Lead mines, ore works and smeltmill at Nenthead


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015858

Date first listed: 02-Apr-1982

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Aug-1997


Ordnance survey map of Lead mines, ore works and smeltmill at Nenthead
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1015858 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 20-Nov-2018 at 21:30:10.


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 78244 43392, NY 78307 43504


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 Nenthead mining complex is regarded as the most intact mining landscape within the North Pennines. The main importance of the site lies in the unusually high level of preservation not only of the obvious features such as the buildings and dams, but also the network of roadways built by the London Lead Company. The wide range of mining features provide an important resource for the study of the developments in mining technology in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly the development of deep mining based on long adits (levels). The monument also preserves a good example of the inter-relationships between the mining features, buildings and water managements system. Ore hearth smeltmills 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 partly replaced by the reverberatory smeltmill. The ore hearth itself consisted of a low open hearth in which lead ore was mixed with fuel. An air blast was supplied by bellows, normally operated by waterwheel; more sophisticated arrangements were used at some 19th century sites. Early sites were typically small and simple buildings with one or two hearths, whereas late 18th and 19th century smeltmills (like Nenthead) were often large complexes containing several ore and slag hearths, furnaces, and sometimes complex flues, condensers and chimneys for recovering lead from the fumes given off from the various hearths and furnaces. The remains of the Nenthead smeltmill complex, including the assay house, are an important source of evidence for the interpretation of 18th and 19th century developments in smelting technology. Despite damage in c.1970, substantial structural and processing evidence remains. The site also contains the remains of the rare Stagg condenser with its unusual crenallated wheelpit. In addition, the lack of ground disturbance indicates that buried deposits will also survive. A considerable archive of early photographs of many features of the site also exists. It is accessible to the public and is a valuable educational resource.


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


The monument includes the structural, earthwork and other remains of the Nenthead mines, ore works and smeltmill. The monument, falling within two areas, lies at the head of the Nent Burn, south west and south east of Nenthead village on Alston Moor. The first documented mining activity on Alston Moor dates from the 12th century and it is thought that exploitation was originally on a relatively small and intermittent scale up to the 17th century. Major ore extraction appears to have begun at Nenthead in the 17th century with the discovery of the Rampgill Vein in 1690. It became one of the main mining areas of the London Lead Company by the mid-18th century. They consolidated their leases as production peaked in the 1820s, and this was subsequently followed by gradual decline until 1882 when the company gave up the last of its Nenthead leases. These were sold to the Nenthead and Tynedale Zinc Company, who were in turn succeeded by the Veille Montagne Zinc Company in 1896. As these names suggest, the focus of mining shifted from lead to zinc over this period. Intermittent production continued until 1963, latterly reprocessing the old waste tips for fluorspar. Standing and buried remains of the early mining operations at Nenthead are situated immediately south of Nenthead village at the Rampgill Horse Level which was begun in 1690. The level portal survives intact and measures up to 1.2m wide and 2m high, with walls of roughly coursed stone rubble and a roof of flat stone slabs. The adjacent early 19th century building complex, which includes a woodstore, smithy, workshops and other buildings with associated walled yards, extends 110m to the south east. The workshop building, situated to south of the level, is `L'-shaped and consists of a south west range measuring 26m by 7m, and a narrow south east range measuring 12m by 3.6m. The building is of a single build and is constructed of neat roughly-coursed sandstone masonry. The woodstore situated to the south east consists of two main phases. The original building was 25m by 5.8m but was later extended to 38m long. The walls of the building are of well-laid thin sandstone slabs with the notable exception of the north east side which consists of a row of cast iron pillars, supporting a timber lintel, in three sections, along the length of the building. The buildings are included within the scheduling and were surveyed in 1994 prior to their conversion to modern workshop units and interpretative centre. The remains of the Rampgill dressing floors are considered to survive as buried deposits to the north west of the level entrance and are included within the scheduling. Approximately 220m north east of Rampgill Level are the earthwork and buried remains of Brewery Shaft and an associated spoil tip which was sunk to provide ventilation for this level. It is included in the scheduling, within a second area of protection, to preserve its relationship with Rampgill Level. A small stamp mill lies immediately south east of the Rampgill Level and contains the remains of the timber framework for a set of Cornish stamps (iron-shod timbers vertically operated by cams on a water-powered axle which were used to pulverise ore into finer particles) introduced in 1796. The framework survives as a substantial timber and stone base, from which two timber posts project upwards, with the remains of the inlet funnel and outlet chute. A ruined single storey building, measuring 7.7m by 3.3m, lies on the north side. The stamps themselves were removed to a museum in the early 1980s. In addition, a waste tip of fine material lies a short distance to the west, a wheelpit, measuring 0.95m wide by 6.15m long , is visible to the south east, and numerous culverts cross the site. The remainder of the stamps area has been affected by later reprocessing though it is considered to retain important buried remains and is thus included within the scheduling. The site of the Nenthead smeltmill is located a short distance south east of the stamps area. The first mill was built in 1737 but redesigned in 1745 when the London Lead Company purchased the site. Most of the smeltmill buildings were intact until about 1970 when much of the site was demolished for its building material. However, a number of structures remain and three buildings survive largely intact. The most notable survival is the spine wall, 1.7m thick and surviving up to 6.4m high, which carried the flue from the hearths and furnaces. Three arched passageways through the wall remain together with many structural features. The flue for the smeltmill, which survives as two parallel banks of rubble for much of its length, extends 1.1km south eastwards to the collapsed remains of a chimney. In 1843 a Stagg condenser was added, powered by a large waterwheel. Significant remains of the condenser, which was used to precipitate lead oxide in water, are thought to survive as buried features and its site is marked on the surface by a rectangular spread of rubble 20m long by 10m wide. The associated wheelpit, measuring 16m by 2m by 5m deep, survives well and is of coursed squared sandstone rubble with an unusual upward extension and a crenulated top to the south wall. South west of the smeltmill, a cobbled and stone flagged surface marks the position of a building. This is thought to be the remains of the early, pre-London Lead Company smeltmill. A ruined series of bingsteads (storage bays for lead ore) are situated just to the east. The assay house, situated west of the smeltmill, is the best preserved building within the site. It is of two storeys, with a slabstone hipped roof and a large central chimney, and measures 15m by 6m externally. The two buildings south of the assay house are considered to have been mineshops (lodging houses for miners). The site of the Old Carrs Level, worked from before 1737 until at least 1772, lies 150m south east of the smeltmill. The site includes the Old Carrs Level arched portal which is collapsed for the first 4m, two spoil tips and a building known as Carr's Shop. The building is single storey with surviving roof timbers and an internal fireplace. Evidence of an associated tramway shown on a mid-19th century map will survive as buried deposits. The monument also includes the surface remains of mining near Firestone Level, NNE of the smeltmill. The roughly coursed arched portal of the level survives and measures 1.3m wide by 2m high. The area below the level includes a large sub-rectangular spoil tip, measuring approximately 90m by 50m, situated within an area of shafts. A continuous line of shafts follows the Brigal Burn Vein across the modern road above the level and extends as far as Low Whimsey near Scaleburn Bridge on the modern Allenheads road. This area forms part of a continuation of the core area of mining features and is included within the scheduling. Mining features beyond the road north eastwards to High Whimsey and also from High Whimsey to Slate Hill, are less well preserved and do not add significantly to the understanding of the monument and are thus not included within the scheduling. The Smallcleugh dressing floors are situated south east of the smeltmill, on the right bank of the Nent Burn. The remains of three buildings are visible, together with the remains of other ruined structures including a wheelpit, machine bed and settling tanks. The west edge of the dressing floors, which overlook the burn, contains a number of timber and stone structures exposed up to 1m below modern ground surface. This indicates that the extensive spreads of dressing wastes retain additional buried features. The remains of a core area of the Shawside workings on the left bank of the Nent Burn, to the west of the Smallcleugh dressing floors, are also included within the scheduling. The workings, which includes shafts, levels and small hushes, are considered to have 17th century origins. The mining features, which extend south eastward to the confluence of Old Carr Burns, Middle Cleugh and Long Cleugh Burns which merge to form the River Nent, also includes the remains of three buildings, a small holding dam, large spoil tips and a well preserved stone lined leat to the south west. The monument also includes the remains of the Middlecleugh mine. The level, begun soon after 1758, is situated near the confluence Middle Cleugh and Long Cleugh Burns. The portal is now buried though its location can be located at the end of a road way crossing the Middle Cleugh Burn, which flows through a culvert at this point. The remains of the Middlecleugh mineshop, which survives to eaves height on three sides, lies to the north west. A second building lies to the north at the confluence of the Nent and Old Carr Burns. The building, which is still roofed, was built by the Veille Montagne Zinc Company to house an hydraulic compressor fed by a substantial pipeway from Perry's Dam 1km to the south. A sample length of the pipeway, which lies on top of a substantial spoil tip to the south, is included within the scheduling. A bridge situated to the west of the compressor house contains an unusual sluicing arrangement and is also included within the scheduling. Extensive clusters of shaft mining features situated south of Middle Cleugh, including Coulsons Level, Atkins Level and Hopes Shaft, many of which show signs of later reworking for fluorspar, do not significantly add to the understanding of the monument and are not included within the scheduling. The remains of an extensive water management system, namely leats, culverts, and the well preserved remains of substantial dams are also included in the scheduling. The Smallcleugh Reservoir, built in 1820, lies south east of the smelt mill above the Smallcleugh dressing floors and was fed by a leat from the Rampgill Burn and later, at least in part, by a leat from the Firestone Level. The pond is retained behind a crescent-shaped flat-topped earthen dam, which stands 4m high, with sluicing arrangement at the north end and an overflow arrangement at the south end. Two smaller dams at Low Capelcleugh Level and to the east of the Rampgill workshops are also included within the scheduling. Perry's Dam situated 1.3km to the south, which supplied the later hydraulic system, is the subject of a separate scheduling. The south west part of the monument is formed by the Dowgang hush. Its origin is unknown though it is known to have been working in 1773. A number of shafts and at least two levels lie along its course. The monument also includes the remains of transport features such as tramways and roadways. It is thought that part of the Rampgill Level and Old Carrs Level tramways, which linked the levels with their dressing floors, will survive as buried deposit. The remains of the tramway connecting the Smallcleugh Level with its dressing floor on the opposite side of the burn survives as a number of ruined revetments. In addition, the London Lead Company constructed a number of roadways within the area of protection, many of which remain in use, such as the main track leading through the site. All drystone boundary walls, fenceposts, road surfaces and modern service features are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 28906

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 4-10
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 2
Hedley, I, Cranstone, D A L, Rampgill Workshops: Archaeological Recording and Buildings Survey, (1995), 2
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Critchley, M F, 'Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society' in The History and Workings of the Nenthead Mines, Cumbria, , Vol. Vol 9, (1984), 1-50
Fairbairn, R A, 'British Mining' in The Mines of Alston Moor, (1993), 60-80
Fairbairn, R A, 'British Mining' in The Mines of Alston Moor, (1993), 178-182
Dennison, E, Nenthead Lead Mining Complex: Draft Management Plan, (1995)
Dennison, E, Nenthead Lead Mining Complex: Draft Management Plan, (1995)

End of official listing