Lead mining remains at Ramshaw


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 95450 46413, NY 95523 47872, NY 95571 46676, NY 95803 46658, NY 96426 48095

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 flat rod systems, transport systems such as railways and inclines, and water power and water supply features such as wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated lead mines also included ore works where the ore, once extracted, was processed. The majority of nucleated lead mines are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rake or hush (a gully or ravine partly excavated by use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of mineral ore). They 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 upland landscapes. It is estimated that at least 10,000 sites, exist the majority being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains at many larger mines have been greatly modified or destroyed by continued working or 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 Derwent mines bear the stamp of John Taylor, the famous 19th century mining entrepreneur and engineer, who was involved in mining enterprise in every mining field in the country. Taylor introduced Cornish miners to the Derwent mines and much of the remains display a Cornish influence. It is one of the few sites in the North Pennines to have been worked by an extensive system of flatrods. The remains of the flatrod tunnel at Taylor's Shaft is considered to be one of the best preserved in the country. The Sikehead mine is a good example of a 19th century nucleated mine with many rare features of Cornish influence not encountered on other sites in the North Pennines. For the majority of their history the Derwent mines relied on water power, though steam power did play an important periodic role. During the 19th century, under the influence of Taylor, an extensive water management complex was created. Much of this system has been affected by later activities, though the two large dams at Sikehead are well preserved and are important as examples of the 19th century water management at the mines. 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 airblast was supplied by bellows, normally operated by a waterwheel; more sophisticated arangements were used at some 19th century sites. Early sites were typically small and simple buildings with one or two hearths, where as late 18th and 19th century smeltmills 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 by the various hearths and furnaces. At the Derwent mines a complex network of flues, and culverts for water, survives at the site of Jeffrey's smeltmill and the line of the flue can be traced over the moorland to the chimney. The lower part of the flue system is considered to be one of the best examples in the North Pennines.


The monument includes the ruins, earthworks and other remains of the core areas of the Derwent lead mines. The monument, falling within five areas, lies on the east side of the Bolts Burn, between 2km and 3.5km south of Blanchland. The early history of the Derwent mines, known collectively since they were worked as a single enterprise for most of their history, is little known. A 21 year grant was made in 1624 to the Duke of Buckingham for all silver and lead within 10 miles of Muggleswick, including the Derwent mines. The mines were worked by the London Lead Company in the 18th century, though the majority of visible remains relate to the Derwent Lead Mining Company in the 19th century. This company appointed John Taylor, considered to be the most accomplished mining engineer of the 19th century, to manage the mines and he introduced Cornish miners and their techniques to the mining operations. He built an extensive water management system based around the Sikehead Dams and an extensive system of flatrods (for operating pumps), powered by large waterwheels on the valley floor; this system is one of the most complex known to survive on any related mining site in England. The extraction of lead declined after the late 19th century, though fluorspar extraction continued intermittently until the 1980s. The first area of protection includes the remains of the Taylor's Shaft site, situated above the east side of the valley of Bolts Burn, together with a sample length of the best-preserved remains of its associated flat-rod system. The rods were connected to waterwheels in the valley bottom and extended up the hillside to Taylor's Shaft. At the shaft, the horizontal motion of the rods was converted to vertical and allowed water to be pumped up from the lower levels of the mine. The remains of the tunnel which housed the flatrods, which is included within the scheduling, has collapsed along much of its length, though intact sections do survive. The tunnel is of drystone construction, measuring 0.8m wide by 1.4m high by 470m long, with corbelled roof and turf cover. The water from the shaft is thought to have been channelled downhill through the flatrod tunnel to Pressers Shaft, which is not included within the scheduling. Taylor's Shaft, which was sunk to a depth of over 250m, is situated at the upslope end of the flatrod trench. The shaft is now capped with timber sleepers and enclosed within a drystone wall, all of which is included within the scheduling. The remains of a gin circle (horse powered winder) are situated on the south east side of the shaft and include the faint earthwork of a 9m diameter walking circle. The gin circle is related to a choked and water filled shaft immediately to the south and a small low area of mine spoil. On the north west side of Taylor's Shaft are the low remains of an engine house measuring 4m square, a boiler house measuring 3m by 11m and a 2.5m diameter chimney base surviving to 0.5m high. Spoil tips, including boiler clinker, are situated to the north west and south west. The second area of protection includes the remains of the Jeffrey's smelt mill, flue, and chimney. The smelt mill itself survives as a flat area 1.1km to WSW of Taylor's Shaft, beneath which the stream is culverted. The area south east of this, extending to the modern road, is occupied by a series of terraces; some of these are paved, with slight building remains, whereas others are vegetated. This area is underlain by a complex series of flues and rodway tunnels, which continue beneath the modern road to occupy much of a small coniferous plantation. The flues are of drystone arched construction; parts of the system are intact, but other sections have collapsed. The flue along the east side of the plantation is particularly well preserved, measuring approximately 1.7m wide by 1.7m high internally, with an oval cross- section and a paved floor. To the south of the plantation, the flues are believed to have been destroyed across an area of enclosed pasture. This area has thus not been included within the protection. Collapsed remains of the flue do survive beyond the improved pasture where it runs for just over 1km across open moorland. The final 130m length of the flue, which terminates at a chimney, has been included in a third area of protection. The chimney, which is also included in the scheduling, lies 1.8km SSW of Taylor's Shaft and 1.4km SSE of Jameson's smeltmill. It is approximately 15m tall with a 7m diameter stepped base and has a flue opening 2m wide by 2.4m high. The chimney is of coursed random sandstone with a red brick capping. Immediately west of the chimney are the two Sikehead dams which were central to the water management system of the Derwent mines in the early to mid 19th century. The eastern dam lies within the same area of protection as the chimney and sample length of flue. It runs NNW-SSE, is approximately 6m wide at base by 2m high, has a drystone revetment on the inner face with a revetted stone overspill at the south end. The dam currently holds water which is directed via a narrow watercourse to the Presser Pumping Station, neither of which are included within the scheduling. The western dam forms a fourth area of protection 200m to the west. It is broadly rectangular, with banks on three sides and an open south east side, enclosing an area of 2ha. The dam is 8m wide at base with a maximum height of 2m, though the south east ends are tapered. The internal face has a 1m high drystone revetment, with a revetted and retained outflow sluice in the south west bank leading to a stone lined leat. The final area of protection includes the remains of the Sikehead mine and dressing floor which lies 0.4km south west of the smeltmill chimney and 2.1km SSW of Taylor's Shaft. It includes two shafts sunk in the 1840s, Ruth Shaft for pumping, and Ellen Shaft for winding. Ruth Shaft was originally operated by flatrods from Deborah Level, 0.6km to the WNW, poorly preserved and thus not included within the scheduling. When a branch railway line was extended across the moors to Sikehead, the availability of coal allowed the construction and operation of an economically viable steam engine and led to the removal of the flatrod wheel. The low remains of the Cornish beam engine house and boiler house are situated to the south of Ruth shaft. The chimney survives to 14m in height with a 3.5m diameter base and a firebrick built arched opening. Ellen Shaft, situated just to the north, is capped with concrete and an iron plate. A small hand operated cast iron capstan is situated on top of the plate. To the east are the remains of the flatrod balance bob pit and wash kiln (ore storage bin) and a 2m diameter capstan setting. The low remains of a rectangular building with concrete settings is situated to the north east. Just to the WNW of the shafts are the remains of Robinson's Level. Ore was hauled from the level along a linear spoil tip to the west to be hand dressed. The remains of a particularly rare ore chute in the Cornish tradition is built into the spoil tip. The remains of a wheelpit and drum wheel setting for a 6.1m diameter waterwheel are situated to the north west and were employed for winding Ellen Shaft. The dressing floor is represented by graded areas of dressing waste and forms the western end of the area of protection. All post and wire fences, and road surfaces 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.

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Books and journals
Raistrick, A, Jennings, B, A History of Lead Mining in the Pennines, (1983), 54
Chapman, N A, 'British Mining' in Sikehead Lead Mine, Ramshaw, Northumberland, , Vol. 55, (1995), 31-36
Tyne & Wear Industrial Monuments Trust, Lead Working Sites in County Durham Recomended for Protection, 1974, Typescript report for Durham C C


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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