Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Nenthead Galena Mines

This has to be yet another where do I start report as you feel really smothered in history here!.

The Nenthead mines are located in the Northern Pennines area which is a place of outstanding Beauty and a place where you can loose days in only scratching the surface, this has to be the most important lead mining industrial sites of the north.

In 1704 the London Lead Company was formed by Quakers, A smelt Mill was made in 1737 which was in production for just short of 160 years and when it closed in 1896 it had grown to
1 slag hearth,
2 refining furnaces,
6 ore hearths,
2 reverbatory furnaces,
1 de-silvering house (refinery house) this was built and operational in 1792 and with the on going production the new Pattinson Crystallizing House was built in 1839, further improvements in the de-silvering production techniques led to the building of the Rozan House by the year of 1876.

The Barracks was built in the early 18th century and was more than likely used for originally storing peat, this had to be kept dry for the use in the smelting hearths and probably used for horse stables in 1897 the Barracks was converted into a lodging house for the miners which were brought in from the surrounding dales and later still for foreign workers with the upper floor for the sleeping quarters leaving down stairs for the washing rooms/kitchen/drying and dining rooms.
A compressor plant was built around the mid 1890's by the Vielle Montage Zink Company which incorporated several Pelton Wheel turbines, these created power for the dressing floors and by 1899 they had moved on to a steam driven compressor plant built in the Rozan House running at 85lb per sq inch the four compressors fired air into the mines through 6" steel pipes and smaller pipes took the compressed air to other work areas in and around the mines this also included piping the air to mines outside the Nenthead site giving a total length of pipe around 6 miles long.
The Assay House was originally built in the early 1830's and rebuilt in the mid 1850's, this building was built for the purpose of testing and monitoring of ore samples via delicate instruments.

The Carrs shop was built around the time of Carrs Mine Horse Level first began (some time around 1810-1820's) and was used to store candles/tools fuses and gunpowder and in the early 20th century it was used by a group of Italian miners for lodgings.
The Timber Yard and Joinery Workshops were built in-between the early to mid 1850's this building was used for the manufacture of stemples and other wooden products within and around the mine this was an open fronted saw mill with the joiners working along side the miners underground when specialist joinery needed to be done and fittered, most of the timber came from the London Lead Company’s plantations and was stored in the walled yard.
The owners of this company eventually realised that they had a moral responsibility to there workforce and in so doing they built the following:

A complete and free lending Library with a compulsory school (with a reading room built in 1833) for all the children, housing, a wash house for the miners and there families, public baths and after all this they were the first village to have electric lighting in the streets due to the excess power generated by the miners, due to all of the above this gave great prosperity to all who lived in this very remote community.
The company’s workers were all encouraged to read about technical subjects and chemistry which helped to develop better understanding and also put into practice better ways for smelting the ore after all the London Lead Company was renowned to be the best for quality in Lead and Silver on the market, by 1825 the population of Nenthead was 1500.
The Evangelist's Church (St John) was built in 1845 by Ignatius Bonomi and with this site a parsonage house with a burial ground was presented by the London Lead Company, In 1848 a post office was built and Water supply by the year of 1850.

Engineering Workshops were built between the early to mid 1850's with the Blacksmiths and Skilled Millwrighters under taking the manufacture of custom built equipment and tooling, other forms of craftsmen also attended to the repair and maintain the tooling and the wagons for the transportation of the ore from the mines.
Several Dressing floors and Crushing Mills were built with 1 of the main dressing floors at Rampgill replaced by the Vielle Montage Zink Company with a gravity feed mill (this was massive in size) and this was eventually adapted in 1949 to take a flotation plant for Fluorspar.

In the years to come and the falling prices of the Galena due to cheep imports many families moved to other countries in search of better paid jobs (Australia and America) this happened in the nineteenth century the mines were later sold to the Belgian Vielle Montage Company and they mined for Zink until the 1940's, the mines closed for the final time in 1961 with the Nenthead Mines Heritage Centre opening in 1996 by John Craven which is still going strong to date.....


When found in nature, fluorspar is known by the mineral name fluorite. Fluorspar (fluorite) is calcium fluoride (CaF2). It is found in a variety of geologic environments. Fluorspar is found in granite (igneous rock), it fills cracks and holes in sandstone, and it is found in large deposits in limestone (sedimentary rock). The term fluorspar, when used as a commodity name, also refers to calcium fluoride formed as a by-product of industrial processes.
Fluorspar is relatively soft, number 4 on Mohs' scale of hardness. Pure fluorspar is colourless, but a variety of impurities give fluorite a rainbow of different colours, including green, purple, blue, yellow, pink, brown, and black. It has a pronounced cleavage, which means it breaks on flat planes. Fluorite crystals can be well formed, beautiful and highly prized by collectors.
Despite its beauty and physical properties, fluorspar is primarily valuable for its fluorine content. Used in production of hydrofluoric acid, which is used in the electroplating, stainless steel, refrigerant, and plastics industries, in production of aluminium fluoride, which is used in aluminium smelting, as a flux in ceramics and glass, in steel furnaces, and in emery wheels, optics, and welding rods.

Hope you enjoyed the reading.......a few pictures would not go a miss..............
Lets go !

Miners deads and a blocked passageway.

Going up.

More back filled passageways.

Old cart wheel.

One of many flooded shafts.

Flow stone and stalls. 


Looking down one of many shafts.

Things are looking up.

Original ladders left by the miners.

Looking down one of the "P" hung shafts.
Wish I had brought a rope !.

Below several other entrances within the ares.

On the outside.

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