Mines and Quarries in the Ullswater Valley
by Tim Clarke
This journey describes the mining and quarrying sites in the Ullswater Valley from Kirkstone Pass at the head of the Ullswater Valley northwards to Blowick.
Caiston Glen Lead Mine
There are traces of lead mine workings on Caiston Glen on the slopes of Red Screes, some 3 km from Hartsop. Trial excavations have been cut into the fell-side for about 30 metres but the works were abandoned.
Caudale Moor Slate Quarry
Caudale Moor Slate Quarry was active from the mid 1700s to the 1930s. The slates were transported down the mountainside on sledges - a highly skilled and dangerous task. It is described in James Clarke's 'Survey of the Lakes', published in 1789: 'The slate is laid upon a barrow which is called a Trail Barrow. It has two inclining handles or ‘stangs’ between which the man is placed. He has nothing more to do than keep it in its track and prevent it from running too fast. Those who are dextrous may not sometimes set foot on the ground for 10 or 12 yards together. But the barrow will often runaway with an unskillful person - which was my case when I made an attempt to stop. The length that is carried is about half a mile.’
The slate was subsequently transferred on horseback to the head of Ullswater, then ferried from there to Pooley Bridge in boats carrying between 6 and 8 tonnes.
Hartsop Hall Lead Mine
Hartsop Hall Mine is probably the oldest in the valley. After the disbanding of the Mines Royal in 1696, all revenue from mining operations went to the landowner rather than some being paid to the Queen. This change made mining a much more attractive commercial proposition. The records show that a 21year lease to operate the mine was signed in 1696, and successive leases, involving the Lowthers, Lonsdales and others kept the mine alive until 1947.
The lead yielded up to 30 oz of silver per tonne. Traditionally silver concentrations are measured in Troy ounces - one Troy ounce is equivalent to 32 grammes - a much higher content than the Greenside mine assay. Other minerals included zinc blende, fluorspar, wulfenite and copper. Modern day gold panners have found minute specks of gold in this area.
Hogget Gill Smelter
One of the oldest smelters in the Lake District was built here around 1696. It is 8 x 4 metres, one half containing a furnace to melt the ore, the other half for storage of the purified of the lead. The furnace was fuelled by charcoal from woodland close by. The heat was intensified by bellows , powered by a waterwheel which was fed by a leat bringing water from Dovedale Beck. By 1861, water was also used to power crushing and separation machinery in the mill.
Low Hartsop Mines
If you continue towards Hartsop on its eastern side, there are mines at the confluence of Haweswater Gill and Pasture beck, in Pasture Bottom. There were three main veins. The main workings developed in the 1860s when the Low Hartsop mining company was formed. A shaft was commenced around 1866 on the west side of Pasture Beck, adjacent to the site of the old pits. There were also workings on the northern face of Hartsop Dodd where the veins were exposed on the surface.
By the end of 1867 a shaft had been dug down to a depth of 60 metres, with a crosscut of 24 metres, but there were major problems of water seepage. Conditions on the ground were very difficult. The unstable nature of the ground required the miners to resort to cementing walls to support the rotten bedrock. But it was to no avail - in 1869 the project was stopped.
Myers Head Mine, Hartsop
Myers Head lead mine began life in the 1860s and was abandoned less than twenty years later due to flooding. The water wheel system, much of which is still visible, was used to pump water from the mine.
Dubhow Copper Mine
Further down the track towards Crookabeck, past Angle Tarn beck, you come to Dubhow, an old copper mine. The higher working on the north side of the gill is the older site. The mineral rights were owned by Edward Hasell of Dalemain, Lord of the Manor of Patterdale. It seems that the first recorded workings go back to 1761 and 1763. But the copper extracted was of little value and the venture failed.
Much later in October 1850, a small mining company was formed to try again, some 40 metres below the old workings.
The geology of the area indicates three veins containing galena, with a silver content of only 16 ounces per tonne, much less than many other Lake District mines.
Eagle Crag Mine, Grisedale
From Hartsop, if you continue north to Patterdale, and turn left up Grisedale valley, past the footpath to the Hole-in-the-Wall, Striding Edge and Helvellyn, you emerge at the foot of Nethermost Pike at Eagle Crag.
It is one of the most rugged and serene areas in the Lakes. Hundreds of years ago it was well wooded and a popular hunting area for hunting deer and game. The crag took its name from the eagles that soared high above the rocky towers of the crag.
The east face of the crag is dissected by the main mineral vein running east- west which contains copper, zinc and lead. The lead provides about 16 oz of silver per tonne. The vein is thought to run as far as the southern end of Thirlmere in the west, and running eastwards in the opposite direction, crossing Grisedale Beck near a sheepfold, then on across through the shoulder of St Sunday crag, through Arnison Crag, eventually emerging behind Beckstones in Patterdale.
Another vein, known as the Clay vein also contains galena, and heads NE-SW, visible across the south facing wall of Nethermost Pike.
One of the most extraordinary sights for visitors is to see the lead vein at the point where it crosses Grisedale beck. You can actually stand within the worked-out vein and touch both sides of it. Looking up towards Eagle Crag you can imagine – and see with your own eyes – the 9 separate levels that were cut into the vein. Looking in the opposite direction towards St Sunday Crag you see the vein snaking up the hillside across the valley, several places showing signs where attempts were made to dig into the vein.
At the top level, that can be reached in a zig-zag climb up next to Nethermost Cove beck, there are signs of remnants of probable Elizabethan workings.
The first documentary record of workings at the mine is a lease issued in May 1784 by William Hasell, the Lord of the Manor at Patterdale. Between the twin buttrusses of Eagle Crag the vein splits in two, forming a huge Y. Working at this height, 600 metres, on a precarious rock face, in very hostile conditions, must have been extraordinarily hard.
Ore that had been hand-dug out of the vein, was tumbled down chutes, to be broken up on the valley floor. The ore itself was a great value, and provoked investments in a smithy, for sharpening drill bits and repair work, settling ponds, a store house, a gunpowder store, and primitive smelter. A pony track at the bottom, parallel to the Grisedale beck was used to evacuate the ore which was taken in carts to Glenridding, and then on by boat to Pooley Bridge.
Working at the mine stopped and started at various times in the mid 1800s. Edward William Hasell from Dalemain initiated two major investments between 1872 and 1876, looking for zinc and lead, but having dug 160 metres into solid rock in one direction, and 135 metres in another, they stopped.
Many years later, two brothers called Watson, miners from Deepdale, noticed the glint of quartz and the gleam of silver on the shoulder of St Sunday Crag. Realising the potential value of their find they removed some of the ore and covered the exposed area with grass. They showed the sample of ore to Captain Borlase, their boss at Greenside who was so impressed that he set out immediately with the brothers to examine the vein. Sadly, try as they might, they could not locate the spot.
Ever since then, the vein has been known as ‘Watson’s loss’ and mining in the Grisedale Valley was over.
Ruthwaite Mine, Grisedale
Further on up the track from Eagle Crag towards Grisedale Tarn, a walker today will come across Ruthwaite Lodge, rebuilt by the Sheffield University Mountaineering Club in the late 1950s. The area is called Grisedale Forest, but today there’s not a tree in sight.
The hut used to be an old miner’s office and smithy. There are three separate mine workings, located close to where Ruthwaite beck joins Grisedale beck. The levels are hand dug, a metre wide. There are records of William Hasell from Dalemain leasing the mines for 21 years on 24th May 1784. It seems however that yields were very small, and the mine was abandoned.
Hagg Close Mine, Patterdale
In Patterdale, in the area that used to be farmed by Home Farm on the Patterdale Hall Estate, there are records of mining being initiated in 1753 by John Hasell the Lord of the Patterdale Manor who had mining rights over the land. John Mounsey, who owned the tenancy of the land, discovered evidence of lead in a drainage ditch in 1799, and negotiated mining rights from Hasell. The mining continued until 1808, with 8 miners working in pits 60 metres below ground.
However, despite initial interest, John Mounsey lost his enthusiasm, and eventually ploughed over the workings and put the area back to farming. The Home Farm buildings next to Hagg beck were expanded. Today, all these buildings, including the Piggeries, have been transformed into housing.
Side Farm Slate Quarries
In Patterdale, behind Side Farm on Patterdale Common beneath Place Fell, there are a series of slate quarries mined for the construction of local buildings
Further North, on the track towards Blowick and Silver point, opposite the eastern shore of Ullswater, the screes below Grey Crag have been worked for barytes. The vein is small, only 20 cms, for a distance of 30 metres, and was hand driven in the 1860s. It has interesting pink minerals. There are numerous quartz veins nearby.
by Tim Clarke
Ian Tyler, Greenside and the Mines of the Ullswater Valley (1998)
John Postlethwaite: Mines and Mining in the English Lake District (1877)
William Rollinson: The Lake District Landscape Heritage, Edited 1988, notably the chapter on the Industrial Landscape by Andrew Lowe
Alastair Cameron, Liz Withey, Ore Mining in the Lake District (2017)
Samuel Murphy: Grey Gold - Men, Mining and Metallurgy at the Greenside Lead Mine in Cumbria, England 1825 to 1962 (1996)
Special thanks to Mark Hatton from CATHMS for his editorial help and for allowing us to use his rich photo collection to illustrate our articles