19th century zinc spelter works and 20th century fume works at Tindale and the Great Battery - part of Lord Carlisle's rail system, 290m SW of Riggfoot Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019761

Date first listed: 09-May-2001


Ordnance survey map of 19th century zinc spelter works and 20th century fume works at Tindale and the Great Battery - part of Lord Carlisle's rail system, 290m SW of Riggfoot Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Farlam

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Midgeholme

National Grid Reference: NY 61886 59166


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

Reasons for Designation

The zinc industry is defined as the mining and processing of zinc ores, and the smelting of these ores to produce metallic zinc. The former has a much longer history than the latter, since zinc ores were used for the production of brass for centuries before the smelting of metallic zinc was developed, and metallic zinc was not used on any large scale until the 19th century. Zinc ores are relatively common in the metalliferous orefields of England and normally occur in association with lead ores. The main primary ore is blende, however, close to the surface this has often been oxidised to produce calamine. Although zinc was known in the early Classical world the possibility of prehistoric or Roman zinc mining and calamine processing in England is unproven. After this the technical skills involved in brassmaking appear to have been lost and brass was imported to England from the continent throughout the medieval period. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were repeated attempts to establish an English brass industry which in turn led to the development of a calamine-mining and calcining industry in the Mendips. This industry continued in the 18th century with some expansion into other areas. Further developments in smelting saw zinc metal (also known as spelter) being produced in England for the first time towards the mid-18th century, while the use of hot rolling to produce malleable zinc sheeting was developed at the start of the 19th century. At the same time more effective continental processes of zinc smelting were introduced into Britain inproving the quality of metallic zinc, consequently the production of metallic zinc expanded from the Bristol area to Staffordshire and the North Pennines. The technology of zinc smelting became much more complex in the late 19th and 20th centuries as advances in roasting furnaces and smelting furnaces were developed. Attempts were also made to recover zinc from spoil heaps by fuming whereby material was heated to vapourise the zinc content, which was then collected as zinc oxide `fume'. Sites specialising in this activity were known as fume works. Until the 19th century the only major end use for zinc was brassmaking, and this was produced from roasted calamine rather than from the metal. During the 19th century uses of zinc became much more varied; brassmaking remained a major consumer, and coating of iron and steel sheets (galvanised iron) was developed. Metallic zinc was increasingly used in the engineering and electrical industries and zinc oxide has been used as a white pigment in the paint industry. The modern railway is the outcome of a union between the iron rail and the steam-driven locomotive. Waggonways or tram-roads of plain wooden rails to carry horse-drawn wagons were known in the mid-17th century and were commonplace on some coalfields by 1730. By about 1790 rails made wholly of cast iron were being used at some mines and quarries, but these were often found to fracture under the weight of the loads they had to carry. The growth of mining and ironworks at this time led to the development of the more dependable wrought-iron rails from about 1810 on, to be superseded by steel rails in the latter half of the 19th century. Early haulage was largely provided by horse-drawn traction or self-acting inclines, but after James Watt's improvement of the steam engine in the late 1760s it was natural to look to steam as the main source of locomotive power. In 1804 Richard Trevithick built the first locomotive to run on rails, after which engineers such as John Blenkinsop, William Hedley, Timothy Hackworth and George Stephenson contributed greatly to the development of steam locomotives during the first quarter of the 19th century. Between 1830 and 1850 the main pattern of the railway system of Britain came into existence and vastly accelerated the rate at which Britain became an industrial nation. Both economically and socially railways had a major effect on the country, giving employment to vast armies of men in their construction, making huge new demands of the coal and iron industries, speeding up trade and business, expanding industry, hugely increasing the import and export trade, creating the demand for new towns and seaside resorts, and opening up the prospect of rapid travel to the whole population. Railways thus became vital to the prosperity of Victorian Britain. Additionally the construction of railways led to an unprecedented demand for civil engineering projects consisting of the long miles of permanent way, embankments, cuttings, viaducts, tunnels, fine bridges, and many architecturally imposing railway stations. The years around 1900 saw railways at their peak and taken as a whole the railway system was the most remarkable material achievement of the British people in the 19th century. The 19th century zinc spelter works at Tindale were the only such works in the north of England and one of the first to be built in Britain. The smelting process used here was patented and was considered to be superior to any other in the country. Despite dismantling of the plant and removal of some of the industrial waste product, buried remains of the plant and the technological processes in operation here are considered to survive. Additionally the 20th century fume works at Tindale is the only such plant in England where appreciable structural remains are known to survive in situ. Also of national importance is the `Great Battery', an imposing privately-owned early 19th century railway embankment which carried the Hallbankgate to Midgeholme railway line. This line was the first non-Stephenson standard gauge railway line in the country to use wrought iron rails.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and the upstanding and buried remains of Tindale 19th and 20th century zinc spelter works and fume works, together with a railway embankment known as the `Great Battery' which formed part of Lord Carlisle's privately-owned early 19th century railway system. It is located either side of Tarn Beck immediately south of the hamlet of Tindale roughly halfway between Brampton and Alston. It includes the buried remains of the 19th century zinc smelting works, the associated spoil heap within the valley of Tarn Beck, the remains of a flue and chimney, a small reservoir, the concrete foundations of the 20th century fume works constructed to extract zinc from the earlier spoil heaps, other associated features such as a building platform and the stone-lined and stone-arched culvert along which Tarn Beck flows through and beneath the spoil heap, and the `Great Battery' which crosses the deep valley of Tarn Beck. Land for a zinc smelter was leased in 1845 for a period of 50 years by James Henry Attwood, an iron-ore merchant in West Cumbria, from the landowner, Lord Carlisle. Zinc minerals were found associated with lead in the nearby north Pennine orefields. Initially thought useless they were first used commercially in 1794 when zinc carbonate (calamine) began to be used in the brass industry. The smelter was located here because of ready access to the lead ores and local coal. Water from nearby Tindale Tarn provided power. The developing railway links were also important for transporting raw materials and finished products. When the plant began work it was the sole zinc producer in the north of England and one of the earliest zinc smelters in Britain. Treatment undertaken here consisted of crushing ore by water power, calcination in furnaces to convert the zinc sulphide mineral to zinc oxide, and reduction of the oxide to metal using coal by heating of the charge held inside fire clay cylinders or retorts. The resultant zinc was a gas which had to be condensed to liquid inside fire clay pipes stuck onto the retort mouths. In 1868 control of the smelting operations passed to the Tindale Spelter Company which later became part of the Nenthead & Tynedale Lead and Zinc Company Ltd. A fall in zinc prices in the latter quarter of the 19th century caused financial difficulties for the company. This, together with the termination of the 50 year lease in 1895 and serious concerns at the pollution being caused to the local environment by the smelter, led to the closure of the works in May 1895 and dismantlement the following year. In the years after 1900 the spoil dumps attracted attention from people hoping to make money by reprocesing them and in 1928 Tindale Zinc Extraction Ltd was formed to exploit the dumps and carry on metallurgical operations. Fuming was proposed to extract zinc from the dumps as oxide using a rotary kiln for effecting the volatilisation of zinc from the charge, a technique developed three years earlier in Germany. When operations began in 1930 Tindale was the only plant in Britain using the rotary kiln for this puropse. However, persistent contamination of the finished product led to closure of the plant in 1931. Two years later ownership passed to the National Smelting Company and in 1937 the plant was re-opened to experimentally treat cadmium-rich residues transported from the zinc works at Avonmouth and Swansea Vale. These experimental fuming operations lasted less than three months before a catastrophic mechanical failure of the brick-lining of the kiln forced closure. Two years later the plant and buildings were sold for scrap and during the 1950s the spoil dumps were partially removed and used as landfill for the Spadeadam rocket testing range. The 19th century spelter works were located on a shelf of land south of Tarn Beck, an area now occupied by the 20th century fume works and in particular the concrete plinths of the rotary kiln installation and associated coke breeze bunker. Immediately south of this is the trackbed of a railway siding whilst south again on the hillside, are a reservoir which provided water power for the works together with the remains of a flue and chimney. At the foot of the hillslope there is a platform upon which a building associated with the spelter works is depicted on early 20th century maps. In the Tarn Beck valley lie vast amounts of zinc-smelting residues. In several places the stone-revetted stream bed itself is exposed, together with a stone-arched culvert built to enable refuse from the works to be safely dumped over the beck. The waste consists of remains both from the 19th century zinc-smelting activities and the short-lived kilning activities of the 1930s. The successive Earls of Carlisle owned large areas of land in north east Cumbria including the Naworth coalfield. Maps indicate that coal was being mined from at least the 17th century and by the late 18th century the major coal mining activity was occurring in the fells south east of Brampton where the Tindale Fell seam was being exploited. Access to and from these high and remote mines was difficult and thus a waggonway using wooden rails was constructed from Brampton to the Clowsgill limestone quarry and on to Talkin quarry in 1799. Extension of the waggonway system serving Lord Carlisle's mines and quarries continued during the first quarter of the 19th century and during this period cast iron rails were developed to replace the wooden rails. Further developments here led to the introduction of wrought iron rails, a material eventually universally used for rail lines until the latter quarter of the 19th century. During 1824 Lord Carlisle agreed to a further extension of his railway system from Hallbankgate to Midgeholme. This extension was to be operated by steam locomotives as opposed to horse-drawns wagons and unlike the narrow gauge of the earlier waggonways was to be built at a gauge of 4ft 8 1/2 inches, a gauge later to become known as standard gauge and one eventually adopted for the country's entire railway network. Construction work of some magnitude was necessary, especially on its embankments, notably the `Great Battery' across Tarn Beck. The line opened in the summer of 1828 and became the country's first non-Stephenson standard gauge railway line to use wrought iron rails. It was at Doleshole, at the north western end of the `Great Battery' that Stephenson's `Rocket' was stabled between 1837-40. The `Great Battery' embankment is approximately 300m long. It was initially constructed to one third of its full height, work then commenced from both ends to raise it to its full height. Once the two ends had met the top was widened and the trackbed laid. After a change to road transport in the early 1950s the railway closed and by 1954 the track had been lifted. All fenceposts, gateposts, telegraph poles, and the surface of the access track leading to Bishophill are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all 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: 32895

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Webb, B, Gordon, D A, Lord Carlisle's Railway, (1978), 1-127
Almond, J K, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Tindale Fell Spelter Works, East Cumbria And Its Closure In 1895, (1978), 177-85
Almond, J K, 'Journal of the Historical Metallurgy Society' in Zinc Production At Tindale Fell, Cumbria, , Vol. 11/1, (1977), 30-9
Almond, J K, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Tindale Fell Spelter Works, East Cumbria And Its Closure In 1895, (1978), 177-185

End of official listing