Scordale lead mines


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018773

Date first listed: 29-Oct-1999


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

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Murton

National Grid Reference: NY 75864 22515


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 wheel pits, dams and leats. The majority of nucleated 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 used can be summarised as: picking out of clean lumps of ore and waste; breaking down of lumps to smaller sizes (either by manual hammering or mechanical crushing); sorting of broken material by size; separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in a tub of water ('jigging'); and separation of finer material by washing away the lighter waste in a current of water ('buddling'). The field remains of ore works vary widely and 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, such as wheel pits and, more rarely, steam engine houses. The majority of nucleated lead mines with ore works are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier mining being normally 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). Nucleated lead mines 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 many upland landscapes. It is estimated that several thousand sites exist, the majority being small mines of limited importance, although the important early remains of many larger mines have often been greatly modified or destroyed by continued working or by modern reworking. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of the class, is considered to merit protection.

A hush is a gully or ravine partly excavated by use of a controlled torrent of water to reveal or exploit a vein of lead or other mineral ore. Dams and leats to supply the water are usually associated, and some examples show tips of waste from manual ore processing beside the hush itself. Shaft and adit mineworkings sometimes occur in spatial association, though their workings will not have been contemporary with that of the hush. There is documentary evidence for hushing from the Roman period on the continent, and from the 16th century in England; however a high proportion of surviving hushes are believed to be of 17th to 18th century date, the technique dying out by the mid-19th century. A sample of the better preserved isolated examples of hushes which form part of more extensive lead mining complexes will merit protection. Despite the demolition of some of the associated mining buildings by the army, Scordale lead mines remain a well-preserved extensive and impressive 18th-20th century mining landscape. It contains a wide range of mining and ore work components including hushes, levels and shafts, hand and machine-powered dressing areas, water management systems for powering machinery, trackways and tramways, buddles, settling tanks, remains of an assortment of associated buildings, and spoil heaps and dressing waste.


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


The monument includes a number of lead mines and the remains of their associated buildings, water management systems, hushes, trackways, tramways and dressing areas, which collectively are known as the Scordale mines. These mines are located over a large area but mainly lie on the steep valley sides either side of Scordale Beck. In the upper reaches of Scordale, the Hilton mines lie on the east side of the valley and the Murton mines on the west. Approximately 800m further down the west side of the valley lies the Mason Holes complex of mines, visible as a large opencut amongst the crags high above the valley. A further 900m down the west side of the valley is Lowfield Hush, an impressive steep-sided V-shaped valley which was deliberately gouged out by controlled releases of water to expose the mineral. The date when mining began at Scordale is unknown, although mining is known to have been undertaken at Hilton and Murton mines and Mason Holes during the 18th century. Both the Hilton and Murton mines were worked for lead concentrates by the London Lead Company from 1824-76. Twenty years later the mines were re-opened by the Brough Barytes Company and again in 1912 by Scordale Barytes Limited. This firm ceased work after 1919 and the plant at Hilton was dismantled. In 1942 Warcop Military Training Area was established and many of the mining remains were deliberately destroyed during military exercises between 1960-80. Mining on the east side of Scordale valley has been largely concentrated in the area between a stream known as Little Augill at the northern extremity, and an unnamed stream which flows into Scordale Beck approximately 1km further down the valley. Many of these workings formed part of the Hilton mines and they are described as follows from north to south; two small mines or levels and associated spoil heaps, one adjacent to the south bank of Little Augill the second approximately midway between Little Augill and Great Augill. Levels associated with Hilton mines situated on the north side of Great Augill and including Dow Scar High Level at NY76352275. Within the vicinity of Hilton mines dressing waste is evident, indicating that reduction and sorting of the veinstone into grades suitable for further processing took place here. Also surviving are a few timbers of a wooden launder which was used for carrying water down the valley side to power a waterwheel at one of the numerous buildings which are known to have been located on the valley floor. The ruins of one of these buildings, whose precise function is unknown, is located close to the point where Great Augill is crossed by the main valley track. A short distance to the south, on the opposite side of the track, lie the remains of a large dressing mill at NY76252265, where machine operated reduction and sorting of the veinstone took place. Adjacent are a series of circular and rectangular pits representing settling tanks and buddle pits where the ore was separated from the veinstone. Some of these features were originally situated within a large building of which little remains except the ruined walls. There are also the remains of stone pillars on the south side of this building, which functioned as the bases for a high timber launder feeding a waterwheel. A substantial wheelpit still survives but is largely infilled with rubble. A stream revetment wall also still survives and prevents erosion of this area. South of Stow Gill at NY76202247 there are remains of another structure of uncertain function. However, a short leat running into it from the gill suggests the structure may be a wheelpit. High on the valley side north and south of Stow Gill are abandoned levels; a trackway or incline runs diagonally up the hillside south of Stow Gill giving access to some of these mines. Remains of Murton mines lie predominantly but not wholly on the west side of Scordale valley in the area between a small reservoir at NY76342294 and Mason Holes. The reservoir is retained by a dam on its south and east sides and contains in, out and overflow channels. Remains of two small buildings lie adjacent to the outflow channel. On the east side of Scordale Beck, opposite the reservoir, lies Wilson's Level at NY76392292, and although the entrance and portal have been destroyed, remains of bridge abutments which carried a tramway from the level survive. This tramway runs through a cutting then along an embankment and terrace above the remains of a crushing mill to a point where early maps depict a set of nine bouse teams - ore bins constructed of stone into which ore is tipped prior to milling - and a small building at the south east end of this terrace. Nothing of these buildings survives above ground but remains are considered to be buried under slumped waste material. Nearby at NY76162272 is the location of Curley Level, now buried under fallen scree, and adjacent to this are remains of a two-roomed building thought to have been a mineshop. A square-headed culvert runs south east alongside the aforementioned tramway and provided water for the crushing mill and bouse teams. Additional water supply to power machinery in these buildings came from Boilup Dam situated at NY76082292 on a natural shelf higher up the valley side. The remains of the crushing mill at NY76242271 are largely buried under slumped spoil and crusher waste but some timber-work, holding-down bolts and iron rails still survive. The remains of Hartside Low Level can be seen slightly above the crushing mill. Photographs depict a number of buildings close to the crushing mill and remains of these may survive beneath slumped spoil heaps. Some 60m north east of the crushing plant are the remains of High Horse Level at NY76222278 and, although little remains of its entrance, a spoil heap lying to the east identifies its location. A large area of the valley side hereabouts has been terraced into a number of platforms defined by revetment walls and steeper banks. There are extensive spreads of waste material together with partially buried revetment walls surrounded by rubble spreads. There is also a concrete machine base with several holding-down bolts protruding vertically and several areas of exposed timberwork within a collapsed building. Nearby are remains of another building. At the lowest level a terraced area is revetted above the beck by a wall 2m high. Extensive rubble and spoil spreads abound throughout much of this area. A large single-storey three-roomed mineshop known as High Shop lies at NY75912259 on a high natural terrace equidistant between Murton mines and Mason Holes. Nearby are a number of unnamed shafts. The Mason Holes complex is centred on NY75702230 and is represented by a large opencut with associated hushes. Hushes are man-made gullies running down the side of fell which were excavated by the releasing of water from a dam. Hushing was a mining method in its own right, applied to wash ore from the mineral vein by the sheer force of water. A level mid-way up the sheer face of Mason Holes opencut is located at NY75712240 and a further level lies to the north at NY75642253. On a plateau between the open cut and a large hush are the remains of an unpowered dressing floor together with a number of shafts. The dressing floor contains a number of areas of fine white dressing waste. Adjacent is a sub-circular reservoir defined on its east side by a raised bank. Earthwork platforms at the south end of the reservoir and an additional platform further south beyond two large hushes may indicate the site of timber buildings associated with dressing activities. A leat runs around the west side of this reservoir to a ruined `Y'-shaped structure thought to have contained a buddle i.e. apparatus for separating ore from veinstone. On the east side of this structure there is a small stone-walled rectangular enclosure positioned to overhang the opencut; the structure's function is unclear but it may have been associated with lifting material out of the opencut and onto the dressing floor. Some 550m south west of Mason Holes at NY75482191 is a single-storey ruined building with walls up to 3m high. Its function is unclear but its location adjacent to a well-defined trackway running south west from Mason Holes to the valley bottom suggests it may have been a small mineshop. Lowfield Hush survives as a steep-sided `V'-shaped valley approximately 250m long and 20m deep. Above and to the west of the hush is an area of reservoirs and dams where water was held prior to release down the hush, whilst on the north and south sides of the hush there are a series of small unpowered dressing floors. Within the hush, about halfway up at NY75322166, there are the remains of a coe or miner's hut with walls up to 1.5m high. At the base of the hush there are traces of an earthwork and small dam which controlled the movement of water and material out of the hush. There is also a small ruined building of uncertain funtion nearby. At NY75402160 between the base of the hush and Scordale Beck, there are remains of a number of features including a crushing mill, a dressing floor, two bouse teams, a limekiln, various walls and a dressing floor revetted by a stone wall. A square-headed culvert runs from this dressing floor towards the beck. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern field boundaries and fence posts, all signposts, and the surface of the main valley track; the ground beneath all these features is, however,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: 27842

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dennison, E, North Pennines Lead Industry, (1997)
Dennison, E, North Pennines Lead Industry, (1997)

End of official listing