The standing, earthwork and buried remains of two lead mining sites: St Cuthbert’s and Chewton, which are considered to have Roman and medieval origins respectively. At the western boundary between the two mines is a well which was first recorded in the medieval period.
Reasons for Designation
St Cuthbert and Chewton Mineries, mid-C19 lead sites with earlier origins, and the medieval well known as Fair Lady Well, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: a well-preserved site which retains evidence for the processes involved and technological development of re-processing mine waste during the C19 as well as buried deposits associated with earlier mining activities;
* Diversity: the site retains a range of mining-related features such as washing floors, the remains of furnaces, flues and other structures, and related water management and transport systems which will add to our knowledge of the activities that took place here;
* Documentary: both the mines and the well are well documented, providing an insight into their historical development;
* Potential: the range of surface remains and buried archaeological deposits will contribute to our understanding of the historical and technological development of lead mining on the Mendips.
Lead has been mined on the Mendips since at least the Roman period and most of the mines appear to be closely associated with the network of Roman military roads which afforded good transport links, indicating a military context for the wider industry in the 1st century AD. The rather sparse records during the medieval period point to a steady, but fluctuating lead industry which reached a peak between 1600 and 1670. By the end of the medieval period the Mendips were organised into four liberties or mineries: Wells, Chewton, Harptree and West (Charterhouse) which were under the jurisdiction of four Lords Royal who issued licences to mine and to whom miners were required to pay tithes. By the late C17 lead mining had fallen into decline. The final phase of the lead industry on the Mendips took place in the C19 and consisted, not of new mining, but of reworking of the considerable amounts of lead-bearing slags left behind by the earlier phases.
The presence of Romano-British settlements in the vicinity of the St Cuthbert’s (also Priddy) Minery suggests that mining occurred here during the Roman period, although the visible archaeological remains at the site date from the mid-C19 onwards. In the 1850s following a change of ownership and the additional assistance of Cornish mining engineers, new buddles (circular, stone-lined depressions used to separate lead ore from waste) were added to re-process old mine waste at St Cuthbert's, with smelting carried out on a larger scale. The requirement for water during re-processing, however, led to a series of legal disputes over water rights with the owners of the adjacent Chewton Minery. A change in ownership in the 1860s led to the installation of five new furnaces and a new steam engine to deal with the old tailings and debris in bulk. The site was known by then as St Cuthbert’s Lead Works. It closed, however, in 1869 but re-opened a decade later when it became more profitable to dress the lead-rich slimes which were then sold onto lead smelters in Bristol. The period after 1890 saw the installation of a ‘concentrating and smelting plant of the most modern description’ and the, by this time, old-fashioned buddles were replaced with mechanical machinery and settling ponds. Fluctuations in the price of lead, however, caused St Cuthbert’s to shut on several occasions; finally closing in May 1908. By 1910 the works had been dismantled and the plant and machinery sold.
The Chewton Minery, situated immediately to the north of St Cuthbert’s, was owned by Earl Waldegrave and is first mentioned in 1541, although it had probably been in existence before then. It does not appear to have been profitable until the mid-C19 when new technology was introduced and slime re-processing began. Improvements both in mining techniques and in the processing of waste made it economic to re-open some of the mines at Chewton and to also re-work existing waste tips to extract further lead ore. By 1864 the site had three dressing floors dispersed across the site for processing the debris and a single smelting furnace. Like its neighbour, the fortunes of the Chewton Minery varied; output was 100 tons a year compared to several hundred for other mines, and in 1868 no return was made at all. In that year a change of ownership took place with the establishment of The Waldegrave Lead Smelting Company. Output rose to 500 tons the following year, but in 1872 it was 477 tons. The mine continued to operate under various names until it was abandoned in 1883; it is marked as disused on the 1886 Ordnance Survey (OS) map. In 1893 the adjacent St Cuthbert's company acquired a licence to re-process the debris still remaining at the Chewton Minery.
On the boundary between the parishes of Priddy and Chewton Mendip, which also marks the boundary between the St Cuthbert’s and Chewton Mineries, is a well. It is identified in a boundary perambulation of 1259 as Fayrewell, and is mentioned in the list of places which define the Bishop's bounds on the Mendips: "thence to cold ovens, thence to a stone in Fairwell, in Priddy minery." It is depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1886 as Fair Lady Well. The adjacent stream was re-routed in the mid-C19 to supply fresh water to Priddy village, but prior to this it would have probably been used in the St Cuthbert’s Minery.
The standing, earthwork and buried remains of two lead mining sites: St Cuthbert’s and Chewton, which are considered to have Roman and medieval origins respectively. Their visible remains appear to date largely from the mid- to late C19 and early C20, but features associated with earlier workings are considered to survive as buried deposits. Chewton Minery in the northern half of the site is located within a valley orientated north to south, while St Cuthbert’s immediately to the south is situated on a slight west-facing slope. At the western boundary between the two mines is Fair Lady Well which was first recorded in the medieval period.
At the northernmost part of the site is Waldegrave Pool which was created in the 1850s to provide a water supply for processing slag. It has a large earthen dam along its south side, and at its west end is a leat which is visible as a shallow ditch running along the western boundary of the site. It supplied two small reservoirs with water; both have been cut into the hillslope and are defined by low earthen banks. To the south of Waldegrave Pool, a little further down the valley, are a series of mounds and scarps of waste material and the earthworks of one of three dressing floors at the mine which are depicted on the 1886 OS map. These features are probably associated with the later C19 re-working of earlier spoil tips. Towards the central part of the Chewton mines site are a series of earthworks which mark the location of the mine buildings. A late-C19 photograph shows a group of stone buildings, including the furnace, a boiler house and other structures, some of which are roofless, and two chimneys. Although these buildings have collapsed, their foundations are likely to survive as buried features. Running north-westwards, and upslope of this area, is a stone-lined flue, some 130m in length, which has largely collapsed. A second flue runs south-westwards for approximately 148m. It takes the form of an earthwork, suggesting that it survives largely intact. Opposite the mine buildings is a rectangular pond which has an earthen dam along its south-west side and a low bank to its north-east edge. There are two further dressing floors, and their linear arrangement of buddles are shown on the 1886 OS map. They are situated alongside areas of re-worked spoil. To the south-east is Mineries Pool which was created in mid-C19 by the construction of dam to provide water for re-processing waste material. Running north-east to south-west through the central part of the mine is the raised embankment of a former tramway which is first depicted on the 1903 OS map.
ST CUTHBERT’S MINERY
The tramway continues on a south-east alignment, terminating in the central area of the St Cuthbert’s site where its furnaces and processing buildings were situated. A photograph from 1908 depicts a large concentration of roofed buildings, together with three chimneys, surrounded by substantial dumps of re-worked spoil. Although this area is overgrown, lengths of stone-lined flues and the fragmentary ruins of one of the buildings are visible; elsewhere earthworks mark the location of the other buildings, including the furnaces. To the north-east and south-west of these remains, and depicted on the 1886 OS map, are two large dressing floors comprising rows of buddles and settling tanks. Although no longer clearly visible on the surface, they are considered to survive as buried features. Elsewhere across the site there are large tailings and debris probably associated with the mid-C19 to early-C20 re-working of old mine waste, including an area of C19 open-cast mining, and the buried remains of further shorter sections of tramways which connected the various processing areas. Although obscured by later operations, evidence for earlier mining and ore processing, including possible Roman and medieval workings, are likely to survive beneath the ground surface in some parts of the site.
FAIR LADY WELL
A well of medieval date, if not earlier, which consists of an oval-shaped chamber that remains waterfilled. There are rubble stone blocks within and around the area of the pool which would suggest that it may have originally been stone lined.
A number of modern features are excluded from the scheduling:
The steel entrance pipe and concrete shaft at St Cuthbert’s Swallet;
The sluice, its mechanism and earth dam immediately north-west of St Cuthbert’s Swallet;
The concrete and earth dam at the Upper Dam north-west of St Cuthbert’s Swallet;
The gabions along the west side of Mineries Pool;
The blockwork dam to the west of Mineries Pool;
The ductile pipe which carries the stream from Fair Lady Well over Plantation Swallet;
All fence posts and interpretation boards;
the ground beneath all these features, however, is included.