Greenside lead mines, ore works and smelt mill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015654

Date first listed: 11-Jun-1996

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Greenside lead mines, ore works and smelt mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Patterdale

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: NY 35888 18084


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.

Ore hearth smelt mills were introduced in the 16th century and continued to develop until the late 19th century. They were the normal type of lead smelter until the 18th century, when they were partially replaced by the reverberatory smelt mill. The ore hearth itself consisted of a low open hearth, in which lead ore was mixed with fuel (initially dried wood, later a mixture of peat and coal). An air blast was supplied by bellows, normally operated by a waterwheel; more sophisticated arrangements were used at some 19th century sites. The slags from the ore hearth still contained some lead. This was extracted by resmelting the slags at a higher temperature using charcoal or (later) coke fuel, normally in a separate slag hearth. This was typically within the ore hearth smelt mill, though separate slag mills are known. Early sites were typically small and simple buildings with one or two hearths, whereas late 18th and 19th century smelt mills were often large complexes containing several ore and slag hearths, roasting furnaces for preparing the ore, refining furnaces for extracting silver from the lead by a process known as cupellation, and reducing furnaces for recovering lead from the residue or litharge produced by cupellation, together with sometimes complex systems of flues, condensers and chimneys for recovering lead from the fumes given off by the various hearths and furnaces. The ore hearth smelt mill site will also contain fuel stores and other ancillary buildings. Ore hearth smelt mills have existed in and near all the lead mining fields of England, though late 18th and 19th century examples were virtually confined to the Pennines from Yorkshire northwards (and surviving evidence is strongly concentrated in North Yorkshire). It is believed that several hundred examples existed nationally. The sample identified as meriting protection includes: all sites with surviving evidence of hearths; sites with intact slag tips of importance for understanding the development of smelting technology; all 16th- 17th century sites with appreciable standing structural remains; 16th-17th century sites with well preserved earthwork remains; and a more selective sample of 18th and 19th century sites to include the best surviving evidence for smelt mill structures, and flue/condenser/chimney systems. Greenside lead mine was one of the most successful lead mining ventures in northern England. Mining took place almost continuously over a period of 300 years and during this time the mine owners were highly innovative in their use of new technology which helped to maintain the productivity and success of the mines. The monument contains a wide range of surviving features associated with the full lifespan of the mining complex.


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


The monument includes a number of lead mines and their associated buildings, water management systems, trackways, tramways and dressing areas, which collectively are known as the Greenside lead mines. These mines are located over a large area of fellside to the north of Glenridding Beck; the oldest and uppermost workings lie on the flanks of Greenside and the most recent and lowest lying sites occur near the floor of the Glenridding valley. At the highest point lies the High Horse Level mine and its associated structures. Below this are the Swart Beck dressing floors and further down the beck lie the Low Horse Level workings. Further down still, close to the confluence of Glenridding Beck and Swart Beck, are the Lucy Tongue workings. The area immediately to the north and east of the High Horse Level is dominated by a line of massive collapses caused by subsistence of the underground workings which has destroyed the earliest of the Greenside mines. Those workings to have survived include the High Horse adit, Gillgowar's adit, a trial adit, a hush and three prospecting trenches. Other surviving features include two waste heaps, traces of an extensive water management system which includes three reservoirs and a number of leats, a tramway, a track, and the remains of four buildings including a miner's lodging house and a former office and smithy. To the west of the High Horse workings lies Top Dam, a large reservoir constructed to supply water to the Swart Beck dressing floors, the Low Horse Level workings, and the Lucy Tongue Level. Between the High Horse level and the Swart Beck dressing floors there is a hand-picking area which formed the collecting point for unsorted rock from the High Horse working to which it was linked by a tramway. Some of this waste was processed in-situ, the remainder was transported to spoil heaps to the south west by a further tramway. A ruined building near to the hand-picking area is thought to have been the mine office or a lodging house. The Swart Beck dressing floor was linked to the High Horse Level workings by a tramway and several tracks, and was connected to the Lucy Tongue Level workings by a zig-zag pack horse track. The main processing machinery occupied the east bank of the beck and remains of various structures survive including a crushing mill and a nearby buddle which provided the second stage of ore-processing following the crushing. Waste dumps, leats, a tramway, a fine processing area, settling tanks and a dam also survive on the dressing floor. On the west side of the beck there are further waste dumps, slime pits or settling tanks, a trackway and the remains of a building thought to have been a lodging house for the dressing floor workers or a tackle shop for packhorses. A short distance downstream there is a small dam and a water tank which formed part of the water catchment for the Low Horse Level workings. The principal workings of the Low Horse Level, however, are situated lower down on the western side of Swart Beck where the steep hillside was terraced to accommodate a variety of features and structures associated with the ore-processing. The adit is situated on the eastern side of Swart Beck; ore was removed along a tramway which crossed the beck on a bridge, now demolished, to the uppermost of three terraces from where the ore was fed directly into six bouse teams, remains of which still survive. From three of these bouse teams the ore was funnelled onto a washing floor on the second terrace, while from the other three bouse teams the ore was transferred to a crusher on the third terrace. Once processed the waste was removed by waggon from the second terrace across another bridge, also demolished, to tips on the east side of Swart Beck. In addition to the bouse teams the upper terrace contains remains of retaining walls, tramways, leats, and three buildings thought to have been offices, lodgings and stables. Hand-picking took place on the second terrace and, although erosion has carried away large parts of this terrace, various lengths of retaining wall still survive as does a bridge abutment on the east side of the beck opposite the terrace. Fragments of two hoppers can be seen in the lower part of the workings together with traces of a winding house at the top a long incline. The site of the crushing mill is still visible and its wheel-pit survives reasonably well. Much of the adjacent third terrace has been lost to erosion and only small fragments of buildings survive. On the east side of the beck, adjacent to the spoil heap, are several trackbeds for the waggons which carried the waste, together with the remains of two buildings interpreted as a tackle shop for the mine's horses and the gunpowder store for the mine. The Lucy Tongue workings are built across the northern slope of the steep sided Glenridding valley. This has necessitated construction of stone revetment walls to create terraces on which buildings and ore-processing machinery were established. The lowest or first terrace contained the smelt mill and ore-processing complex, and of the range of buildings which stood here only the smelt mill survives. It now functions as a private hostel, however, during renovation in 1989 an early type of reverbatory furnace was discovered in the western end of the building built into the floor of the building, whilst the eastern end is reputed to have been associated with water wheels and slag hearths. An open area immediately north of this building was the site of smelting hearths. On the west side there is a wall containing two chutes down which ore travelled into the hearths. An alcove set into the south wall of this open area contains fire bricks and is thought to be the site of a hearth. A flue of the smelter was designed to aid the precipitation of lead and silver suspended in the fumes produced by the smelting process. This flue took the form of a long stone-built chimney which ascended the hill from the smelter and ended at a vertical chimney c.1.5km away on the summit of Stang End. Although largely collapsed the course of this flue is traceable for virtually its whole length and the lower courses of the chimney remain standing. Remains of a sawmill are located on the northern bank of Glenridding Beck and close by is a large wheelpit which is thought to have been the sawmill's power source. The second terrace has the remains of two bridge abutments which supported both a tramway to convey waste from the Lucy Tonge workings to tips on the east side of Swart Beck, and several ore processing buildings. Other concrete foundations survive including those of buildings which housed a Symonds Crusher and a crude ore bin. The third terrace housed slime pits and various buildings including a crushing mill; none of which survive now. Other features included a number of buddles and a building through which entrance to Lucy Tongue Level was gained; some foundations of this building, which contained miner's baths, still survive. The fourth terrace is the highest surviving terrace. It was originally occupied by a crushing mill located at the base of the incline from Low Horse Level and powered by a water wheel. This was later replaced by Power House No 2 which itself has since been removed. A fifth terrace has been destroyed by subsequent waste tipping. Mining commenced at Greenside during the mid/late 17th century at the area around High Horse Level. About 1825 the Greenside Mining Syndicate took over mining operations and developed a crushing and washing mill on the site of the original washings on the Swart Beck dressing floor. In the mid-1830s the Low Horse Level commenced and about the same time a smelt mill and flue was built at the foot of Lucy Tongue. In 1868 the Lucy Tongue Level was opened. Production finally ceased at Greenside in 1962. All buildings, modern walls, fenceposts, gateposts, telegraph poles and the surfaces of all paths are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath all 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: 27751

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
RCHME, , The Greenside Lead Mines, (1991), 1-31
RCHME, , The Greenside Lead Mines, (1991), 1-47
RCHME, , The Greenside Lead Mines, (1991), 1-23
RCHME, , The Greenside Lead Mines, (1991), 1-40

End of official listing