Roman Gravels lead mine


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018460

Date first listed: 07-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Roman Gravels lead mine
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Worthen with Shelve

National Grid Reference: SO 33364 99916


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 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 Roman Gravels lead mine will contribute significantly to the study of the development of the Shropshire lead-mining industry over several centuries. A wide range of technologies is preserved in earthworks, ruins and buried remains which will contribute to a study of technological change at the site. The discovery of tools and artefacts in early workings suggests that further archaeological remains from the Roman period will survive. The remains of opencuts, shafts and galleries used by Roman and medieval miners, of steam-, water- and horse-power systems used in the 18th century, and of steam-powered deep shafts of the late 19th century, will survive as buried remains. The archaeological remains also preserve valuable information about early and experimental Boulton & Watt steam engines, which influenced engineering developments at a crucial stage of the Industrial Revolution. Further evidence of methods for extraction, drainage, winding and transport during the 18th and the 19th centuries is also preserved in buried and earthwork remains. These will include parts of a pump-rod power transmission system, and water-powered pumping engines of which at least three are known to have been used on the site. In addition to the archaeological remains, documentary evidence for the history and development of Roman Gravels mine is available. This includes details of processing methods, sketches of mine buildings and steam engines, and correspondence with Watt about the performance of the earliest engines used on the site. This combination of archaeology and historical information offers a particularly rich source for studying the technological developments in the Shropshire lead orefield.


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


The monument is situated on steeply sloping land in the Hope Valley, approximately 1km north of the village of Shelve. It includes the ruined buildings, earthworks and buried remains of the Roman Gravels lead mine. This is one of a group of lead mines in the area which were of great significance in the lead industry of the 19th century and earlier. Prior to 1850 the site was known as Gravels or Shelvefield Gravels. The discovery by miners in the 19th century of earlier shafts containing pottery and wooden shovels, as well as the discovery of Roman coins and a lead pig (ingot) in spoil, and the presence of Roman-style opencuts, suggest that the area was first mined during the Roman period, possibly around AD 120. Mining was certainly taking place by the 12th century, when sheriff's records mention `the King's miners at Shelve', and during the 13th century the mine provided lead for Glastonbury Abbey. In the late 18th and early 19th century the mine was part of the Roman Mine Complex. John Lawrence and Co., who ran Roman Gravels from 1784 in conjunction with other local mines, were innovative in applying new technology to problems of drainage and winding, and were among the first in the world to introduce Boulton & Watt steam engines. Of nine such engines installed in the Shropshire orefield by 1800, three were in place at Roman Gravels by 1790. The last of these was an experimental suspended-beam design, whilst another was a `blowing engine', presumably to supply a draught for smelting the lead. Despite this large investment, Lawrence abandoned the mine as unprofitable around 1820. Later owners included Lewis and Phillips, and the Grit and Gravel Company. The mine was very productive in the mid-1830s, but declined and was closed in the late 1840s; a first attempt at reopening in the mid-1850s was defeated by drainage problems, and it was another effort led by Richard Palin which succeeded. The mine became famously productive in the 1870s, striking rich veins at depth. The New Engine shaft was sunk in 1871 and equipped with a Cornish pumping engine. The tradition of technological innovation was upheld with trials of compressed air drills and the subsequent installation of a compressor, possibly in the former winding house at the Old Engine shaft. The mine was badly affected by the late 19th century slump in lead prices however, and closed for the last time in 1895. Surface remains include a very large opencut working of up to 10m depth and 20m width, running north-south in the southern part of the site. This is the largest of several workings thought to be Roman in origin. There is a similar, shallower opencut to the west, and further small cuts to the south where exposed working faces are visible. Evidence of Roman mining techniques will be preserved in this area, as will remains of shafts and galleries described in 19th century sources as Roman. The 18th and 19th century remains are mainly visible in the south eastern corner and north western parts of the monument. At the south eastern corner of the site are the remains of the New Engine shaft, and the associated engine house to the east. The engine house survives as a collapsed slate building of around 8.5m by 4m, the north wall standing to around 2m high. Pumping rods, a form of power transmission, were seen protruding from the shaft in 1965, and in 1979 a smaller ginged (timber-lined) shaft was seen nearby. These features will survive as buried remains, providing information on 19th century mining technology. Hillocky ground in woodland to the south west indicates that further shafts and buried remains are preserved beneath later deposits in this area. Further, extensive 18th and 19th century remains are preserved on a roadside platform in the north west part of the monument. The northernmost of these include the remains of the Old Engine House, where a Boulton & Watt steam engine was installed in 1788, and associated buildings including a winding house with intact engine bed and iron fixtures. These remains will provide valuable data on the use and development of steam engines at this period. Also preserved here are the Old Engine Shaft itself; an adit or mine entrance connecting with shafts and pump rod systems elsewhere in the monument; the ruins of mine buildings, including offices and ancillary workshops; and sections of a tramway which formerly ran west over the nearby road to an ore processing area, now much disturbed and therefore excluded from the scheduling. All modern fences, boundary walls and track surfaces, and the gravel surface covering capped shafts, are excluded from the scheduling, although 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: 31752

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire: Volume I, (1908), 263-5
Brook, F, Allbutt, M, The Shropshire Lead Mines, (1973), 32
Heathcote, J A, A Survey of the Metal Mines of South Shropshire, (1979), 51
Wardell Armstrong Chartered Surveyors, , Roman Gravels Mine - Mining History, (1995), 18-64
Davies, T et al, 'Shrops Mining and Caving Club Journal' in Mining Remains in SW Shropshire, (1993), 50-51
Shrops 984, Roman Gravels Mine, (1994)
Shrops SMR No 01318, Roman Gravels Mine, (1996)

End of official listing