Greenside Mine and the growth of Glenridding

by Emma Bray

Banner Image: © Anne Clarke

Population increase

The growth of Glenridding as a village is closely linked to the development of Greenside Mine during the nineteenth century. The mine began commercial operations in the 1820s, but expanded in earnest from the mid-1830s following impetus from a new shareholder and Carlisle banker, George Head Head. The population of Hartsop-with-Patterdale was 573 in 1841 and grew throughout the nineteenth century, reaching 701 in 1901 and 961 in 1921. Mining was not the only factor behind this growing population – there was a corresponding growth in tourism and also more people of means who chose to live in Patterdale for its scenery – but the impact of mining was significant. In 1851, nearly a third of household heads were lead miners or had other manual employment linked to the mine; in 1901, the figure was as much as forty percent and on top of this the mine employed white collar workers, carriers and artisans such as blacksmiths who were needed to repair the tools and machinery.

Immigrant miners

There was insufficient labour or expertise within the indigenous population to work the mine, so labour arrived from outside and must have greatly changed the nature of the local community. Many of the early miners came from existing mining communities outside of Westmorland, in particular Alston in Cumberland and Yorkshire. Around 29 people listed in the 1851 census can be traced to Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist baptism records from Alston, so they are likely to have formed quite a tight-knit community. By 1851, only 28% of households in Patterdale were headed by someone born in Patterdale, so nearly three-quarters of all households were headed by an “off-comer”. In 1860, a mining agent, William Phillips, came from Cornwall and others soon followed. By 1881, the Grenfells and the Harris family had settled from Cornwall along with their fellow countryman, George Motton and later the Hicks family. The Comers and Normans came from neighbouring Devon. Many others came from County Durham and Scotland.

Communal accommodation or 'shops' built for mine workers

A real problem for Greenside was the lack of available housing for families to cope with this influx of workers. The solution in the early decades was to house workers in communal accommodation near the mine – known as shops. The first was built in 1832 and two more were built in 1839. Eventually there was a total of six shops. Today, some of these buildings are bunk houses or hostels on the path up to Helvellyn.

Former Mine Workers’ Shop at Greenside © Chris Bray

Those miners who were married would live in the shops Monday to Friday and at the weekend they returned to their families who took accommodation in other communities, most notably Matterdale where around one third of households were headed by a lead miner in 1851, Greenside being the mostly likely source of employment for these men. Conditions in the shops during the week would have been cramped and smoky as men brought bacon and potatoes to cook for themselves. Many of the Matterdale men brought their sons with them, employed at the surface as lead-washers. As late as 1862, the mine employed 300 men and boys, yet half to two-thirds still had their home outside Patterdale.

Gradually houses were built

Gradually, Greenside took steps to alleviate the housing problem. In 1839, land was bought at Glencoyne (Seldom Seen) for ten houses for married men. In 1858, nine more houses were built at Low Glenridding and the following year four were rented at Mires. In 1864, William Marshall agreed to lease land at Rake for twelve cottages. He wanted them to have gardens and to be built in blocks of three or four, but eventually conceded to rows of six. In 1868, six more houses were built on Rake Field, known as High Rake and five more were built at Middle Rake in 1881. In all, the number of households in Patterdale increased from 118 in 1851 to 172 in 1901, corresponding with the new homes built for miners. The impact of the mine on the size of the village was significant.

Mine Workers Cottages © Anne Clarke

Sources: Census Enumerator’s Schedules, Patterdale-below-How and Patterdale-above-How, 1841 – 1911

S. Murphy, Grey Gold, Men, Mining and Metallurgy at the Greenside Lead Mine in Cumbria, England 1825-1962 (1996)

Emma Bray, “A Local Study of Wesleyan Methodism in Patterdale, Westmorland and Matterdale, Cumberland, 1840- 1920”, Dissertation submitted for Master of Science in English Local History, St Cross College, Oxford, September 2013


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