Greenside Lead Mine, Glenridding

by Warren Allison

Banner Image: Greenside Mine circa 1933 © Joseph Hardman

Greenside mine, at the head of the Glenridding Valley, was one of the biggest mines in the UK. It was a major employer in the Ullswater Valley for over 200 years. The earliest date of working is unknown, but it re-opened in 1825 and then ran continuously until its final closure in 1962.

Miners hand drilling at Greenside, early 20th century, courtesy of Beamish Museum.

Worldwide Trail

Greenside supplied both sides during the American Civil War. 500 ingots of lead from Greenside were found on the Prince Albert which was sunk off the South Carolina coast after trying to run through the Union blockade. During the Second World War it became the significant producer of lead for the war effort.


In 1893 Greenside became the first metal mine in the UK to have an electric underground locomotive and winding engine supplied by a hydro-electric power station near Red Tarn, under the slopes of Helvellyn.

Lucy Tongue Engine sometime after 1893 - Courtesy of Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum

Growth of Glenridding

Throughout its life the mine directly employed hundreds of people who came from all over the country. Some walked many miles from far away villages with a week's supply of food, travelling back at the weekend to see their families.

The mining company made Glenridding village, building 52 cottages in the village itself and others around the parish. It built a school at Seldom Seen, which closed in 1913, and contributed to Patterdale School, which is still there today.

Miners cottages © Anne Clarke

Accidents and Disasters

There were accidents and disasters, the most famous being when the dam at Keppel Cove burst in 1927, after a night of exceptional rainfall. Four female members of staff in the Glenridding Hotel were rescued by the boot boy from being swept away.

Road in Glenridding after the Keppel Cove Disaster. From Chronicles of Patterdale, with thanks to Patterdale WI

Mine Closure

Greenside always embraced new technologies, some developed by the mine workers. This ensured that it stayed open while others mines closed. When closure did eventually come in 1962, it is hard to comprehend the impact it had on the community, where virtually every house was locally occupied and the primary school had almost 100 children. it is a totally different picture today.

The village of Glenridding still holds the stories of the miners, their families and their way of life.

by Warren Allison

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