Beldi Hill Low Level lead mine and ore works


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015408

Date first listed: 24-Dec-1996


Ordnance survey map of Beldi Hill Low Level 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 90295 00739


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.

The ore works complex at Beldi Hill Low Level is one of the best preserved in the Yorkshire Dales. Many of the original features and some unusual structures still survive. The monument illustrates well the development of lead ore processing techniques and will contribute greatly to the study of the lead industry both locally and nationally.


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


The monument includes the remains of Beldi Hill Low Level lead ore works and mine level situated on the steep sided east bank of the River Swale 3km south of Keld. The monument is laid out on four terraces, partly cut into the hillside, and includes the entrance to an adit, or horizontal mine tunnel, a spoil or waste tip, bouse teams (for storing rough sorted ore), ore crusher, wheelpit and washing and dressing floors for making ore ready for smelting. The monument also includes a range of water management features and the low earthwork remains of a large building. The main water supply for the processing was from the beck known as Oldfield Gutter which passes through the site, with the mine and spoil tip lying to the west and the ore works to the east.

The adit entrance emerges on the uppermost terrace and some of the rails for moving the ore tubs are still in place. Waste from the workings was tipped to the north where the large spoil tip lies spreading out and down to the lower terrace level. A wide bridge spans the beck which provided access to the bouse teams and also formed a dam to help regulate water supply. To the west of the mine entrance are the remains of a small stone building, possibly a smithy where tools could be regularly sharpened.

The bouse teams are a group of four horseshoe shaped stone chambers, the top of which are level with the upper terrace so that the lead ore could be tipped directly in. To the east of the bouse teams is a chute, cut through the rock, which fed the ore directly to the crushing plant located on the terrace below. The crushing plant had two sets of iron rollers, one each side of a water wheel. Four stone weights for adjusting the space between the rollers survive, two on either side of the wheel pit.

On the next terrace down are a pair of boat shaped, stone tanks thought to be wash kilns or separaters. On the lower terrace is a large stone flagged area with flat buddles (for separating ore in a moving current of water) and separating tanks. At the east of this washing floor is a boat shaped settling tank which leads onto a further smaller and slightly lower stone terrace to the east.

On the river terrace between the lower dressing floor and the river are low earthwork banks representing the remains of a structure 6m square with a further structure extending for 10m towards the river. A stone built conduit, now partly buried, leads south westwards from the east of the dressing floors which discharged excess water into the river. At the mouth by the river are traces of a final silt trap, to extract any last residues of ore.

To the west of the monument the course of the beck across the river terrace has been substantialy widened to form a reservoir up to 12m wide. The reservoir was dammed at the south end by a stone bridge and along the south edge of the river terrace traces of stone revetting are visible.

Throughout the monument are drains and leats to channel water to and from the various processes. Extending from the east of the lower dressing floor is a stone revetted causeway leading to the smelt mill at Swinner Gill

It is not known exactly when the Beldi Hill complex was developed but sources suggest that the mine was driven in 1843 and the mine is certainly shown on the 1857 OS map. The ore works were probably built between these dates and were in use until the early 1880s when the mine level was abandoned because of flooding.

The modern wooden footbridge spanning the beck is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

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: 28248

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barker, J L R, White, R F, A Consolidation project at Beldi Hill Dressing Floor, Keld, (1996)
Northern Archaeological Associates, , Beldi Hill Dressing Floor, Keld, (1995)

End of official listing