Site of Ravensworth coalmill, 600m north east of Ravensworth Castle


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.

Gateshead (Metropolitan Authority)
Gateshead (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 23813 59364

Reasons for Designation

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000 coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity. Coalmills are water-powered pumping installations, generally consisting of a series of waterwheels set in a vertical sequence which were employed to drain single mines or areas of mine workings. They were developed towards the end of the 16th century in response to the increased need for mechanical mine drainage arising from the development of large-scale coal mining. They were established primarily in the north eastern coalfields during the 17th and early 18th centuries, although further examples are thought to have existed elsewhere. Coalmills survive almost exclusively as earthworks. They represent sophisticated examples of hydraulic engineering during this period and all surviving coalmill sites are considered worthy of protection.

The site of Ravensworth coalmill represents a rare example of this class of monument; only five surviving sites are known nationally, and it is considered to be of technological and historical importance. The site has not been disturbed by modern development and the earthworks of its water control system survive well. These features, together with the buried remains of the pumping installation itself, which are believed to include the underground chamber of its third waterwheel and the stone-lined adit or tail-race, will provide valuable information for the operation of this industrial site, contributing to our understanding of 17th and 18th century coalmills. The subsequent reuse of the western part of the site, following the abandonment of the coalmill in the mid-18th century, is well represented by the ruins of the sawmill, the wheelpit and the earthwork and buried remains of its associated leat and tail-race. These remains provide evidence for the continuing use of the site for industrial activities into the 19th and 20th centuries.


The monument is situated approximately 600m north east of Ravensworth Castle within the parishes of Lamesley and Gateshead, and includes the earthwork and buried remains of the site of a coalmill, its water management system and the standing and buried remains of a 19th century sawmill and the adjacent wheelpit. Although coal pits are known to have existed within the manor of Ravensworth since the 14th century, coal was not exploited on any large scale until the early 17th century when the Ravensworth estate was held by the Liddell family. Documentary records indicate that during the mid to late 17th century Sir Thomas Liddell planned a large scale redevelopment of his colliery, combining a waggon way from the mines to staiths on the River Team with a complex pumping scheme to drain an area of almost 100ha in the low- lying Team Valley and on the slopes of the ridge overlooking it. A coalmill was installed to the north east of Ravensworth Castle and a long and circuitous leat, known as The Trench, was constructed to provide sufficient water to power the necessary pumps at the coalmill. The leat channelled the water to a series of three interlinked waterwheels at the site which drove a battery of pumps located in several connected shafts, operating them by timber transmission shafts and cog-and-rung gearing. The Ravensworth coalmill was in operation for some 70 years, but following the introduction of Newcomen engines in the early 18th century which could drain mine workings to a greater depth, it soon became an outdated system and by c.1750 the coalmill had ceased to operate. The coalmill site occupies a narrow side valley and is approximately 250m from east to west. The ground level falls away towards the eastern part of the site which is some 25m lower than the highest point to the west. The Trench is approximately 3km in length and was fed from the Black Burn, which bounded the Ravensworth estate to the north, approaching the coalmill site from the north west. It now serves as a field drain for most of its length and has been partly recut and is not included in the scheduling. The Trench enters a rectangular holding pond, which is now mostly dry, in the western part of the site. A low dam of earth, masonry and brick defines the eastern side of the pond, beyond which are the earthwork remains of the leat that originally supplied water-power to the coalmill. A sluice would have controlled the flow of water into this channel and is believed to survive as a buried feature towards the southern end of the dam. The leat runs in a north easterly direction for 110m before turning south and then east towards the area which has been identified as the location of the coalmill in the eastern part of the site. Approximately 25m to the east of the holding pond the leat runs beneath the ground surface for some 35m before re-emerging as a 1.5m deep ravine-like channel. In the eastern part of the site the form of the leat is markedly different than elsewhere on the site; here it is a narrow, shallow feature which is faced with large masonry blocks, many of which remain in situ. Documentary references indicate that the coalmill's three waterwheels were each approximately 7m in diameter and are thought to have produced c.20hp. They were placed in a line, one above ground supported on timber posts, the next at ground level, and the third erected underground. There is no surface evidence for the pumping installation, but buried features associated with its operation, including the underground chamber for the sunken waterwheel, are believed to survive in the area immediately west of Coach Road and beneath the road itself. To the east of the road, where the ground falls away steeply, is a stone-lined portal (the entrance to an adit) which is located approximately 2m below the level of Coach Road and is included in the scheduling. The adit also appears to be of dry-stone construction and is thought to have served as an underground watercourse carrying away water which was raised from the mine workings by the water-powered pumps. Following the abandonment of the coalmill in c.1750, a cornmill was built in the central part of the site, approximately 35m to the north east of the holding pond, taking advantage of the existing water features. The mill building stands to the north of the leat but its course is believed to have been diverted slightly northwards in order to drive the waterwheel of the cornmill. This was attached to the southern wall of the mill building and set within a 1.5m deep wheelpit. The building is of stone construction and is now used as an outbuilding of Sawmill Cottage and is not included in the scheduling. Immediately to the south of the wheelpit are the ruins of a late 18th or 19th century building which originally housed a sawmill that was also powered by the waterwheel. The ruins are mostly of brick, although its lower courses are of stone, and the opening into the wheelpit, which is now blocked, is faced with ashlar blocks. Several machine bases are visible in the interior. The ruins of the sawmill, together with the adjacent wheelpit, are included in the scheduling and provide evidence for the later development of the site. The mid-18th century cornmill building, the brick-built extension which has been constructed against its west wall, the surfaces of the paths and the road, and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath 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:
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Books and journals
Clavering, E, Mining Before Powder - Coalmills in the Tyne and Wear Collieries, (1994), 124-32
Galloway, R, Annals of Coal Mining and the Coal Trade, (1898), 159
Cranstone, D and Gould, S, Ravensworth Coalmill, (1995)


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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