Lead mine and ore works at Greenhead Gill, Grasmere


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015651

Date first listed: 08-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Lead mine and ore works at Greenhead Gill, Grasmere
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: South Lakeland (District Authority)

Parish: Lakes

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: NY 34968 08649


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.

Despite some unrecorded small scale later mineworking, the 16th century nucleated lead mine at Greenhead Gill survives reasonably well. The monument contains the remains of a range of integral components such as shafts, open cast workings, buildings, buddles, bridge abutments, a dressing floor and a leat, and remains one of the few relatively undisturbed Elizabethan lead mining complexes in existence.


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


The monument includes the remains of a 16th century lead mine located in the narrow valley of Greenhead Gill between the confluences of Grains Gill and Rowantree Gill with Greenhead Gill. There are two areas about 140m apart on the east side of Greenhead Gill where the ground is relatively flat and here are found remains of stone buildings and walls. Associated with these structures are a leat, a washing floor, a mine shaft, an adit - that is a horizontal tunnel driven into the hillside for access to the mineral vein or to drain water from the mine, two bridge abutments, and a number of square depressions in the ground which are thought to be the site of box buddles which housed apparatus for separating ore from the veinstone. The northernmost building measures approximately 3m square internally with walls of drystone construction up to 1.4m high. A short distance to the south west is a second building measuring c.4.7m by 3.4m with a doorway at the south east end of the east wall. The walls are up to 1m high except for that at the north end which is slightly taller and might have been gabled. This second building stands close to the gill and between it and the stream on the west there is a wall up to 1.2m high which continues at an obtuse angle to the south of the building. Other walls can be seen to the south and east of this second building and may represent the remains of a larger building within which this second building was latterly constructed. Alternatively some of these walls may have been constructed to protect the second building from flooding when the gill was in spate. Between these two buildings at the northern end of the complex is a sloping patch of ground covered with broken veinstone of irregular size; this is a washing or dressing floor where the reduction and sorting of veinstone into grades suitable for further processing took place. A cutting running diagonally across the fellside down towards the two buildings marks the course of a leat which brought water from Rowantree Gill to power a water mill which is known from documentary sources to have provided the power for a stamp mill and box buddles during the 16th century. A short distance below the larger of the two northern buildings, and adjacent to the gill, is a square depression c.1.5m across which is thought to be the site of a box buddle and depressions further down the gill may mark the site of other box buddles. On the west side of the gill opposite the northern buildings are some small open cast workings and two shafts one of which, St Benedict's, is mentioned in company account books for 1569. A short distance south of these workings and close to the second of the two northern buildings are the remains of two low stone pillars, one either side of the gill. These are interpreted as bridge abutments. Downstream at the southern end of the complex are fragments of substantial walls up to 1.2m high located on irregular terracing covering an area measuring c.20m by 11m. None of these walls now form a complete building outline and they appear to have been considerably disturbed. Close by on the west side of Greenhead Gill there is a partly blocked drilled level running into the hillside. Documentary sources indicate that German miners and engineers began work at Grasmere in 1564, however, this may relate to a smithy nearby rather than at the mines themselves where work may not have started until later in the decade. Galena and gangue were mined here until 1573 when the mine closed down. An inventory of all property at Grasmere drawn up by the Company of Mines Royal in 1586 indicates that the main building was a stamphouse measuring 36 feet by 31 feet with a waterwheel, 12 stamps, and a loft to sleep the workmen. There was also a small room behind the loft - possibly sleeping quarters or an office. Another small building with a slated roof is also mentioned at the complex. Other features described include 11 square box buddles sunk into the ground, three supports for the launder to the waterwheel, and a `rowle wagon servinge for within the Mynes' which suggests use of an underground wagonway by the German miners. The drilled level at the southern end of the complex indicates some work has been carried out here since the 16th century and the second building at the northern end of the complex may belong to an unrecorded mining venture possibly undertaken in the early years of the 19th century.

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: 27748

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bridge, D, Matheson, I, 'The Mine Explorer' in The Elizabethan Lead Mine at Greenhead Gill, Grassmere, , Vol. IV, (1994), 108-119

End of official listing