Force Crag mines and barytes mill and a prehistoric cairnfield


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019748

Date first listed: 07-Aug-2001


Ordnance survey map of Force Crag mines and barytes mill and a prehistoric cairnfield
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Above Derwent

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: NY 19648 21234


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.

Barytes and zinc are normally found as vein minerals in association with lead. Economic deposits of barytes have been found in all the major lead orefields except the Mendips whilst economic deposits of zinc have similarly been found in all the major lead orefields other than the Yorkshire Pennines. The mining of barytes and zinc has not differed from contemporary mining of other vein minerals, hence the surface features of these minerals largely parallels those of lead mining. The dominant period of barytes extraction was the late 19th and 20th centuries, thus barytes mines tend to be of later date than most lead mines. Similarly zinc mining increased markedly in scale during the late 19th century as the demand for lead and copper fell, thus the zinc industry is relatively rich in late 19th and early 20th century features. Amongst other things barytes is used in paint manufacture, as a drilling lubricant, and as a filler in the cloth and paper industries. Zinc is used in paints, to make dry cell batteries, and for galvanising iron to prevent rusting. Prehistoric cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occassion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots. They were constructed from the Neolithic period (from about 3400 BC) although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period. Despite some quarrying for roadstone at the Low Force Workings, Force Crag mines remain a relatively well-preserved extensive and impressive 19th-20th century mining landscape containing a wide range of mining components including levels, a shaft, water management systems for powering machinery, remains of transportation systems for moving ore around the complex, settling tanks, remains of associated buildings, spoil heaps and dressing waste. Of particular importance is the rare intact 20th century barytes mill with in situ ore crusher and flotation plant which was used to separate barytes from blende (zinc sulphide). This mill is considered to be the best preserved barytes mill in the country, and thus highly representative of its technology for the period. Overall the Force Crag mines are important because they contain surviving traces of most of the episodes of industrial activity on the site and enable the relationship of the extraction and processing areas to the industrial landscape that supported them to be well understood. Additionally the prehistoric cairnfield south of Coledale Beck survives reasonably well and is a good example of this class of monument.


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


The monument includes Force Crag mines and barytes mill, together with the in situ machinery associated with the mill, and the remains of all associated buildings, earlier mills, water management systems, settling ponds, trackways, tramways, dressing areas and an aerial ropeway. These features are located over a large area at the foot, either side, and above Force Crag at the head of the Coledale Valley, and incorporate both Low Force Workings and High Force Workings. Also included in the scheduling is a prehistoric cairnfield situated on the hillslope south of Coledale Beck. The earliest date when mining began at Force Crag is unknown, however, documentary sources indicate that small scale surface extraction of lead had taken place by 1578 and that further trials were being undertaken in the vicinity during the mid-18th century. More comprehensive records indicate that the site was mined for lead from 1839 until 1865, and for barytes and zinc intermittently from 1867 until it was finally abandoned in 1991. The extant mill building was built in 1908-9, redesigned in 1939-40, and contains considerable in situ ore-refining machinery that was in use during the 1980s. High Force Workings lie on the steep fellside north east and west of Pudding Beck. The highest of these workings includes a line of small prospecting pits located to the west of Pudding Beck, and a line of stopes - ie larger open cast areas from where the vein has been removed - on the opposite side of Pudding Beck. Close by these stopes is Level 7 located at NY19352163, the highest of the Force Crag adits. A short distance downslope lies Level 6, situated at NY19242148. It is located close to the western end of a long artificial platform or terrace that terminates adjacent to the ravine down which High Force flows. Also located on this platform are three buildings of uncertain function. A concrete-lined chute leads down from this platform to a lower platform which functioned as the terminal for an aerial ropeway constructed in 1941 to transport ore down to the Lower Force mill. This aerial ropeway replaced a track originally constructed to transport the ore. Large spoil heaps lie below the platforms, and further downslope, at NY19402147, lies Level 5. Level 4, the easterly of the High Force Workings, is located at NY19472164 at the head of a natural gully. Other features at the High Force Workings include the bases of aerial ropeway pylons and a small brick building of uncertain function. Low Force Workings cover an extensive area at the foot and either side of Force Crag. Close to the foot of the natural gully containing Level 4, and centred at approximately NY19692166, are a cluster of workings comprising a number of small surface extraction pits, Milkhouse Level, The Old Shaft and Level 3, together with the remains of two small dams. Nearby are features identified as tramways, and a chute or slushing channel for carrying ore downhill along wooden channels using water. Level 2 lies at NY19762158 while Level 1, the most intensively used of the Low Force Workings, lies at NY19892163. The original entrance to level 1 was abandoned in 1967 and a new entrance cut a short distance to the north east at NY19922165. A length of tramway runs between the two entrances upon which a locomotive shed remains. The lowest and most easterly of the Low Force adits is Level 0 located at NY20122173; adjacent is a second locomotive shed. Associated with all these levels are a complex series of at least 14 tracks and four tramways along which the ore was transported. Fragments of slushing channels which carried ore from Levels 4, 3 and 2 also survive. Also visible are a number of pylon bases which supported the aerial ropeway, together with the base and some metalwork of the midway station located at NY20202201 where the ropeway turned an acute angle before descending to the lower terminus at NY19922157. Three ore processing mills are known to have existed at Force Crag. The first water wheel which would have powered a simple crusher consisting of two iron rollers had been erected by 1839. In 1854 a new mill was built on the southern bank of Pudding Beck at NY19812150. Roadstone quarrying in 1961 and subsequent dumping destroyed much of the area surrounding the mill but faint traces of the possible wheel pit and a wall survive. Nearby there is a mound of mill tailings and waste products from the ore washing process, together with the buried remains of a building associated with this mill. A second mill was built on the northern bank of Coledale Beck at NY20242177 sometime before 1861. The wheel pit is well-preserved as an earthwork as is the tailrace. Structural foundations also survive together with traces of a timber settling tank. A third mill was built on the site of the extant mill building at NY19972163 in about 1906. This was replaced with a new building in 1908-9 but it fell into disrepair during the 1920s. The mill was rebuilt in 1939-40 and used intermittently until final closure in 1991. Survey of the mill has revealed seven phases of building development between 1908-9 and about 1984. Many of the items of machinery in use during the mill's latter years were initially removed after the mine closed in 1991. They have subsequently been acquired by the National Trust and returned to the building, although not all to their original positions. Of particular importance here is the survival of an in situ ore crusher and the flotation plant which was used to separate barytes from blende (zinc sulphide). Other surviving buildings associated with the mine workings include an office built in front of the mill in about 1960, and an explosives store located at NY19872142 which was built before 1861 and rebuilt in about 1908. Water power was provided via a complex system of reservoirs, dams, leats and cisterns. A total of eight dams were constructed across Coledale Beck, two of its tributories, and the minor stream flowing down the gully above Level 3. These provided reservoirs of varying sizes. Additionally at least 16 leats channelled water around the mine workings. Remains of three cisterns lie to the north, east and west of the extant mill. On the north bank of Coledale Beck are a number of settling ponds. The first are thought to have been built in about 1907 and formed a total of six adjoining ponds located at NY20022160. These were later modified then eventually filled in. Another settling pond is located a short distance to the east at NY20122164 and remains waterlogged. In addition to the small spoil tips outside the entrances to the levels there are three much larger spoil tips; one defined by the confluence of Coledale Beck and Pudding Beck, one south west of the extant mill, and one south west of Level 0. Remains of three small rectangular huts, two lying south of Coledale Beck and one lying close to the confluence of Coledale Beck and Pudding Beck, are of uncertain function but are interpreted by the surveyor as of late 19th century date and perhaps associated with the mining operations. A prehistoric cairnfield is situated on the hillslope between the confluence of Coledale Beck and Birkthwaite Beck centred at NY20232166. It consists of at least 33 oval-shaped stone mounds between 1.8m to 4.5m in diameter and up to 0.3m high. Four of the cairns appear to have been levelled and enlarged at some later date to form the floors of temporary shelters. All fence posts and the areas of roadstone quarrying 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: 32877

Legacy System: RSM


Survey Report, English Heritage, Force Crag Mine Cumbria, (1999)
Survey Report, English Heritage, Force Crag Mine Cumbria, (1999)
Survey Report, English Heritage, Force Crag Mine Cumbria, (1999)

End of official listing