Whitesike and Bentyfield lead mines and ore works


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015832

Date first listed: 24-Sep-1997


Ordnance survey map of Whitesike and Bentyfield lead mines and ore works
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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: Alston Moor

National Grid Reference: NY 75287 42558

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 dressing floors of Whitesike and Bentyfield ore works retain especially deep stratified deposits including areas that are waterlogged. Waterlogged deposits create anaerobic conditions which are ideal for the preservation of organic materials, such as wood and leather. Nationally important remains of 19th century ore processing equipment are considered to survive within these deposits, which will provide very valuable information about ore processing technology. The two linked mines form typical examples of mid-19th century mine complexes and as they are crossed by a footpath, they are an educational resource and public amenity.


The monument is situated either side of Garrigill Burn and is crossed by the B6277 Alston to Middleton road. The monument includes the core surviving remains of a pair of 19th century nucleated lead mines with their associated ore works, together with a culvert which allows the burn to pass under a large spoil heap. Also included within the scheduling are all deposits of mining and dressing wastes. The dispersed air and winding shafts that extend from the burn up the fellside to the south east, together with the various dams and other water management features associated with the mines, are not included in the scheduling. These features are widely dispersed and form part of a much more extensive mining landscape. It is thought that Bentyfield and Whitesike mines, which were linked by a tramway, now used as a footpath, on the north side of the Garrigill Burn, were worked in close association with each other with Whitesikes being a London Lead Company mine and Bentyfield partly worked by London Lead and partly by the Alston Moor Company. Bentyfield Mine worked the vein of the same name which is approximately marked at the surface by the course of Garrigill Burn. A level was driven for 518m along the vein and the mine yielded 4868 tons of lead concentrate (processed ore ready for smelting) between 1848 and 1882 with 7.6oz of silver per ton of lead recovered between 1854 and 1875. The main level for the Whitesikes Mine was Brown Gill Low Level which was driven eastwards along Old Groves Cross Vein to reach Brown Gill Vein after 671m, with the workings eventually joining those driven southwards from Nenthead somewhere below Longholehead Whimsey Shaft. This shaft, which retains evidence of a horse gin circle, used to power winding machinery, lies 2km to the east and is the subject of a separate scheduling. A second level to Whitesike Mine, Colonel's Level, lies to the east of Bentyfield Mine. The whole of Whitesikes produced 7322 tons of lead concentrate between 1848 and 1882, with a yield of 7oz of silver per ton in the 1860s. A low finger tip of spoil extends from Colonel's Level westwards and across the stream to stop a few metres short of the intact portal of Bentyfield Level which was driven north westwards from just above the bank of the burn. The ruined remains of a two storey mineshop (lodging house for miners) survives 10m to the west. This square building stands nearly to eaves level on the south side, but only to c.2m on the north side. Across the burn there are the earthwork remains of a number of shafts sunk into the rising ground. These workings are thought to pre-date the two nucleated mines. A leat crossing this area leads to the ruined remains of a wheelpit. Lying on the south bank, and truncated by stream erosion, c.90m west of the mineshop, this wheelpit would have held a waterwheel powering a crushing mill used to break up the ore prior to processing on the dressing floor which lies just to the west. This too has been damaged by stream erosion, however a c.17m by 3m area remains, retaining stratified deposits 1.5m-2m deep. Timbers exposed by the stream indicate that well preserved remains will survive in situ. Extending from opposite the mineshop westwards for 200m, there is a mine spoil heap that rises to over 5m high. The collapsed remains of a third level lie a further 40m to the west of the spoil heap on the south side of the burn with a tramway running south westwards to the Whitesikes ore works. The portal to Brown Gill Low Level is intact and gated, and lies at the east end of the ore works, c.150m north east of the road. It is still issuing water and has the grassed over earthwork remains of three small buildings at its entrance, surviving up to 1m high. Immediately to the north of these remains there are spreads of jigger waste (gravel sized ore processing waste) across a small dressing area and c.10m to the west there is a 2m high revetment wall defining a c.60m by 20m dressing area. This second dressing area retains evidence of timbers, iron pipes and other features and is considered to retain important in situ remains of 19th century ore processing equipment. The revetment wall on the south side of this area is divided into nine bouse teams (storage bays for unprocessed ore), the side walls of which survive as footings. To the west there is another lower revetted area forming a third dressing floor. This 40m by 15m area also retains waterlogged deposits with in situ metal and timber work and is considered to retain the remains of ore processing equipment. Built into the southern revetment of this area are the intact remains of a single wash kiln. This stone built structure, 2m in diameter and tapering towards the base, was functionally similar to a bouse team, but allowed the unprocessed ore to be washed with water to remove mud. To the south west of the lowest dressing floor a large spoil heap of dressing wastes rises to over 25m. This heap is estimated to contain over 60,000 tons of material and carries the B6277 over Garrigill Burn, the burn passing under the heap through a 3m wide arched culvert. All drystone field walls and modern fences are excluded from the scheduling, as is the surface and foundations of the B6277 that passes over the spoil heap at the western end of the site, although the ground beneath all of 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: 29012

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dunham, K C, 'Tyne to Stainmore' in Geology of the Northern Pennine Orefield, , Vol. Vol 1, (1990), indexed

End of official listing