Lead smelting site on Ramsley Moor, 600m south west of Foxlane Farm

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009709

Date first listed: 05-Sep-1996

Map

Ordnance survey map of Lead smelting site on Ramsley Moor, 600m south west of Foxlane Farm
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Derbyshire

District: North East Derbyshire (District Authority)

Parish: Holmesfield

National Park: PEAK DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SK 29400 75635

Summary

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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. Medieval lead smelters include a range of features known from field or documentary evidence. The commonest type is the bole or bolehill, a wind-blown smelting fire located on an exposed hilltop or crest. This consisted of a rectangular or circular stone structure, open on one side, within which a large fire was constructed using large blocks of wood at the base and smaller wood interleaved with ore above. Boles used the wind to provide draught and were located on exposed summits or ridges, normally facing south west. The molten lead was run out by channels on the upwind side into a casting pit or area. The slags produced by the bole retained considerable quantities of lead. Some of this could be extracted by crushing and washing the slags and the remainder could be recovered by resmelting the slag in a smaller enclosed hearth (the slag hearth or 'blackwork oven') using charcoal fuel and an air blast normally supplied by hand or foot operated bellows; the resulting black glassy slag is distinct from the grey or yellow slag produced by the bole itself. The bole and associated features were in use from at least the 12th to the late 16th centuries. They are important as the main form of medieval lead smelting technology, differing markedly from the smelting technology of other metals. Boles are found on exposed sites in and around the Pennine lead mining fields; there is also historical evidence for their existence in Shropshire, but they are not known to have existed in the Mendip or south west England mining areas. It is likely that around 200 bole sites existed, with smaller numbers of slag washing sites (sometimes in separate locations from the bole). The majority of sites are known from place name evidence only; scatters of slag or visibly contaminated ground are unusual, and sites retaining informative slag distributions, intact tips, or visible structural or earthwork features are very rare. All sites with informative slag distributions, intact tips, or visible structural or earthwork features are therefore considered to merit protection. It is known that other types of lead smelter were used in the medieval period. There is documentary evidence for smelter types known as the 'furnace' in Devon and the Mendips, 'hutt' in Devon, and 'smelt mill' in North Yorkshire. On the Mendips, most smelting was undertaken at four central washing and smelting places known as 'mineries', probably using small open hearths blown by foot powered bellows. There is also field evidence for an enclosed smelting furnace (from the Isle of Man) and a range of sites identified by scatters of slag (from County Durham). These field site types cannot yet be fully correlated to the documented site types, and are a priority for future research. Due to their rarity, all non-bole medieval lead smelting sites retaining informative slag distributions, intact tips, or visible structural or earthwork features are considered to merit protection.

The Ramsley Moor monument forms an intact and undisturbed complex of an unusual type with no known parallels of similar quality, and retaining a good diversity of features. These include visible earthworks, intact slag tips, and slag distributions over a wide area, all of which are unusual survivals on sites of this early date. It has enhanced amenity value due to its location on National Park property, and within a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The site forms a major resource for the study of late medieval lead smelting technology.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The smelting site on Ramsley Moor is a medieval lead production site of unusual character. The monument lies along the west bank of a headwater of Millthorpe Brook, and is traversed by a small leat originating from this stream at the south end of the site and contouring northwards along the slope of the shallow valley. The majority of visible features are linear earthwork mounds and spreads of broken lead slag, occupying the area between the leat and the stream. Other earthwork features are visible, including one interpreted as a wheelpit. The monument is believed to be of late medieval date, and to represent an area where slags from a nearby bole lead smelter were broken, washed, and resmelted to extract the remaining lead.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 24982

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Other
Conversation, November 1993, Willies, L, (1993)

End of official listing