Feldon Smelt Mill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015861

Date first listed: 03-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Feldon Smelt Mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Muggleswick

National Grid Reference: NY 99926 48323


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. 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.

Feldon Smelt Mill is thought to have had a working life of around 150 years. Since its abandonment in the 19th century, the site has reverted to grazing. Buried archaeological deposits will survive providing evidence for the plan and operation of the site, together with the surface remains of the layout of the smeltmill complex and its associated slag tips. The archaeological deposits are considered to include furnace bases and associated features, together with process residues which will retain technological information. Evidience of modifications to the smeltmill during its working life are also thought to survive below the ground surface and, together with the information retained in the slag heaps, the site affords a rare opportunity to study the development of ore hearth technology from the late 17th to the 19th century.


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


The monument includes the ruins, earthworks and buried remains of the Feldon Smelt Mill and lies on the left bank of the Feldon Burn, 2km south west of Edmondbyers. Documentary records indicate that following the accession of Charles I, all silver within 10 miles of Muggleswick was granted to the Duke of Buckingham. Feldon Smelt Mill was built in the late 17th century, during the reign of Charles II, to smelt this ore. In 1725 the lead mines within the Manor of Muggleswick were acquired by the London Lead Company which also took over the operation of the smeltmill, and they continued to operate the mill into the 19th century. Feldon Smelt Mill is an example of a medium sized simple ore hearth smeltmill of the 18th to 19th century. The mill was powered by a waterwheel situated within the smeltmill building, fed by a leat which zigzags down the hillside to the south. The course of the leat, which is included within the scheduling, crosses the line of a drystone field wall twice, the wall being supported by large stone slabs over the leat. The smeltmill is visible as low wall footings enclosing a broadly rectangular area measuring approximately 28m by 17m and includes a 3m by 8m wheelpit. The remains of a lintelled opening is visible to the west of the wheelpit and numerous pieces of metalwork, including the remains of furnace plates, lie scattered about the site. On the north east side of the mill the walls of a small building, measuring 8m by 9m, stand to 1.4m high. The low wall footings on the south east side of the smeltmill mark the site of a long rectangular three-roomed building, with evidence of a blocked doorway at the south west corner. In addition, the undisturbed slag tips to the north and west will contain significant metallurgical evidence which will increase the understanding of the development of the smelting technology employed at the site. The monument also includes the remains of a flue and chimney. A short section of double flue, approximately 10m long, remains largely intact near to the mill and stands 2.75m high by 2m wide, with access points on either side of the south west end measuring 0.75m high by 0.6m wide. The double flue has a stopped end which is butted by the upper single flue. The single flue, which is collapsed along its entire length, is 1m wide by 300m long and rises more than 40m to a chimney on the hillslope above. The chimney, which is built of well-coursed sandstone blocks with alternate long and short quoins (cornerstones), is 2m square and survives to 1.5m high with a rectangular opening in the north east side measuring 1.4m high by 1m wide. All drystone field walls 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. 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: 28909

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Smith, S, 'Memoirs of the Geological Survey' in Lead and Zinc Ores of Northumberland and Alston Moor, , Vol. Vol XXV, (1923), 41-42

End of official listing