Augill lead smelting mill, later iron roasting plant, associated reservoir, leats, flue and chimney and a Roman signal station immediately E of Augill Bridge


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Augill lead smelting mill, later iron roasting plant, associated reservoir, leats, flue and chimney and a Roman signal station immediately E of Augill Bridge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 81723 14637

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. Ore hearth smelt mills were introduced in the 16th century and continued to develop until the late 19th century. They were the normal type of lead smelter until the 18th century, when they were partially replaced by the reverberatory smelt mill. The ore hearth itself consisted of a low open hearth, in which lead ore was mixed with fuel (initially dried wood, later a mixture of peat and coal). An air blast was supplied by bellows, normally operated by a waterwheel; more sophisticated arrangements were used at some 19th century sites. The slags from the ore hearth still contained some lead. This was extracted by resmelting the slags at a higher temperature using charcoal or (later) coke fuel, normally in a separate slag hearth. This was typically within the ore hearth smelt mill, though separate slag mills are known. Early sites were typically small and simple buildings with one or two hearths, whereas late 18th and 19th century smelt mills were often large complexes containing several ore and slag hearths, roasting furnaces for preparing the ore, refining furnaces for extracting silver from the lead by a process known as cupellation, and reducing furnaces for recovering lead from the residue or litharge produced by cupellation, together with sometimes complex systems of flues, condensers and chimneys for recovering lead from the fumes given off by the various hearths and furnaces. The ore hearth smelt mill site will also contain fuel stores and other ancillary buildings. Ore hearth smelt mills have existed in and near all the lead mining fields of England, though late 18th and 19th century examples were virtually confined to the Pennines from Yorkshire northwards (and surviving evidence is strongly concentrated in North Yorkshire). It is believed that several hundred examples existed nationally. The sample identified as meriting protection includes: all sites with surviving evidence of hearths; sites with intact slag tips of importance for understanding the development of smelting technology; all 16th- 17th century sites with appreciable standing structural remains; 16th-17th century sites with well preserved earthwork remains; and a more selective sample of 18th and 19th century sites to include the best surviving evidence for smelt mill structures, and flue/condenser/chimney systems.

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ore was originally smelted into iron in small, relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is brittle, and to convert it to malleable wrough iron or steel it needs to be remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge, but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to more sophisticated types of furnaces. Iron ore occurs in two main chemical forms, as a carbonate and as an oxide. The carbonate ores require calcining (roasting) to drive off carbon dioxide, converting the ore into a oxide before it can be smelted to produce iron or steel. Calcining also improves the ore for smelting by driving off water and other volatile substances, and by breaking the ore into smaller fragments. Roman signal stations were rectangular towers of stone or wood situated within ditched, embanked, palisaded or walled enclosures. They were built by the Roman army for military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke. They normally formed an element of a wider system of defence and signalling between military sites such as forts and camps and towns, generally as part of a chain of stations to cover long distances. In northern England signal stations were used in particular to augment the main frontier formed by Hadrian's Wall. The earliest examples were built between AD 50 and AD 117 for use during the earliest military campaigns during the conquest period, and generally took the form of a wooden tower surrounded by a ditch and bank and possibly a slight timber palisade. After AD 117 towers were usually built in stone, some on the same site as earlier timber towers. In the mid-4th century AD more substantial stone signal station were constructed mainly along the Yorkshire coast. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are important in representing army strategy, government policy and the pattern of military control, signal stations are of importance to our understanding of the period. All Roman signal stations with surviving archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important. Despite being roofless, the smelt mill and its associated features survive reasonably well. The mill is a unique example in the North Pennines of a lead smelting mill being converted to an iron roasting plant, and the building retains a considerable number of technological features relating to both aspects of its use. Additionally, and despite being partly mutilated by construction of the mill's flue and chimney, the Roman signal station also survives reasonably well. It formed an important part of the Roman communication system both across the Stainmore Pass and within the northern frontier as a whole, and will contribute greatly to our understanding of the Roman signalling network in northern England.


The monument includes the upstanding remains of Augill 19th century lead smelting mill, a structure later converted to an iron roasting plant, together with the earthwork remains of an associated reservoir, leats, a flue and a chimney, and the buried remains of associated structures known from early Ordnance Survey maps to have existed on three sides of the smelt mill. Also included within the scheduling are the earthworks and buried remains of a Roman signal station situated in an elevated position 300m ENE of Augill Bridge. This signal station has been partly mutilated by construction of the smelt mill's flue and chimney. The smelt mill is located on the east bank of Augill Beck about 50m north east of Augill Bridge. Documentary evidence suggest the mill was constructed in 1843 by the North Stainmore Mining Company to smelt lead ore raised from nearby mines. About 1859/60 the smelt mill was converted to accommodate the roasting of iron nodules found in the local mines. This roasting process drew off carbon dioxide, giving a somewhat lighter load of magnetic iron oxide to transport to the blast furnaces. Roasting could have been accomplished using the former lead smelting hearths, although minor modifications were required to produce the greater heat required for this process. The mill had gone out of production by 1894 and was subsequently used as a stable. The roof was removed about 1949. The smelt mill is a stone-built two-celled rectangular structure measuring approximately 25m by 7m with a waterwheel pit located immediately outside the north wall. Water for powering the waterwheel ran along a header leat, the remains of which survive as an intermittent earthwork running alongside an overgrown trackway immediately east of Augill Beck which gave access to the mines higher up the valley. There are no surface indications of a tail race, suggesting that water was culverted from the waterwheel back into the beck. The mill's west wall survives to eaves height while the two gables stand to their full height. The majority of the east wall was built into the hillside but the upper courses have fallen in. In the larger northern cell the west wall has two pairs of windows either side of a central wagon entrance. Four bays situated along the inside of the east wall are considered to have held ore smelting hearths. At the back of each hearth are two square-headed openings; the lower openings provided draught for the hearths while the upper openings connected with the flue and removed the fumes out of the mill. Blast for the hearths was provided either by bellows, a fan or a blowing engine, with the waterwheel being used to power the blowing mechanism. The smaller cell at the southern end of the building has a ground floor opening in the west wall with a window above, while the rear east wall contains a partially blocked wagon entrance. A blocked doorway originally gave access between the two cells. Internally this smaller cell is divided into two by a wall which appears to be a later insert. Ordnance Survey 1st edition maps surveyed in 1859 depict two small associated structures of unspecified function a short distance to the east and west of the mill and a small enclosure to the south. Buried features reportedly visible in the vicinity of the mill during the early 1990s include remains of lead slags to the north west of the mill adjacent to the beck, and iron residue to the south west of the mill. As noted above, the upper holes at the back of the hearths in the mill were all linked by a flue. This flue runs along the outside of, and parallel to, the east wall. At a point close to the mill's centre the flues join to form a single larger flue which runs uphill for approximately 260m to the site of a chimney, now robbed of stone, the location of which is visible as a slight depression immediately east of a drystone wall at NY81871470. The flue was originally stone-lined and is intermittently visible as an earthwork feature running around the north side of a reservoir. It survives as a linear depression 2.5m to 5m wide flanked in places by turf-covered stone banks. In places the flue remains buried, whilst elsewhere parts of it have been partially robbed for drystone wall construction. On the hillside above the mill at NY81651462 there is a reservoir measuring about 80m by 10m. It has been scooped out of the hillside, the west side being retained by a flat-topped dam 4m wide. The reservoir was fed by a substantial leat 7m wide by 1.5m deep, probably forming part of an old field boundary, which enters on the south side. There is no obvious evidence for an outflow leat downslope to the mill, however, a modern cut in the dam to prevent ponding may have disturbed the original sluice. At NY81861469, in an elevated position with extensive views in all directions, are the earthworks and buried remains of a Roman signal station. Brough Roman fort, 3km to the west, is clearly visible from this point. Despite some disturbance by construction of the flue and chimney, the signal station earthworks measure about 25m in diameter and consist of a circular mound about 8m in diameter with a central depression. The mound is surrounded by a ditch, bank and outer ditch and is one of a chain of signal stations overlooking the Roman road over the Stainmore Pass. Limited excavation of the signal station in the mid-1970s found the mound to be composed of yellow clay. One large posthole and one smaller posthole were uncovered. On this evidence it was concluded that two phases of activity were represented, and that there had been a reconstruction of a central wooden platform about 3.5m square. No datable objects were found but cut food bones were found in the recut ditch. All modern field boundaries, fenceposts, gateposts, wooden steps and a stile 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.

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Books and journals
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain in 1975, , Vol. 7, (1976), 312
Higham, N H, Jones, G D B, 'Archaeological Journal' in Frontiers, Forts and Farmers: Cumbrian Aerial Survey 1974-5, , Vol. 132, (1975), 23,38
On behalf of Cumbria County Council, Dennison,E., Augill Smelt Mill, Brough, Cumbria. Archaeological Assessment, (1998)
On behalf of Cumbria County Council, Dennison,E., Augill Smelt Mill, Brough, Cumbria. Archaeological Assessment, (1998)
On behalf of Cumbria County Council, Dennison,E., Augill Smelt Mill, Brough, Cumbria. Archaeological Assessment, (1998)


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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