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Blackcraig lead mines, lade and miners' cottages, Blackcraig

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 54.9547 / 54°57'17"N

Longitude: -4.441 / 4°26'27"W

OS Eastings: 243783

OS Northings: 564959

OS Grid: NX437649

Mapcode National: GBR 4J.YXDS

Mapcode Global: WH3TF.RQDH

Entry Name: Blackcraig lead mines, lade and miners' cottages, Blackcraig

Scheduled Date: 5 October 2022

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13752

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: mines, quarries

Location: Minnigaff

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid Galloway and Wigtown West

Traditional County: Kirkcudbrightshire


The monument comprises the remains of Blackcraig lead mines and miners' cottages which were established by the 1770s with three phases of operation until 1917. The remains include evidence of mining methods including open-cast excavations and shafts, spoil heaps, pits, quarries, a reservoir, lade, remains of miners' cottages and other associated features. The site, located east southeast of Newton Stewart, covers the southern slopes of Daltamie Hill and the ridgeline of Blackcraig at around 50-100m above sea level. 

The visible remains of Blackcraig lead mines are extensive and date mostly from two periods - the mid/late 18th century and the mid/late 19th century, with a final, very short period of operation in 1917. The northeast of the site is the location of the lade, running from Bruntis Loch and Little Bruntis Loch. The lade generally runs south, slightly contouring down the hill, ending at a reservoir (now dry). The reservoir, at the southeast of the site, is cut into the hill and is also formed by earth embankments on two sides. Immediately southwest of the reservoir is a winding, short section of lade leading to a rock cut pit which possibly housed a water-powered stone crushing and processing mill. Located west northwest of the reservoir are two adits - stone cut tunnels connected to mine shafts for drainage and access.  Infilled mine shafts are located on the hill above the adits. Further west northwest of the adits are examples of open-cast mining, and infilled small shafts, where prospecting and trials were undertaken. 

South of the Old Military Road are five mine shafts with a sixth shaft immediately north of the workers' cottages. The shafts are visible as large spoil heaps with a depression in the centre marking the infilled shaft. The east-of-centre shaft was the main shaft and is located on a hillock with spoil around. The shaft entrance is still open with some stonework visible near the surface and a related stone-built tunnel or arch feature, probably an adit, in the northeast side of the hillock. To the west of the mines are the miners' cottages.  These are around a dozen ruinous cottages with associated outbuildings, yards, gardens, sunken tracks and lanes laid out around a sub-triangular open space and along the Old Military Road. There are further mine workings immediately northeast of the cottages. Around 100m northwest of the cottages is the remains of a stone-built structure measuring around 70m long and 6m wide and up to 1m high, spilt into nine compartments or rooms. This probably represents the remains of mining stores or processing rooms.

The scheduled area is irregular and consists of twelve parts. The scheduled area for the lade is 5 metres wide, centred on the lade, and connects with a larger area north of the Old Military Road. South of the Old Military Road are five areas covering five mine shafts and to the north west are two areas either side of the road  covering the miners' village either side of the road plus mining workings to the northeast. A single scheduled area to the northwest of the minders' village covers the processing or storage structure. The scheduled area includes 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. All fences, gates, drains/culverts, pylons/telegraph poles and signs are specifically excluded from the schedule. The top 30cm of made paths are also excluded from the schedule.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17): 

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the industrial heritage of Scotland, in particular the history of 18th and 19th century lead mining. Lead mining was a significant industry to Scotland in the pre-industrial and early industrial revolution periods.

b.   The monument retains structural, architectural, decorative or other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The surviving elements help us understand the functions and processes of a major lead mine operating in 18th and 19th century Scotland.  

c.   The monument is a rare example of an extensive, early industrial lead mine with upstanding remains covering many of the contemporary mining functions. The level of survival of the related miners' cottages is particularly rare, especially the completeness of the plan layout.

d.   The monument is a good example of a fairly standardised industrial practice that had a key role in local, regional, national and international economic trade in 18th and 19th century Scotland and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. 

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The remains reflect the development and peak of the Scottish lead mining industry. The associated miners' cottages and documentary sources provided further potential to study the socio-economic history of lead mining.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and/or our understanding of the historic landscape by serving as a physical reminder of the importance of lead mining in 18th and 19th century Scotland and its role in society and the economy.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

Blackcraig lead mines were established and operational as a commercial activity, run by the Craigtown Mining Company, by the 1770s. Records show Cuthbert Redshaw, William Carruthers and George Clerk formed a mining company in 1758 with the aim to open lead mines in the Minnigaff area. In 1763, a soldier working on the construction of the Old Military Road running from Carlisle to Portpatrick discovered lead within the bedrock at Blackcraig. In 1764, the Craigtown Mining Company bought a 38 year lease of the land and ran the mining operation that peaked around 1780. Financial losses were recorded in 1783 and the mines were closed in the 1790s. This mid/late 18th century period represents the first phase of modern industrial activity on the site. The lead mines were re-opened in mid-19th  century with this second phase seeing a peak around the 1870s before another closure. The final period of operation of Blackcraig lead mines was in 1917 – a very short operation to help support the war effort. The mines at Blackcraig are historically referred to as Blackcraig East Mine and Blackcraig West Mine. However, the mines were operated by the same Company and essentially were a single site.

In geological terms, the bedrock running northwest-southeast contains high quantities of lead lying within Daltamie Hill and Blackcraig ridge. This stone was worked in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries. The mines were extensive worked throughout this period, being the largest in the area. Records indicate there were vertical shafts only, no levels, for extraction of ore bearing stone. All the shafts, except for one, are now infilled.

The visible remains of Blackcraig lead mines are extensive and provide physical evidence of many of the process to be expected and required at a commercial 18th –19th century lead mine. To the northeast of the site is the  lade which is now mostly dry. Two lochs above Daltamie Hill (Bruntis Loch and Little Bruntis), were dammed in the 19th century to collect water that fed into the lade. The substantial stone-built dams still survive and are functional (they are not included in the scheduled area). The mains lade from Bruntis Loch runs for over 1km and takes a circuitous route, slightly contouring in a generally southern direction down the hillside. The main lade is also fed by a smaller lade from Little Bruntis, with a connection near to top of the circuit. The lade is visible along its length as cuttings into the slope, earth and rubble embankments, some roughly constructed stone walling and at least two cart-horse bridges. The bridges are constructed of simple, low stone arches or cantilevered lintels crossing the lade. Some sections of the earth embankments and cuttings are over 1m high. The course of the lade is now largely followed and reused as a waymarked, unsurfaced footpath for leisure purposes. 

At the foot of the hill, at the southeast of the site, the lade ends by feeding into a reservoir. The reservoir is sub-square on plan with the north and west sides cut into the hill and the opposing sides formed by substantial earth embankments. The reservoir measures approximately 15m by 15m and over 2m deep. The southern side of the reservoir was the location of the outlet, probably controlled by a sluice system which are likely to have fed washings and a mill to process mined stone. There is evidence for earthworks related to this outflow immediately south southwest of the reservoir. The short lade follows a winding route leading to a rock cut pit - possibly to house a water-powered stone crushing and processing mill. West northwest of the reservoir, on slightly higher ground, are two adits (at approximately NX 44418 64666). The adits are visible as two parallel trenches cut into the hillside that enter the hill in the form of stone-cut tunnels. The adits allowed the mine shafts in the hill above to drain and allowed access. Further west northwest of the adits is a series of small, infilled shafts and open-cast mines thought to be trial excavations. The trials were areas of early geological exploration following the discovery of lead during road construction in 1763. Two of the possible trials are around 4m wide and 1.5m and are sub-circular on plan.

South of the Old Military Road are five substantial mine shafts with related spoil and workings. Most of the shafts are visible as a small hillock and with surrounding substantial spoil heaps. The approximate centre of the raised ground at each shaft has a slight depression, up to 2m deep, which likely marks the location of the infilled shaft. The central mine shaft (located at NX 44537 64553) is immediately southeast of the house named Braemar. This was one of the main shafts for the mines and is on a hillock with substantial spoil heaps around. The northeast face of the mound has an arched stone-built tunnel which presumably accesses the adjacent shaft. On the summit of the hillock is an open, stone cut shaft. The eastern side of the shaft has visible stonework constructed against the rock cuttings which would probably have supported some form of machinery or pulley system. The shaft is reported to be around 100m deep.

Located to the west-northwest of the mines is a collection of miners' cottages, marked on historic Ordnance Survey maps as the settlement of Craigton. The remains of the abandoned settlement are known to be cottages built for the mine workers and their families. Historic Ordnance Survey maps depict a history of abandonment and reuse of the cottages. The settlement is clearly depicted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1850. However, the settlement is annotated with "ruin" and "ruins" which indicates it had been abandoned. By the time that the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map was published in 1893 the houses are no-longer marked as ruins. The fortunes of the settlement therefore appears to correlate with that of Blackcraig Mines – established by 1770s and closed in 1790s, then reopened in the mid/late 19th century.  

It is not clear when the settlement was once again abandoned, but the remains visible today are mostly of building footings and walls typically 0.5-1m high but survive up to 1.5m high in places. The cottages are mostly rectangular on plan and some with projections. Some structures have surviving architectural details such as roughly dressed stone door and window surrounds, lintelled fireplaces and "presses" (in-wall cupboards). There are around a dozen cottages, each with related walled yards or gardens, sunken tracks connect the groups of cottages and a small lane is visible behind the row north of the Old Military Road. The cottages south of the Road are on plots generally cut into the hillside. The cottages can be described as three groups – the first lines either side of the Old Military Road, the second is in the form of a long row at the southwest of the settlement and the third is in the form of two short, parallel rows on the rise of a small hillock. An open sub-triangular area of ground lies between the house groups. Historic maps depict shafts in the central area of ground and immediately northeast of the settlement. 

Immediately northeast of the miners' village are the remains of mine workings. Spoil heaps, banking and a regular square-plan spoil heap surrounds an infilled shaft. The close proximity of this group of workings to the village is notable. Around 100m northwest of the village is the remains of a stone-built structure measuring around 70m long and 6m wide and up to 1m high, spilt into nine compartments or rooms. This remains of this long, low walled, simple drystone structure probably represents the remains of mining stores or processing rooms.

The physical remains at Blackcraig represent a wide selection of mining activities and processes. The physical remains of trial excavations and open-cast mining provides evidence for the exploratory phase in lead mining. This phase would have helped establish the economic viability of lead extraction before sinking expensive mineshafts. The short but relatively late production period at Blackcraig in 1917 is unusual and demonstrates the demand for lead during the First World War. 

The extent of surviving mining remains is notable at Blackcraig; mining remains and activities can be clearly interpreted and the scale of the operation appreciated. The remains of the lade and reservoir are well preserved and attest to the importance of managed water systems at lead mines – crucial for stone processing and waterpower. The curvilinear lade leading from the small reservoir and the remains of the sluice which fed the waterwheel further show the production processes at the mines. The survival of mine shafts, especially the main shaft which is still open with stonework visible, allows for greater understanding and appreciation for 18th and 19th century mining methods. The long row of drystone walled storage or processing rooms, at the extreme northwest of the site, provide further above-ground structural remains that represent a stage in the lead mining process. Study of the remains of the lead mines can further our understanding of the design, processes and functions of such large-scale industrial sites that were key to local, regional, national and even international trading economies.

The plan form of the associated miners' cottages survives to a very complete degree. The individual cottages and related gardens and yards can easily be interpreted. The settlement layout appears largely unchanged since mapped in the mid-19th century. It is very rare to have such a complete survival of miners' cottages that have avoided relatively recent reuse and adaptation. The physical remains of the miners' cottages can help provide research potential for the socio-economic aspects of life for miners. Beyond the visible structural remains and clear plan layout of the settlement, we can expect buried remains, related to life as a miner, to survive. Historic photographs and postcards, probably from the end of the 19th century, show the cottages to be occupied and such visual records can be tied to the remains seen today, enhancing our understanding appreciation of the visible archaeology. The well-preserved survival of the miners' cottages greatly adds to the importance and research potential of Blackcraig lead mines. 

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The search and extraction of lead at Blackcraig may date back beyond the 18th century. The Old Military Road (Canmore ID 142816), constructed around 1763 when lead was recorded as being discovered at Blackcraig, follows the line of a Roman road (Canmore ID 247001). Archaeological evidence and contemporary records from the elsewhere in the Roman Empire show that the Romans were aware of valuable minerals and precious metals in bedrock and actively operated mines across the Empire. We do not have archaeological evidence for Roman period mining at Blackcraig. However, the Roman road running through bedrock rich in lead hints at a possible pre-cursor to modern-era mining at the site. Historical accounts published by Kinna (1904) state that former miners, in the Minnigaff parish, had come across ancient horizontal mine levels, known as "old men", that pre-dated the commercial 19th century mines at Blackcraig. This is possible evidence for earlier lead mining in the Blackcraig area.

The 18th, 19th and 20th century mining remains visible at Blackcraig represent what was the largest lead mine in the area. There are three other mines of similar size or date in the Dumfries and Galloway area that are scheduled; Knockiebae Lead Mines (Scheduled Monument SM4855), Woodhead lead mines and smelter, Carsphairn (Scheduled Monument SM5184) and Pibble, lead mines (Scheduled Monument SM5289). The remains of the miners' cottages at Blackcraig sets it apart from these other examples - it is the only one of this group of scheduled monuments with such a well-preserved, relatively complete collection of housing. We can compare the remains at Blackcraig to these other mines, all being roughly contemporary at some point in their history, to better understand the mining processes and functions of structures and workings.  

Within a wider context, Minnigaff was regarded as an important and productive lead mining location in Scotland. The Leadhills-Wanlockhead area in northeast Dumfries and Galloway was known to have the most abundant and productive supply of lead in Scotland. Dumfries and Galloway as a region was the most important source of 18th and 19th century Scottish lead. Blackcraig would have formed an important part of the supply chain with the lead it produced being shipped nationally and possibly internationally. The mines at Wanlockhead (scheduled monument SM5597) and Leadhills (scheduled monument SM5817) are on a much larger scale than Blackcraig but the type of remains, suite of functions and processes represented at all the sites is similar. Blackcraig was the main mine to be worked in the local area and had an unusually late period of operation in 1917 and therefore is an important survivor that represents the industrial past of an important lead mining region. 

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known specific events or people related to Blackcraig lead mines that significantly contribute to the associative characteristics of the site. However, the remains of the mines and miners' cottages are significant for our understanding of socio-economic context of lead mining. The miners' cottages would have been the homes of families where the men, and even some women and children, worked at Blackcraig mines. Families or "work-gangs" negotiated their own pay with the mine company; rates were individually agreed annually for lengths of shafts dug and weight of lead extracted. The workers were essentially self-employed and in charge of their own time and work organisation. The miners were typically paid annually and often managed between pays by taking company credit. Historical records allow us to tie these previous socio-economic lifestyles to the workforce at Blackcraig. We know, in 1780, 44 men worked at Blackcraig mines, this included 25 miners and 7 smelters. Such historical records, associated with the physical remains of the miners' cottages, can help us understand the way of life for miners in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



AOC Archaeology Group (2022) Blackcraig Lead Mine, Dumfries and Galloway: Survey Report, on behalf of Forestry Land Scotland. (unpublished survey report).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 176369, 295499 and 295852 (accessed on 12/05/2022).

Forest Heritage Scotland – From Lade to Lead, Kirroughtree Lade (web extract on Canmore). (accessed on 12/05/2022)

Grampian Speleological Group (2008). "Mines in Scotland", in Alan L Jeffreys, a revised re-publication of the Glasgow Speleological Society Journal, volume 1, part 4.

Kinna, J. (1904). History of the Parish of Minnigaff. Dumfries.

Landless, J. (2014). Gazeteer of Metal Mines of Scotland. Newton Stewart.

Mines Rescue – Blackcraig. (accessed on 12/05/2022)

Oldham, T. (2005). Mines of South Western Scotland.

Scottish Cave and Mine Database – Blackcraig Mine West and Blackcraig Mine East. and (accessed on 12/05/2022)

Smith, T. (1994). History of the East and West Blackcraig Lead Mines.


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 18749-50, published 1853) Scotland, Kirkcudbrightshire, Sheet 36. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1894, published 1896) Scotland, Kirkcudbrightshire, Sheet XXXIV.NE. 6 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (revised 1907, published 1909) Scotland, Kirkcudbrightshire, Sheet XXXIX.NE. 6 inches to the mile. 3rd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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