Tankerville lead mine


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014865

Date first listed: 14-Mar-1997


Ordnance survey map of Tankerville lead mine
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Worthen with Shelve

National Grid Reference: SO 35484 99493


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. Nucleated lead mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by lead 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, powder houses for storing gunpowder, power transmission features such as flat rod systems, transport systems such as railways and inclines, and water power and water supply features such as wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated lead mines also included ore works where the ore, once extracted, was processed. The majority of nucleated lead mines are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rake or hush (a gully or ravine partly excavated by use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of mineral ore). They often illustrate the great advances in industrial technology associated with the period known as the Industrial Revolution and, sometimes, also inform an understanding of the great changes in social conditions which accompanied it. Because of the greatly increased scale of working associated with nucleated mining such features can be a major component of upland landscapes. It is estimated that at least 10,000 sites, exist the majority being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains at many larger mines have been greatly modified or destroyed by continued working or modern reworking. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of the class, is considered to merit protection.

Tankerville lead mine survives well and is regarded as one of the finest surviving 19th century mining complexes in Shropshire. It is a compact site where the buildings are clearly inter-related and where the original layout of the complex has been little altered by subsequent development. Its surface remains, particularly in the central and western parts of the site which retains terraces and a high concentration of ruined structures, represent an up-to-date lead mine of the Victorian period retaining evidence of mining techniques and mechanised ore processing. The ore hoppers and the compact crushing and dressing floors are considered to be unique to Shropshire and are rare nationally. Additionally, there is a considerable archive of documentary material, including a number of early 20th century photographs, providing information on mining operations at Tankerville during this period.


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


The monument is situated approximately 2.5km north east of the village of Shelve in the southern part of Worthen with Shelve. It includes the ruins (a number of which are Listed Grade II) and the earthwork and other remains of Tankerville lead mine, together with part of its associated water management system. Lead mining occurred at Tankerville from the early 19th century, but was originally only concerned with the workings of a small pipe vein worked by means of a crosscut and a small shaft sunk in the 1850s. The established mine was thus known as the Oven Pipe. In 1864 it was leased to Heighway Jones and managed by Arthur Waters, who exploited the full potential of the veins by deepening the shaft and locating the richest lead vein in Shropshire. In 1870 a joint stock company, the Tankerville Mining Company, was floated to raise the capital investment to expand the mine. A new shaft, known as Watson's, was sunk and ultimately became the deepest shaft in the orefield, reaching a depth of c.520m below the surface. A 32" engine was installed for both pumping and winding, but as the shaft was further deepened it was found to be incapable of draining the workings efficiently. By the autumn of 1875 a new engine house was being constructed adjacent to Watson's shaft to house a 40" Cornish steam engine which began pumping the following August. The old Oven Pipe workings are believed to have been gradually abandoned as work concentrated on the new vein. Despite the investment in the mine, the gradual working out of the lead ore, coupled with a fall in the price of lead from the mid-1870s onwards, resulted in the company operating at a loss after 1878. The mine finally closed in May 1884. An attempt to re-open the mine was made between 1891 and 1893 by the Shropshire United Mining Co.Ltd. but although some lead was produced, it is believed to have been obtained from ore already at the surface or from re-working the spoil. Finally, between 1911 and 1913, the mine was leased by Shropshire Lead Mines Ltd., who also appear to have been unsuccessful, and the site and its fittings were eventually sold. Standing and other remains associated with the early mining operations at Tankerville are located in the north eastern part of the site, close to the original shaft. With the exception of the shaft itself, these are included in the scheduling. The rubblestone engine house, which is Listed Grade II, is a relatively small structure measuring approximately 4m by 3m. Its south gable wall is thicker than the other walls and is believed to have served as the bob wall on which the balance beam of the engine pivoted. The beam engine which worked the original Oven Pipe, or Old Engine, shaft was described as `a small colliery engine' which, in turn, raised the ore, worked the roller crushers, and drained the mine. The pit for the valve gear is thought to lie at the southern end of the building and, although it has been infilled, it will survive as a buried feature. To the west of the Oven Pipe engine house is the stump of a masonry chimney which is built of roughly coursed rubble and is slightly tapered. It stands approximately 5m high, is Listed Grade II and is included in the scheduling. It is believed to have been associated with a boiler house which served the engine house but is no longer visible on the ground surface. Map evidence indicates that it was located between the chimney and the engine house, and it will survive as a buried feature. Following the sinking of Watson's shaft in the western part of the site, a 32" steam engine was installed at the shaft head. It is thought to have been housed in a building to the east of the shaft which is shown on photographs of the mine, dated c.1874, as a structure with a hipped roof. There is now little surface evidence for this structure, apart from its western gable wall and the western ends of its two side walls, but the rest of the walls will survive as buried features. The weight of the pumping rods in the shaft were counterbalanced by a balance bob (a heavy weight moving up and down within a bob pit). The balance bob tunnel is situated between the eastern side of Watson's shaft and the west wall of the engine house and is a tall, stone- lined and brick-vaulted tunnel. The Cornish engine house which was erected in 1875 to replace the existing engine house lies to the west of Watson's shaft and was the last major structure to be built at the mine. The increasing problems with drainage as the shaft was deepened led to the decision to install an engine specifically for pumping the mine workings whilst the existing steam engine was retained for winding. The engine house is built of roughly coursed local Tankerville shale and measures 8.3m by 6.1m. It is Listed Grade II and is included in the scheduling. It originally had three main storeys and a basement pit in the western portion of the building. Three of its walls are 0.82m thick whilst its bob wall, facing the shaft, is approximately 1.15m thick. The machine bed for the engine cylinder remains visible within the engine house, though partly buried under debris, and is of good quality stone. A series of empty beam sockets in the external wall of its north wall indicates that a single storey structure was, at some stage, erected against this side of the engine house. Approximately 8m to the west of the engine house is a small well with a square entry which is thought to be associated with the mine and is included in the scheduling. To the north east of the Cornish engine house is a tapering chimney which is Listed Grade II and included in the scheduling. It is octagonal in section, built in red brick above an ashlar capped rubblestone plinth. It is believed to have served the boiler house immediately to the north east. The boiler house is thought to have been associated with both engine houses at Watson's shaft. The traces of the demolished boiler house are fragmentary. It is known that it used an existing revetment wall to the west as one of its walls, within which are the stubs of returning walls. Once the lead ore was brought to the surface, via the shaft, it was taken to the dressing floors, where processing involved crushing the ore and separating out the impurities. Immediately to the south of the Cornish engine house are the standing remains of the ore hoppers. The ore was deposited at the ore hopper level and broken up into sufficiently small pieces to go through the grills of the hopper gratings. The ore hoppers have been partly built into the adjacent hillside with a masonry revetment wall along their eastern side. There are six hoppers in all, each with stone-lined sloping sides, narrowing to a square opening within the revetment wall at the level of the crushing floor situated to the east. The crushing floor is a raised area, defined to the north, west and east by retaining walls which continue to the north of Watson's shaft. Its western revetment wall, north of the Cornish engine, is curved and it is thought that there was an access track or road leading to the engine house immediately to the west of the wall. Photographic evidence indicates that the southern half of the crushing floor was covered by two sheds or shelters, and some powered processes are believed to have occurred here. Immediately to the east and below the level of the crushing floor is the site of the lower dressing floor. Documentary records indicate that new machinery, including machine jiggers, classifiers and round buddles, had been installed here by the autumn of 1877, and buried deposits associated with several of these features are believed to survive beneath the ground surface. Many of the dressing processes required a good water supply, and the level below the crushing floor, which is also occupied by the original Watson's shaft engine house and the boiler house, is situated immediately below the dam of the mine's lower reservoir. It is a rectangular, stone-lined reservoir and there are traces of a sluice at the eastern end of its masonry dam. The spar (quartz and calcite chips) removed during the dressing processes would have been taken to the spoil or spar tip to the north of the mine complex. The spar is believed to have been carried here by a tramway system, and the linear embankment on the north west side of the site is thought to be the trackbed for a tramway which ran from the northern end of the crushing floor via a bridge into the spar tip. The embankment is approximately 100m long, and a 14m sample length of this feature is included in the scheduling in order to preserve the relationship between the spar tip and the mine complex. The milking parlour and associated farm buildings to the east of the crushing floor, the surfaces of all paths and farm tracks, the concrete surface of the farmyard and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

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


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

Legacy System number: 21657

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Brook, F, Allbut, M, The South Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 54-64
Brook, F, Allbut, M, The South Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 61-3
City of Hereford Archaeology Unit, , 'Hereford Archaeology Series' in Tankerville Lead Mine, , Vol. 102, (1991)

End of official listing