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Historic gold workings, Leadhills, South Lanarkshire

A Scheduled Monument in Clydesdale East, South Lanarkshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.4282 / 55°25'41"N

Longitude: -3.7283 / 3°43'41"W

OS Eastings: 290726

OS Northings: 616283

OS Grid: NS907162

Mapcode National: GBR 25DN.MY

Mapcode Global: WH5TQ.PTVJ

Entry Name: Historic gold workings, Leadhills, South Lanarkshire

Scheduled Date: 30 October 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13677

Schedule Class: Cultural

Location: Crawford

County: South Lanarkshire

Electoral Ward: Clydesdale East

Traditional County: Lanarkshire

Description

The monument is the remains of gold workings dating to the 16th century. The workings survive primarily as a series of deep channels, known as gold scours, cut into the hillside above the Shortcleuch Water. The monument is bounded on its northern side by a former mineral railway and to the south by the river. The remains of at least two structures survive also to the south of the modern road on low ground by the Shortcleuch Water.

Historic gold workings at Shortcleuch represent a group of hushed openworks. The site consists of a series of steep V-shaped gullies, the largest of which is over 30m wide and up to 6m deep. These gullies are cut into lower slopes of the hillside on the north side of the valley and are truncated by the former Leadhills – Elvanfoot railway. The gullies converge at the base of the hill to form a single openwork or quarry. To south, on the opposite side of the modern B7040 is an earth-banked enclosure containing the foundations of a stone-footed building and a platform for another building.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the former mineral railway at the north end of the monument and the modern road (B7040).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument survives as a series of deep channels or gullies on the hillside above the Shortcleuch Water. The gullies are the remains of hushes – a system of gold prospecting whereby an artificial pond or dam was built near the top of a hill or the side of a valley. When full, this was breached to allow water to rush downslope tearing up the soil as it went. This had the two-fold purpose of laying bare the underlying rock and in some cases, where the stream was powerful enough, acting as an extractive process in itself, with the refuse being sorted for pieces of ore.

The hushes at Shortcleuch are very extensive and are likely to be the result of an extended period of activity. The scale and density of the workings indicates that these have been deliberately exploited using water power rather than speculative prospecting. Feeder channels and at least one dam are known to exist higher on the hillside and it is likely that the openwork and buildings at by the Shortcleuch Water were used for processing material washed downhill. Archaeological survey of the gullies may allow the opportunity to determine the chronological order by which they were fashioned and provide evidence of the damming process used.

It is likely that the enclosures which survive by the Shortcleuch Water are associated with processing and extracting gold from the washed out soil and rock. Archaeological investigation has the potential to provide further information on these structures, particularly their date and function.

Contextual Characteristics

The gold scours at Shortcleuch Water are unlike any other areas of conventional hushing in Scotland. They are more extensive, larger scale and cover a greater area than other examples of hushing in the Leadhills area or in other parts of Scotland. The closest parallels to this site are to be found at the tin workings at Vitifer and Birch Tor in central Dartmoor and at parts of the extensive Roman hillside gold workings at Las Medulas, Spain. In both examples, similar extractive techniques were used and have left similar field remains; parallels gullies in association with lades and dams.

The monument is part of an industrial landscape at Leadhills and Wanlockhead but is discrete and self-contained. Other examples of hushes and gold working do survive but none are as extensive or well documented.

Associative Characteristics

The site is also associated with the Scottish monarchy; James IV and V both granted rights to mine the area and the gold produced was a significant resource for the Crown. Much of the gold coinage of James V and Mary Queen of Scots was minted from gold from the district. In addition, the Treasurer's Accounts for the years 1538 to 1542, relate that the gold mines, while under the management of John Mossman, produced 41¼ ozs of gold for a crown for the King and 35ozs of gold for a crown for the Queen.

The monument also has associations with a number of historic "entrepreneurs" such as Abraham Grey, Beavis Bulmer and George Bowes. All three are recorded as having experience mining in other parts of Britain. Their exploits in the area were described by Stephen Atkinson, a goldsmith in the Tower of London, in his treatise "Discoverie and Historie of the Gold Mynes in Scotland" (1619) which he wrote with a view to interesting James VI sufficiently to grant him a royal patent to work the gold mines of the district.

The earliest on record is Abraham Grey, a Dutchman known as Greybeard on account of his long beard that he tied around his waist. Grey is on record as having employed local workmen who "washed and scoured in vallies and combes. He never sought the mountaines or mosses upon high hills for a solidd place, nor for a bedd or vaine thereof. And in these vallies at Winlocke-head he gott a good quantity of naturall gold." (Atkinson 1619, p. 22). Grey was so successful that he was able to fashion a "very faire deepe bason…it conteyned by estimation within the brymes thereof, an English gallon of liquor" (ibid p. 22) which was filled with gold coins and presented to the King of France by the Earl of Morton, Regent of Scotland.

Both Bulmer and Bowes were Englishmen who prospected around modern day Leadhills and in the Shortcleuch area. Beavis Bulmer is on record as working in this area, "Upon Short-clough water…he brought home an other goodly water-course, and intended to make there sondry dammes, to contayne water for the buddles, and for scowrers &c., for the washing of gold." (ibid p. 37). The area above the gold working is still called Bulmer's Moss because of his activities in the area. Beavis Bulmer is connected also with Windywas silvermine (scheduled monument reference SM11226) near Hilderstone, Torphichen.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it increases our understanding of gold working in late medieval and early modern Scotland. The monument is important for an understanding of the significance of this industry in the economic and social development of Scotland. The quality of documentation which survives from the 17th century regarding the gold workings at Leadhills in the form of Atkinson's book significantly adds to our understanding of the gold mining activities in this area and places this monument within a national context. Gold extraction sites in Scotland are rare and the scale and degree of preservation of the surviving remains are unique. The survival of structures on the valley floor associated with the gold extraction increases the importance of the site as it has the potential to further information about gold extraction the technologies associated with this industry. Due to the rarity of the site, the loss of, or damage to, the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to understand the nature of mineral exploitation in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 180242 (accessed on 12/09/2017).

Atkinson, S 1619. The Discoverie and Historie of Gold Mynes in Scotland. Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club 1825.

Gillanders, R J. 1977. History of the Search for Gold Veins in the Leadhills-Wanlockhead District . The Edinburgh Geologist, issue No 2, pp 1-9.

Pickin J 2004. Streaming and Hushing for Scottish Gold: The archaeology of early gold working at Leadhills and Wanlockhead. The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society Vol. 15.

HER/SMR Reference

West of Scotland Archaeology Service Historic Environment Record ID 41228

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/47317/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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