Community Archaeology Surveys – Windermere Reflections 2013

Volunteers on Windermere Reflections

Volunteers on the Windermere Reflections 2013 surveys

In April and May 2013 we collaborated with the National Trust and the Lake District National Park Authority on a community archaeology project using local volunteers to survey a series of four mining sites and quarries. These were each located in the water catchment area of Windermere Lake in the Lake District.

This post provides an overview of the project but I will add further individual posts in due course describing in detail what was found at each of the mining and quarry sites. Special thanks must go to all of the volunteers who participated on the four survey projects in spite of the unseasonably cold snowy weather.

Surveying using a theodolite with attached disto

Surveying using a theodolite with attached disto

The project was intended to undertake a series of detailed topographic surveys and desk-based analyses of former mines and quarries, while providing support and training for volunteers in areas such as archaeological survey and archive research.

Teaching volunteers how to use a survey grade GPS at Fairfield iron mine, Grasmere

Teaching volunteers how to use a survey grade GPS at Fairfield iron mine, Grasmere

This year topographic survey was undertaken to identify, record, and describe any extant structures and features associated with four mines and quarries within the Windermere lake catchment: Banks Quarry, near Elterwater (NY 3147 0432); Greenhead Gill Mine, Grasmere, (NY 3497 0864); Fairfield Mine, Grasmere (NY 3400 0980); and Providence Mine, Grasmere (NY 3390 1050).

Windermere_location_fig

The Windermere Catchment Mining Sites

The project was financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was one of three community archaeology surveys that have been undertaken in the last two years under the banner ‘Reflections on History’ as part of a wider range of conservation and heritage themed projects under the umbrella of ‘Windermere Reflections’ for the Windermere Catchment Restoration Programme. The theme for the 2013 surveys was ‘stone’ so we looked at extractive industries. Last year we undertook two separately themed surveys, the first for ‘wood’ so we surveyed woodland industry sites, and the second for ‘water’ so we looked at water powered fulling mill sites in the catchment.

Windermere Reflections Logo

The surveys were undertaken between the 8th April and 3rd May 2013. Desk-top historical survey of information pertinent to each site, including historical maps, and records held in the Armitt Library and Kendal Record Office took place on the 8th and 10th May 2013.

Banks Quarry is a representative example of slate working sites that are prevalent across the Coniston and Langdale valleys. These are characterised by the outcropping of the Borrowdale Volcanic Series (BVS) rocks that provided the characteristic green slates. The rock was won from open quarries or adits following a narrow seam of good quality rock, and there were many separate quarry and processing areas concentrated in a localised area each working a different part of the same seam. At the entrance to the adits or quarries were a series of riving sheds where the coarse rock was cleaved into thin roof slates. Much of the rock that was quarried, however, was discarded producing considerable spoil which extended over earlier workings.

Volunteers surveying a quarry building at Bank's Quarry, Elterwater

Volunteers surveying a quarry building at Bank’s Quarry, Elterwater

The Greenhead Gill mine complex is one of the most important early lead working sites in Cumbria and is located in a narrow isolated ravine-like valley. It has two separate processing areas about 140m apart on the east side of Greenhead Gill. The documentary and archaeological evidence points to at least two separate phases of exploitation at the mines on Greenhead Gill, the first was the relatively short-lived Elizabethan workings, which were one of several trial workings established around Grasmere. Then in the late-nineteenth century the original workings were reworked and exploratory working was undertaken to the south of the main complex using drilling and powder-blasting technology.

The uppermost of two Elizabethan coffin levels located on Brackenfell, near Grasmere

The uppermost of two Elizabethan coffin levels located on Brackenfell, near Grasmere

Providence and Fairfield iron mines each reflect a brief period of intense mining activity fuelled by high prices for ore, and accords with a number of other operations elsewhere in Cumbria. Being operational for only a few years they demonstrate single phase integrated workings and as such provide an opportunity to examine the workings process of the late nineteenth century.

Volunteers surveying a yard and working floor at Fairfield iron mine, Grasmere

Volunteers surveying a yard and working floor at Fairfield iron mine, Grasmere

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