives. At NY69963131 is another toppled pylon of the same
design as the previous one which has four of its wheels attached. At
NY69933127 there is another toppled pylon of the same design but with a
slightly wider base. It appears to have been dragged away from its
original location. At NY69913131 there is a stone-revetted pylon base up
to five courses high upon which remain the stumps of two sawn off pylon
legs. At NY69853118 there is metal pylon base measuring 1.3 sq m. At
NY69753105 there is another metal pylon base, this one slightly larger
than the previous one and set in a rough rectangular stone base. At
NY69683096 there is a toppled pylon with a ladder along one side and three
wheels remaining. At NY69573082 there is a pylon base consisting of a
rough stone-lined hollow approximately 2.5 sq m. At NY69523075 there is a
large toppled pylon originally about 10m high with an external ladder and
four wheels. It lies adjacent to a substantial stone-revetted rectangular
pylon base measuring 6m by 2.5m and up to nine courses high. At NY69493070
there are the remains of a concrete-floored, single storey, stone-built
brake house associated with the aerial ropeway. The brake house consisted
of only two walls, the north and south. The north wall survives up to roof
height and has a small square extension still partly roofed in corrugated
metal sheeting. There are small windows in the extension's east and west
walls and a fireplace in its north wall. The south wall partly stands to
roof height, the remainder of it has fallen outwards. The floor of the
building contains at least seven concrete blocks, each flush with the
floor and containing sawn off bolts while immediately to the west of the
brake house are two more concrete blocks with sawn off bolt holes. West of
this is a flat-topped grass-covered mound of crushed ore about 12m long by
4m wide of unknown function. At NY69453067 there is the site of a pylon
now represented by the stumps of four sawn off legs barely visible in the
vegetation. At NY69433064 is the most complete and best preserved of all
the pylons. It is of a different design than the others higher up the
fellside being Y-shaped in elevation. It stands on a stone and concrete
base five courses high. The pylon is 3m high and has all eight wheels
remaining. At NY69353053 there is another well-preserved pylon; this being
about 3m tall and T-shaped in elevation with an external ladder and four
wheels. At NY69303047 there is the lower part of a pylon standing up to
1.5m high with remains of an external ladder. At NY69263039 there are two
concrete bases 4m apart each with a sawn off central bolt hole which may
have formed part of another pylon base. In enclosed land at NY69193032
there is a pylon base consisting of concrete blocks each containing sawn
off bolt holes. At NY69113023 there is the stone and concrete base of a
shed which accommodated a workman who oversaw the progress of the buckets
on the ropeway, whilst at NY69073017, at the base of the fellside a short
distance north of Knock Ore Gill, there is the stone base of a pylon up to
three courses high and about 2.8 sq m.

A short distance from the brake house, at NY69483066, there is a
rectangular concrete raft measuring 5m by 2m which has three iron rails
bolted to it. It is interpreted as the upper part of an inclined plane
down which ore was transported in tubs which ran along the rails. The
course of the inclined plane can be followed steeply downhill for about
230m and is visible in places as a hollow up to 2.5m wide and 1m deep or
as a substantial stone embankment up to 5m wide and 1m high depending upon
the terrain over which it passes. At its lowest point the inclined plane
appears to terminate abruptly and it is not currently known how the ore
continued the remainder of its journey.

A drystone wall which crosses the monument is excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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

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.

Barytes is normally found as a vein mineral in association with lead.
Economic deposits of barytes have been found in all the major lead
orefields except the Mendips. The mining of barytes has not differed from
contemporary mining of other vein minerals, hence the surface features
largely parallel those of lead mining. The dominant period of barytes
extraction was the late 19th and 20th centuries, thus barytes mines tend
to be of a later date than most lead mines. Amongst other things barytes
is used in paint manufacture, as a drilling lubricant, and as a filler in
the cloth and paper industries.

Despite being dismantled in the early 1960s, Silverband Mine aerial
ropeway remains the best surviving example of an aerial ropeway used in a
metal-mining context in England. Together with its associated brake house
and the earlier inclined plane, the monument illustrates well two
differing constructional and operational methods of moving mineral ore
across a rugged and hostile natural environment between the mine and the
ore processing plant.

Source: Historic England


Minor Metals Industries Step 4 Report, Silverband Mine Aerial Ropeway,

Source: Historic England

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