West Stonesdale lead mine and ore works


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015407

Date first listed: 24-Dec-1996


Ordnance survey map of West Stonesdale lead mine and ore works
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Richmondshire (District Authority)

Parish: Muker


National Grid Reference: NY 88600 03633


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 wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated lead mines also included ore works, where the mixture of ore and waste rock extracted from the ground was separated ('dressed') to form a smeltable concentrate. The range of processes used can be summarised as: picking out of clean lumps of ore and waste; breaking down of lumps to smaller sizes (either by manual hammering or mechanical crushing); sorting of broken material by size; separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in a tub of water ('jigging'); and separation of finer material by washing away the lighter waste in a current of water ('buddling'). The field remains of ore works vary widely and include the remains of crushing devices, separating structures and tanks, tips of distinctive waste from the various processes, together with associated water supply and power installations, such as wheel pits and, more rarely, steam engine houses. The majority of nucleated lead mines with ore works are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rake or hush and including scattered ore dressing features (a 'hush' is a gully or ravine partly excavated by use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of mineral ore). Nucleated lead mines 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 many upland landscapes. It is estimated that several thousand sites exist, the majority being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains of many larger mines have often been greatly modified or destroyed by continued working or by modern reworking. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of the class, is considered to merit protection.

West Stonesdale mine complex retains a wide range of features associated with the lead exploitation and processing industry. The engine house is an unusual structure which housed the only known hydraulic engine in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. Important archaeological remains of ore processing activities also survive. Overall, the complex preserves important archaeological remains which serve to illustrate the history of the lead industry throughout the region and the country.


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


The monument includes the remains of the West Stonesdale lead mines and ore works complex situated on the banks of Startindale Gill.

There are two mines included in the monument; a shaft mine on the west bank of the gill with an adjacent engine house and an adit, or horizontal mine tunnel, on the opposite side of the gill with the remains of a stone bridge and causeway connecting it to the main complex. The lead ore works lay south of the engine house and spoil or waste tips extend north and south east from the shaft. A lime kiln and an adjacent store building are also included in the monument.

The shaft is sunk into the steep west side of the gill with the engine house built immediately to the east of it with a stone superstructure surrounding the shaft head. The engine house is divided into two parts; a room which housed a two cylinder hydraulic engine and to its south, a narrow chamber which contained a spur wheel to pump water from the mine via a system of bell cranks and connecting rods. The wheel chamber extends west beyond the shaft to accommodate a counter balance system. The engine also powered a winding mechanism, located in a room above, which raised and lowered cages in the shaft. A store room was also located on the floor above the engine. The front and upper floor of the engine house have collapsed but the rear wall and structure surrounding the shaft head remain intact. Despite the collapse many of the structural and functional elements of the building can be clearly identified.

The entrance to the adit mine on the east side of the gill has collapsed but a stone causeway leading from it, to carry material to the processing works still survives. At the gill edge the causeway is 5m wide and 1.5m high. The bridge has collapsed but the remains of the bridge supports on the west of the gill can be clearly identified.

The ore works lie to the south of the engine house on a series of terraces cut into the hillside. The works include three main components: a waterwheel to provide power, a crushing plant to break down the ore bearing rock and a series of terraces known as dressing or washing floors where the lead ore was prepared before being taken to a smelt mill. The wheelpit lies at the highest level and was fed by a leat from Great Bridge Gill to the west. Although the main function of the wheel was to power the adjacent crushing plant its location suggests it may also have been used for winding in the shaft. The crushing plant lay immediately south of the wheel and although this is now in ruins substantial remains of both it and the wheel pit survive beneath stone rubble. South of the crushing mill are two dressing floors stepping down to the gill. Both of these have a supporting wall on the lower (east) side. A further level terrace and remains of a building lie immediately to the south of the dressing floors.

North of the engine house a spoil tip extends northwards for 70m and tumbles steeply to the edge of the gill at the east. This spoil tip is level with the top of the shaft head superstructure whilst to the south the ground is level with the shaft head itself. Further spoil tips lie on the slope to the south east of the engine house.

A small adit emerges from the hillside just above the gill to the south east of the engine house which discharged water pumped out from the shaft.

The lime kiln lies on the east bank of the gill and is a circular stone structure 3.8m in diameter at the top with an access chute 1.8m wide. The kiln is built into the slope so that at the front it is 3m high and at the rear it is only 0.9m above ground level. This meant that the kiln could be filled from the rear without an access ramp having to be built. Close to the rear of the kiln is the remains of a stone open fronted structure which was probably a store for either limestone or fuel.

The shaft mine was opened in c.1850 to create access to the west end of a rich lead vein known as the Blakethwaite vein. This had been worked at the more accessible east end but was abandoned due to water problems. A cross vein worked from the mine was quite productive, producing, between 1855 and 1860, 12000 pounds sterling worth of ore, although ironically the Blakethwaite vein itself turned out to be unproductive. The mine was abandoned in 1860 and was never reworked.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number: 28247

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
McNeil, J, Finch, L, Gill, M, West Stonesdale Mine Engine House Survey, (1976)
McNeil, J, Finch, L, Gill, M, West Stonesdale Mine Engine House Survey, (1976)
McNeil, J, 'British Mining' in West Stonesdale Mine, , Vol. No. 19, (1982), 15-19

End of official listing