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24 September 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > History > History features > Restoration > Greenside Lead Mine

Rocky hillside

Part of the old workings

Greenside Lead Mine

It's a piece of our industrial heritage which is special for quite a few reasons.

The mine is tucked away up a steep and winding track above Ullswater. The views from the top are stunning. There's been mining at Greenside for at least 300 years.

My guides were John Hodgson,  the senior archaeologist with the Lake District National Park and Warren Allison who lives locally and is a big fan of the mine.

Two men

John and Warren

The National Park Authority has owned the site since the 1970s and has been trying to stabilise some of the tips around the mine. There's always a danger with any old mine that the spoil tips may start sliding down the hillside.

The work isn't finished and so the mine is on English Heritage's at-risk register. Another problem is making sure the water from the underground workings doesn't pollute surrounding water courses or the lake at the bottom of the valley.

Mine buildings

Greenside in the 1930s

The mine closed in the 1950s and a lot of the buildings were demolished. There are a few left now which are used as hostels by schools and other visiting groups.

In fact when we were there, there was a large group of Jewish people  on a summer camp. The sound of chanting and a big procession greeted us as we came up the track, not at all what we were expecting!

Buildings in a valley

Some of the old mine buildings

As we climbed up above the buildings, Warren tells me that his family have strong links with the mine, with  several of them working there over the years. The lead was used for pipes, bullets, roofing and so on. But the market for that declined as plastic and copper became more widely used.

There is an American connection with lead being used to make bullets used in the Civil War over there. A ship that sank off the South Carolina  coast has been discovered recently and on board were lead ingots with the name of the Greenside mine stamped on them! Warren is hoping they may be able to get one and put it on display locally.

Man on engine

Electric underground engine in 1930s

In its heyday, the mine led the way being the first to use electricity to power its winding gear at the end of the 19th century. It also ran the first underground electric engine in a British metal mine. Some of its smelting processes (to get the lead out of the ore) were also revolutionary.

Warren's actually been into the mine and says it's amazing to see. He's part of a local mines group and knows the area well. The underground workings are dangerous and are not open to the general public.

Mine workers

Mine workers c1900

The mine continues further up the hillside than we managed to get on our trip. It was starting  to rain and I was completely puffed out by the steep climb! But John and Warren assured me that, on another day, the walk is well worth it. Maybe you should give it a try?!

*Thank you to Warren  for allowing us to use some of his old pictures of the mine.

last updated: 20/05/2008 at 15:28
created: 25/08/2006

You are in: Cumbria > History > History features > Restoration > Greenside Lead Mine

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