Greenburn copper mines and associated ore processing works


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Lakeland (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 28878 01775

Reasons for Designation

Copper was extracted in Britain intermittently from the Early Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) until the early 20th century, after when the industry was confined to by-product production and small scale reworkings of mines and dumps. There is very limited evidence for copper mining before the 15th and 16th centuries, and most known sites are of later date, principally of the industry's 18th and 19th century peak after it had been revitalised by developments in smelting technology. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as perhaps it had also been in prehistory, British production was important on a European scale. Nucleated copper mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by copper 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 and power transmission features such as wheel pits and leats. The majority of nucleated copper mines are of 18th to 20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rakes, opencuts and open levels, and including scattered ore dressing features. An essential part of a copper mining site is the 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 can be summarised as: picking out clean lumps of ore and waste; hammering (breaking down lumps to a smaller size by manual hammering or by mechanical crushing); jigging (separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in a tub of water; and buddling (separation of finer material by washing away the lighter waste in a current of water). Field remains of ore works include crushing devices, separating structures and tanks and tips of distinctive waste from the various processes, together with associated water supplies. Simple ore dressing devices had been developed by the 16th century, but the large majority date from the 18th to 20th centuries, when technology evolved rapidly. During English Heritage's national evaluation of the copper industry, 130 sites were assessed. This is a highly select sample of the numbers of sites that historically existed in England; although there are no national estimates, for the south west alone an estimate has been made of over 10,000 sites. It is considered that protection by scheduling is appropriate for less than 50, with alternative means of protection or management being considered more appropriate for the other nationally important sites.

Despite the ruinous condition of the buildings, Greenburn copper mines remain a relatively well-preserved extensive and impressive mining landscape containing the remains of a wide range of upstanding and buried mining components dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries. These include levels, shafts, trials, water management systems for powering machinery, remains of transportation systems for moving ore, remains of buildings associated with ore processing, spoil heaps, dressing waste and remains of a range of associated buildings. Overall the Greenburn copper 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.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Greenburn copper mines and its associated ore processing works. It consists of the remains of all mining operations including levels or adits, shafts, trials and spoil heaps; the remains of all ore dressing areas, ore processing buildings and all other associated buildings; the water management system, and numerous trackways and the remains of a tramway. These features are located over a large area with the main ore processing area and some of the levels, shafts and trials lying close to Greenburn Beck mid-way along the Greenburn Valley, whilst high on the northern slopes of Wetherlam are the Pave York Levels, the Long Crag Level and the Upper Workings on Long Crag Vein.

The earliest date when mining began at Greenburn is unknown, however, documentary sources indicate that a reasonably intense and prolonged period of mining had been in existence by 1690. In the late 18th and early 19th century leases were offered by the landowner for prospecting and mining but there is no record of what work was done during that period. By 1848 at the latest the Engine Shaft and Long Crag Level were in operation and until the early 1860s the mines underwent their most intensive period of production and expansion. After this the mines were less intensively worked by a succession of companies until about 1885. In 1906 the Greenburn and Tilberthwaite Syndicate took on the lease, mining the Pave York Vein and constructing an inclined tramway from the Middle Level down which to transport the ore for crushing. Operations appear to have been run down or terminated after only two or three years, but in 1912 the Langdale Silver, Lead and Copper Company took on the lease and mined for the following five years. In the mid-1920s the Greenburn and Tilberthwaite Mining Company was formed but little mining is recorded and in 1940 the company was dissolved.

The highest workings are the Upper Workings on Long Crag Vein at NY28610142. These consist of three closely-spaced levels with spreads of waste tumbling downslope, together with a dilapidated three-sided shelter facing a level platform which was evidently used as a spalling floor for the primary dressing of large lumps of ore. Some 90m below is Long Crag Level with a small stone-built shelter near its entrance which is thought to have offered protection while blasting was taking place. About 40m downslope are the remains of a single-roomed building which served as a smithy and probably a store and shelter also. The Pave York Levels consists of three levels, Top, Middle and Bottom. Top Level is located at NY29110160. About 35m lower down is Middle Level with faint traces of a blast shelter close to its entrance and traces of the top of the tramway which connected it with the valley. Bottom Level lies about 40m further downslope at NY29100174. Much lower down the valley side lies the Gossan Vein Shaft, now flooded, with an area of trial holes nearby, and the Gossan Vein Level which has the remains of a small blast shelter near its entrance.

Remains close to the valley floor include, from west to east, a substantial dam on the east side of Greenburn Reservoir with spillways at the north and south ends, numerous trials on the Low Gill and Sump Veins, a small dam across a tributory of Greenburn Beck with a leat running off it, Low Gill Vein Shaft and Sump Vein Trial Shaft, more trials, a dam across Greenburn Beck with a leat running off it, numerous trackways, Sump Vein Shaft and an adjacent spalling floor and Sump Vein Level. Centred at approximately NY29050218 is the main ore processing area containing the remains of a wide variety of structures and features. These include spalling floors, spoil tips, one of which covers the Buried Gossan Vein Level, leats, trackways, the site of an early water wheel, an engine house and adjacent wheelpit, a crushing mill, the Engine Shaft complete with an in situ pump rod and an adjacent trial shaft. There is also a modified building originally housing a `grate' or sieve where large lumps of ore could be removed and broken up by hand, two buildings either side of a wheelpit which housed crushers and stampers, a crushing mill which was later converted to a store, a building adjacent to a wheelpit which housed a type of sieve known as a jigger and the bottom end of the tramway. The remains of two precipitation tanks survive which held sulphuric acid which was used to precipitate the copper from the crushed copper oxide ore and a nearby ore chute down which the ore was transferred to the precipitation tanks. A slime tank and adjacent structure, buildings housing round buddles where water washed over the fine ore to separate heavier ore-bearing particles also survive. A substantial range of three buildings comprising workers accommodation, an office and a smithy, a dry store, two loading bays, a store where ore ready for smelting was housed prior to transportation, and an explosives store survive, although ruinous. Towards the eastern end of the monument there are two more trials together with the Greenburn Shaft and the Greenburn Beck Level.

All modern fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them 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:
Legacy System:


Survey Report, Oswald, A and McOmish, D and Ainsworth, S, Greenburn Copper Mine, Cumbria, (2001)
Survey Report, Oswald, A and McOmish, D and Ainsworth, S, Greenburn Copper Mine, Cumbria, (2001)
Survey Report, Oswald, A and McOmish, D and Ainsworth, S, Greenburn Copper Mine, Cumbria, (2001)


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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