Buckden Gavel lead smelt mill and mine


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


Ordnance survey map of Buckden Gavel lead smelt mill and mine
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Craven (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SD 95491 78093

Reasons for Designation

Nucleated lead mines and smelt mill sites are a prominent type of field monument produced by the lead extraction and processing industries. Lead mines 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 supply and water power features such as wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of 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 can be summarised as: picking out clean lumps of ore and waste; breaking down lumps to smaller size; sorting of broken material by size; separation of gravel sized material by shaking on a sieve (jigging); and separation of finer material by washing away lighter waste in a current of water (buddling). The field remains of ore works 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. The majority of lead mines with ore works are of eighteenth to twentieth century date, earlier mining normally being 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.)

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 partly 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 and later a mixture of peat and coal) An air blast was supplied by bellows, normally operated by a waterwheel but on earlier sites may have foot operated. The slags from the hearth would still contain lead which may be extracted by further smelting in a seperate slag hearth. 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, furnaces and chimneys and flue systems. The ore hearth smelt mill site will also contain fuel stores and other ancillary buildings. Lead mines and smelting sites 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 the lead industry such features can be a major component of upland landscapes. A sample of the better preserved sites illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of this class of monument is considered to merit protection.

Although Buckden Gavel mine is a small example, a wide range of features are preserved and important information about the lead industry survives. Buckden Gavel mill is one of the earliest examples in the area and a range of features are preserved. Important evidence about the early technologies employed in the lead industry in the region will survive.


The monument includes the remains of the Buckden Gavel lead smelt mill and the later nucleated mine complex situated in a narrow steep sided gill on the west flank of Buckden Pike. Although the mine and the smelt mill lie adjacent to each other they were never in use at the same time. The mine entrance is an adit or horizontal tunnel driven in a north easterly direction at the east side of the monument. The adit is 1.5m high with an arched portal 1.3m across set into a revetment wall 5.6m wide. The portal has a keystone inscribed `T H'. To the west of the mine entrance are the ruins of a lodging shop which provided dormitory type accommodation for workers who did not live permanently on site. This lies on a small terrace partly cut into the hillside. The remains of a small dam and reservoir lie across the stream above the mine entrance. The water thus stored was used for a variety of purposes, including washing and sorting the ore prior to its removal for smelting. A small washing floor where the initial sorting of ore took place lies at the mouth of the mine. A further washing floor lies on an artificial terrace cut into the hillside to the south west of the lodging shop. This terrace has a stone retaining wall on the north side. The ruins of further structures also lie on the north of the terrace. The spoil heap formed from non-ore-bearing material removed from the mine extends for at least 60m to the south of the mine entrance and then spills downwards spreading out across the narrow gill sides. A further spoil tip formed from waste material from the washing floor also extends downwards and spreads across the gill sides. To the south of the mine complex, some 5m beyond the foot of the spoil tips, are the remains of the earlier lead smelt mill. This comprises a small two roomed mill house 11m by 6m with walls surviving to 2m high. The most westerly room held a single ore hearth against the dividing wall, whilst the eastern room probably held the bellows required to provide the draught. There is no sign of a wheel pit and it is thought that the wheel was built directly over the beck and all traces have now gone. The absence of a flue from the mill indicates that it was an early style with a chimney on the pitched roof of the building. Such forms of smelt mill often had a dust chamber in the roof space in which lead waste within the fumes could be condensed for reprocessing. To the east of the mill are the remains of a flat buddle, a device for concentrating ore by sedimentation in a horizontal current of water. The mill was built in 1698 and worked until the early 1730s, when it was replaced by the Birks Mill which had been built in 1713. The ore processed probably came from the Buckden vein being worked further to the north. The later Buckden Gavel mine dates to 1803 when Robert Higgs drove the level in at the head of Buckden Gill and the ore was apparently taken to mills first at Birks Mill and then, when production increased, to a new mill 3km away in Cam Gill, Starbotton, which had been built in 1815.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
The Mines of Grassington Moor and Wharfedale, (1980), 78-79
Raistrick, A, Lead Mining in the Mid Pennines, (1973), 138-143
Dickinson, J M, 'British Mining' in Buckden Out Moor Lead Smelting Mill, , Vol. NO. 8, (1978), 38-39
Bassham, S, Wharfedale Lead Smelt Mills and Fume Condensation, 1992, Seminar abstract


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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