West Stonesdale Lead Mine

Project Profile

Project Title :

West Stonesdale Lead Mine

Client :

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Type of Work :

Building recording, structural assessment and management plan

Project Gallery 

West facing elevation of the engine house   South facing elevation of the engine house  
View along pipe ramp towards engine house   Lime kiln - looking east  
Surveying the engine house   Hand hachuring survey plans  


West Stonesdale Lead Mine, Swaledale

West Stonesdale Lead Mine - tracing the western end of the Blakethwaite Vein

West Stonesdale is a small, nucleated, single-phase mine complex concentrated on the west bank of Startindale Gill (just before it becomes the Stonesdale Beck), a small stream that runs south from Tan Hill to join the River Swale just west of Keld. The mine was operated by Christopher Lonsdale Bradley between 1850 and 1861, and was opened with the intention of working the western extremity of the Blakethwaite vein. The vein was already being worked further to the east, at the head of Gunnerside Gill, where a level extended east from the foot of the West Engine Sump. However, due to issues with flooding, work on this had ceased in 1849; although it was later to reopen under the Blakethwaite Mining Company.

At Stonesdale Moor, the Main Limestone (which usually carried the ore) was deep beneath the surface, making it impractical to drive a level down to it. Therefore, from the outset, Stonesdale was designed to be a shaft mine. Men and equipment, as well as ore and waste rock, were winched up and down the shaft. Pumps, to de-water the underground works, also extended down its length, alongside air pipes for ventilation. Known as the Startindale Shaft, sinking began at a point 740m south of the vein in 1850. At a depth of 45 fathoms (82.30m), in the Undersett Chert, a level was driven 217 fathoms (396.80m) north, where it intersected a workable cross vein which produced some ore. The cross vein was followed for a further 233 fathoms (426.10m) until it intersected the Blakethwaite Vein. The latter vein proved barren at this point, unfortunately, and did not improve after being followed for a short distance in both directions. The mine finally closed in 1861 and was never re-opened.

As a result of this limited phase of use - together with the remote nature of the location - the industrial remains at West Stonesdale are very well preserved, making it prime example of a small mid to late 19th century lead mine. It contains a comprehensive range of features relating to all stages of lead processing (except smelting) including gaining the ore (shaft); drainage (evidence of pumping gear and drainage adit); water management (water wheel and associated leat); hydraulic engine and high-pressured water supply; various channels and drains supplying the dressing processes; power transmission (hydraulic engine and water wheel); transport (head gear and evidence of winder, transportation tracks); dressing the ore (comprehensive arrangement of dressing floors with evidence of running buddle and trunk buddle); site maintenance (smithy); storage (bingsteads and store house), and waste management (spoil tips). Most notably, the mine is one of only a handful of mines in the north of the country to pioneer the use of hydraulic power. In addition, the site also includes a number of agricultural features, associated with the development of late 18th and early 19th century farming in the Dale. These include a very fine and well preserved example of a small, single-arched lime kiln. All of these elements contributed to the site being designated as a Scheduled Monument in 1996.

At the centre of the site are the remains of the shaft head complex and impressive engine house, constructed of massive sandstone blocks. The complex is built into the east facing hill slope, overlooking the beck. The shaft collar is constructed above ground level, being built up from a rock cut platform, and packed on all sides by rubble from the original shaft excavation. Over the past hundred and fifty years this rubble packing has begun to gradually shift downhill, placing considerable pressure on the rear wall of the engine house and causing the structure to bulge out and crack. As a consequence, the structure is believed to be under threat of collapse and has been placed on the Heritage at Risk register.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority commissioned NAA, working together with Argus Ecology (Ecologists) and Structural & Civil Consultants Ltd (Structural Engineers), to prepare an Archaeological Survey and Management Plan for the mine. The primary aim of the project was to assess possible future options for the long-term management of the site, including a potential programme of stabilisation. The report has now been submitted to the Park for consideration.

pdfDownload the West Stonesdale Management Plan here
pdfDownload the West Stonesdale Water Management Survey here

NAA wishes to thank Mike Gill from the Northern Mine Research Society (NMRS) and David Carlisle from the Earby Mines Research Group (EMRG), for all their expertise and help throughout the duration of this project