Allan Bank, Grasmere – Garden Survey Report

The house at Allan Bank, Grasmere, under renovation in January 2012

The house at Allan Bank, Grasmere, under renovation in January 2012

The historic garden survey report we completed in 2012 for Allan Bank, a National Trust property (and brief residence of William Wordsworth) located at Grasmere, Cumbria is now available online via the OA Library. This project recorded all the archaeological and historical features within the c 4.6 hectare gardens on the property in order to inform the future management of the estate. The work was completed in advance of remedial works to be undertaken before the gardens were opened to the public.

Allan Bank, Grasmere in 1861

Allan Bank, Grasmere in 1861

Deeds record the sale of the land at Allan Bank located above the head of Grasmere by a Mr Sawyer to a Mr Edward Partridge in 1756. In 1804 Mr Partridge, or his descendants, sold the property to John Gregory Crump, an attorney and merchant of Liverpool. Subsequently, a villa was built at Allan Bank between 1805-8 in a simple Classical style, and was positioned on the southern flank of a rocky shoulder dividing Easedale from the main Vale of Grasmere. The house was raised artificially to create the depth for cellars and it was orientated so that the main south front looked straight down the length of Grasmere. A few years later William Wordsworth and his family moved there as soon as it was completed as it’s first occupants between May 1808 and May 1811; and their literary friends Thomas de Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed with them for lengthy visits.  He did not like living there, but needed to move to more ample accommodation than their previous dwelling at Dove Cottage. Their occupation of the property was short-lived, in part, due to complaints about smoky chimneys.

Stone tunnel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone tunnel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone viewing seat at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Stone viewing seat at Allan Bank, Grasmere

The extant remains comprise three separate garden areas: a large wilderness garden; a walled kitchen garden; and formal gardens adjacent to the house. The survey identified, and recorded, a total of 109 archaeological features and/or garden components.  Elements in the wilderness garden consist of a series of sinuous pathways with rustic flights of steps constructed of stone slabs. There are four/five garden seats located at strategic spots within the garden which variously had panoramic views looking north-west onto Helm Crag, south-east to Grasmere lake and east towards the house, although many of these vistas are now obscured with mature trees. Water was managed in the garden, with a reservoir that probably served the house and an underground pipe followed the footpath towards the house and ran through an elaborate stone-vaulted tunnel. Streams have been canalised and one stream passes over a craggy waterfall and has a small pool beneath. There is also a small well within rustic stone retaining walls. Features pre-dating the construction of the wilderness garden include charcoal burning platforms and two sections of relict boundary walls.

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – south

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – south

The kitchen garden has a large slate-topped unheated fruit wall on the northern side, which would have masked the garden from the house. The garden was laid out into quarters by slate-edged pathways and in the centre are the remains of a stone circular structure that may have functioned as a formal focal platform. There is a slate-roofed garden shed, a ruined twentieth century greenhouse, water troughs, a compost heap and a French drain that drained water away from the waterfall in the wilderness garden.

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere - house area

Plan of Allan Bank gardens, Grasmere – house area

The formal pleasure gardens form a discrete area running around the house and extend to the kitchen garden; its elements consist of driveways, a dwarf-kitchen garden terrace, containing rectangular flowerbeds, and a sundial. The west, south and east sides of the house have stone-lined flowerbeds and stone-hewn flower boxes. On the west side of the house is a small garden lawn with relict beds/pathways evident. It is enclosed on the west side by a sinuous retaining wall constructed of cyclopean boulders and there is a large rockery constructed of quartz stones. Land to the south of the garden has been landscaped/terraced but its function is unclear. The formal gardens are skirted on the west side by a curvilinear gravelled trackway that runs towards the kitchen garden.

Rock art panel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

Rock art panel at Allan Bank, Grasmere

To the east of the house is a gravelled drive adjacent to the main house entrance, grass-covered tennis courts and a stone outcrop with rock art motifs. On the north side of the house there are the remains of two external buildings, an elaborately decorated chapel or billiard room and the ruins of a small garage or coach house.

The Fairfield Iron Mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

Volunteers surveying the lowest spoil heap and working area at Fairfield iron mine in 2013

Volunteers surveying the lowest spoil heap and working area at Fairfield iron mine in 2013

This is the third of my posts on the mining sites we have explored and surveyed in 2013 for the Windermere Reflections Project, and it concerns the Fairfield iron mine which is located at the northern end of Grasmere.

In the late nineteenth century this mine, in tandem with the more northerly Providence iron mine, formed the contemporaneously worked Tongue Gill Mines. The mine exploited a north-west/south-east orientated haematite ore vein in the Borrowdale volcanic rock that dipped to the south-west. running through the area of Great Tongue on the western flank of Fairfield mountain.

Location of Providence and Fairfield iron mines at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Location of Providence and Fairfield iron mines at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

An agreement, dated 1693, to supply iron ore for nine years from pits in Grasmere (LRO DDSA 38/2)

An agreement, dated 1693, to supply iron ore for nine years from pits in Grasmere (LRO DDSA 38/2)

The mining literature recorded both Tongue Gill mines as being worked around 1700 to supply ore to a furnace in Great Langdale. The only possible piece of evidence uncovered for pre-nineteenth century workings was an agreement dated 1693 which detailed Henery Rooper, a miner of Grasmere who was to supply Myles Sandys, of Hawkshead, (an individual associated with Cunsey Forge on the southern end of Windermere) with iron ore for nine years. No recognisable locations for the iron ‘pits’ in Grasmere were identified through the agreement and in any case the agreement was not enacted upon, but this surviving document may point to other such agreements/leases held in this period by other parties to mine iron ore in Grasmere. In addition, samples of haematite recovered at Cunsey forge during excavations undertaken in 2003 were consistent with known occurrences in the Grasmere area.

At Fairfield Mine, the mine layout is more complex than that at Providence mine which suggests some longevity of working although the documented history of the mine is relatively short-lived. Identifiable documents coincide with the 1870s boom in iron prices; in 1872 Thomas Dineen a man of Irish extraction, who was a rivet and bolt manufacturer and iron merchant from Workington, acquired a take note for one year with an option for a 21-year lease for the mine sett. His tenure was unsuccessful, indeed when he first visited the site in 1873 it was said that he couldn’t even find it.

Messrs Morgan and Waide of the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. (© Rotherham Libraries, Museums and Archives)

Messrs Morgan and Waide of the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. (© Rotherham Libraries, Museums and Archives)

On the 19th September 1874 the lease was taken up by the newly formed Lake District Haematite and Mining Co., that was set up by a group of Rotherham and Sheffield businessmen, presumably to feed raw materials for their other ventures. The mine agent 1873-1877 was John Hall, a skilled mining engineer from Alston. The directors included an alderman of Rotherham, James Clifford Morgan, and his colleague Francis William Waide, who were partners in the company of Morgan, Macaulay, and Waide a stove grate manufacturers, general iron founders and merchants, located at Baths Foundry in Rotherham.

The mineral statistics of 1874 show that 204 tons of ore had been raised, valued at £350 (along with the ore from Providence mine) but with the slump in the price of iron in the following year the mine was evidently in trouble. In total both Tongue Gill mines together raised 1,300 tons of ore (or 1500 tons in the other later secondary sources) in this short-lived period. By at least December 1875 the venture was in trouble and a pleading letter was sent by the company to the mineral agent asking for the unpaid rent on the mine to be waived due to the amount of development the company has undertaken on the mine.

The company failed to post accounts and a list of shareholders to the Register of Joint Stock Companies, as required by law. In 1877 the angry and unpaid chief mine agent John Hall took the named directors to court in Rotherham for unpaid wages and other liabilities. The directors counter-claimed that they had been conned into investing in a worthless mine, and eventually the company was liquidated. In part the fiasco eventually led to the financial ruin of Mr Waide but Alderman Morgan became mayor of Rotherham the following year followed by a comfortable retirement. The mine was recorded in the mineral statistics as being owned by the Lake District Haematite and Mining Co. Ltd from 1877 –1882 but it was standing idle.

The surviving layout of the mine consists of three adits driven south-east into the hillside that run gently upslope following the course of the south side of Tongue Gill for over 150m. The ruins of mine buildings, and dressing floors/working areas are concentrated around the lowest adit on the western end of the site.

Overall survey drawing of the Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Overall survey drawing of the Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Some of the earliest mining remains surveyed at Fairfield comprise the series of well-defined earthworks of inter-connected hushes that run downslope from Rydal Fell to Tongue Gill. The main hushing runs south-east/north-west down to the gill and is partially overlain by an enclosure wall. There is a cross-cutting hush running along the slope that would have channelled water from at another hush and at least one hushed tributary stream. These hushes would have been used to chase surface evidence of the ore vein and to identify its orientation; it is possible that they predated the 1870s exploitation of the mine.

A linear hush running down the mountainside at Fairfield iron mine

A linear hush running down the mountainside at Fairfield iron mine

On the edge of Tongue Gill, just to the west of the hushings, is a series of shallow surface trial workings running into the stream where ore nodules were visible in the stream bed and banks. There are two more pronounced deep cuttings running into the stream and the westernmost cutting is an almost vertical rectangular cutting which was either chasing the ore vein or has been stoped-out to extract ore near the ground surface.

The easternmost trial adit  is potentially late-nineteenth century in origin, and there is a vertical quarried rock face on the footpath west of the trial adit where drill marks show it has been excavated using blasting technology.

The central of the three adits at Fairfield  lay above the stopes and surface workings in the centre of the complex. The size of the spoil heap may point to this adit also having been purely a trial level.

Survey drawing of the main area of working at Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

Survey drawing of the main area of working at Fairfield iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Buttermere

The main focus for Fairfield mine is the lowest adit located on the western end of the complex. There are a series of features surrounding the adit, including a large spoil heap, a yard/working area and a possible ore store. The adit itself is partially blocked at the entrance and was not investigated underground. Tyler recorded that the adit was 6ft 6ins high by 4ft 6ins wide and extended into the hillside for over 160 yards before a roof collapse at the start of the stoping had closed it. A small trial of a subsidiary north/south orientated stringer of ore was recorded 60 yards from the entrance.

View along the top of the spoil heap/working floor at the lower mine adit of Fairfield iron mine

View along the top of the spoil heap/working floor at the lower mine adit of Fairfield iron mine

There is an extensive spoil heap running west from the adit entrance that spills steeply down onto Tongue Gill. The flat top would have been used for ore dressing and adjacent to the adit mouth is a partially collapsed rectangular year/storage area consisting of two short sections of walling. This yard has evidently not been roofed as a structure and here is a small gap between the yard and the retaining wall that define the south side of the working area which would have originally provided a gap for narrow gauge rails to pass by. At the southern end of the spoil heap are fragmentary remains of a walled loading ramp/bay, similar to that at Providence Mine and adjacent to it is a collapsed ore store.

A loading ramp on the southern end of the lower spoil heap/working floor of Fairfield iron mine

A loading ramp on the southern end of the lower spoil heap/working floor of Fairfield iron mine

On the westernmost edge of the complex is a roofed bothy structure located adjacent to an enclosure wall at the entrance where an access trackway would originally have extended up to the mine. The bothy should probably be associated with miner’s accommodation/shelter as it evidently predated the construction of the nearby reservoir. Other features to note are the trackways running through the complex and the large bridge piers constructed across Tongue Gill.

A large uncovered reservoir built for Grasmere Urban District Council, was constructed on top of the mine complex but apparently does not seem to have done much lasting damage to the site. There is an associated weir located upstream on Tongue Gill where water was piped down to the reservoir.

View looking west downstream at the lower workings of Fairfield iron mine

View looking west downstream at the lower workings of Fairfield iron mine

The character of the working at Fairfield and Providence is comparable to the other boom period mining sites. Both Providence and Fairfield mines 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. The decline in both cases was prompted by the slump in iron ore prices in 1875, and that was in itself prompted by the over production of iron ore across the region. 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. The extensive hushes, small stoped workings and surface extraction at Fairfield iron mine may, however, have been undertaken in an earlier undocumented period of activity.

The Providence Iron Mine at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

View south along Little Tongue Gill towards Grasmere, from the drainage adit spoil heap at Providence iron mine

View south along Little Tongue Gill towards Grasmere, from the drainage adit spoil heap at Providence iron mine

For this the second of my occasional posts on the mining sites we have explored and surveyed in 2013 for the Windermere Reflections Project, I will concentrate on the Providence iron mine which is located at the northern end of Grasmere.

In the late nineteenth century this mine, together with the more southerly Fairfield iron mine, formed the contemporaneously worked Tongue Gill Mines. The mine exploited both a north-west/south-east and a north/south orientated haematite ore vein in the Borrowdale volcanic rock running through the area of Great Tongue on the western flank of Fairfield mountain.

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Google Earth image of Tongue Gill near Grasmere, with Fairfield and Providence iron mines highlighted

Prior to the nineteenth century the mining literature had both Tongue Gill mines recorded as being worked around 1700 to supply ore to a furnace in Great Langdale. However, it was the short lived boom in the early to mid-1870s that prompted the opening (or re-opening) of many mines across the region and saw a massive, and very intensive period of iron extraction. This was fuelled by an increase in the value of iron ore when the price of iron rocketed from 13s to £1 12s per ton, and many entrepreneurs across the region were keen to take advantage of this opportunity.

Surveying at Providence iron mine, near Grasmere in 2013

Surveying at Providence iron mine, near Grasmere in 2013

It is within this context, that we see the documented short-lived but intensive activity at the Tongue Gill mines of Grasmere. The Providence Mine was opened by the Providence Iron Co Ltd in 1873 and was worked by them until 1876, with the chief agent being John Muse, a successful miner from Alston. The mine was excavated to exploit a 16ft thick vein of solid haematite and the mine posted mineral statistics for 1874 for 300 tonnes of ore extracted which was valued at £350 along with the ore from Fairfield mine. The success was short lived due to fractured and unstable ground conditions, high transport costs due to a lack of a nearby railhead, and a declining market for iron from 1875 onwards. The mine was acquired by John Muse himself in 1877 as part of John Muse, J Straughton, Ashton and Co. who also ran the successful Force Crag mines, but the mineral statistics show that it stood idle between 1877-82. The brief documented history for Providence Mine in this period is relatively simple, and the straightforward surface layout of the mine would suggest that most features were associated with this short-lived episode of exploitation.

Overall survey drawing of the Providence iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

Overall survey drawing of the Providence iron mine, at Tongue Gill, near Grasmere

The surface layout for Providence Mine is separated into two distinct zones, with evidence for the majority of the features at the upper workings in the north-west of the site and with smaller lower workings in the south-east. The upper workings  consist of various extractive areas beneath a collapsed vertical shaft at the summit of the mine. There are several adits, trial scoops and a hushed channel with spoil heaps straddling the outer enclosure wall and clustering along the course of a small tributary stream of Little Tongue Gill. This stream was undoubtedly where the prospecting for an ore vein was undertaken along the stream bed as it climbed upslope and iron staining is visible as far up as 1700ft in the stream bed. At the foot of the upper workings there is a walled loading ramp on the side of an access trackway that runs away from the mine, towards the lower workings and a junction with the Grisedale Hause packhorse route.

Loading ramp at the upper workings, Providence mine, Grasmere

Loading ramp at the upper workings, Providence mine, Grasmere

Separate from this zone, at the lower workings, thee is a single collapsed adit with spoil heap located further downslope adjacent to Little Tongue Gill and near to the Grisedale Hause packhorse route. The adit may have functioned to drain the upper workings of the mine; it would have provided an easier haulage level to bring ore out rather that winding it up the top shaft, or transporting it further from the upper workings.

The collapsed lower drainage adit - Providence iron mine

The collapsed lower drainage adit – Providence iron mine

The most unexpected feature encountered on the survey was a large oval scooped stock enclosure, which, would typically have been of prehistoric/Iron Age in date. It has a well-defined kerbed entrance on the east side and would have corralled cattle at the foot of Great Tongue, where trampling and the extraction of manure from the centre has created a scooped effect. The location of any round house within the site would have been in the south-west corner where there is a small flattened area, but there is no other surface evidence for it.

A scooped prehistoric stock enclosure at Tongue Gill, Grasmere

A scooped prehistoric stock enclosure at Tongue Gill, Grasmere

The Elizabethan lead mine at Greenhead Gill, Grasmere

Coffin adit level on Brackenfell, Grasmere

Coffin adit level on Brackenfell, Grasmere

I wanted to go a bit more in depth, and describe in a separate post each of the four mining sites we have explored and surveyed in 2013 for the Windermere Reflections Project in further detail. Stupidly I have chosen to start with the most complex of them! Namely the Elizabethan lead mining complex at Greenhead Gill.

The Greenhead Gill mine complex is located in a narrow isolated ravine-like valley on the open fellside sandwiched between Stone Arthur and Rydal Fell to the north-east of Grasmere village. The documentary and archaeological evidence points to at least two separate phases of exploitation at the mine, the first was the relatively short-lived Elizabethan workings, which were one of several small scale workings established around Grasmere.  Then in the late-nineteenth century the original mine was reworked and exploratory excavations were undertaken to the south of the main complex using drilling and powder-blasting technology.

Surveying at Greenside Gill mine

Surveying at Greenside Gill mine

The Elizabethan workings were organised and run by the Company of Mine’s Royal under the guidance of Daniel Hechstetter and we are blessed with considerable documentary records that provide us with records of equipment, general layout of infrastructure and disbursement cost for construction, maintenance and wages. In certain cases, the sources can possibly be related to the archaeological evidence surveyed during the present project; these include a water wheel and stamp mill referred to in the documentation.

Sixteenth century depiction of a dry stamp mill

Sixteenth century depiction of a dry stamp mill

After the accession of Elizabeth to the throne in 1558 private enterprise of all sorts was encouraged, particularly that from which the crown would benefit through levy or taxation. Mining was one area in which the crown and wealthy landowners could benefit if the right mining expertise could be found. Discussions with the German mining company of Haug and Langnauer after 1561 paved the way for the creation of the Company of Mines Royal, via Letters Patent in 1564 for exploration purposes then incorporation by Royal Charter in 1568 as a new joint stock company. The company based themselves in Keswick, quickly establishing a smelter there and immediately setting to work prospecting and extracting ores of copper, lead, iron and silver at locations throughout the Lake District fells.

The site of some of the initial trials can be seen today on the exposed veins near Alcock Tarn, along with two coffin levels and related working at Brackenthwaite, located to the north of Dove Cottage.

Location of early lead mining around Grasmere

Location of early lead mining around Grasmere

The period between May 1568 and July 1569 is likely to have witnessed the main development of the mining operation at Greenhead Gill.  Initial work is likely to have concentrated at the northern end of the site where the most northerly of the four mineral veins at Greenhead Gill is visible in the beck. Early extraction is likely to have focused on the exposed mineral veins, resulting in the creation of the surface workings seen today on the western side of the gill and also higher up on Grains Gill. The sinking of both shafts was started during this period.

Elizabethan extractive pits and shafts - Greenhead Gill mine

Elizabethan extractive pits and shafts – Greenhead Gill mine

The earliest substantial workings are at the north end of the complex and consists of two vertical square-cut shafts with further open surface workings stretching between them. The steep hillslope has been cut back to a vertical edge by extraction and two slumped oval depressions are also evident. These workings are located just to the south of an ore-stained section of stream bed, which was presumably where the earliest trial surface working of the ore vein was undertaken. The only other potential Elizabethan era extraction is found at some distance upslope to the north-east of the main complex where there is a small stone wall retained working floor where the ravine has evidently been surface worked along the orientation of the ore vein.

Northern rock-cut shaft - Greenhead Gill mine

Northern rock-cut shaft – Greenhead Gill mine

Survey drawing of the northern half of Greenhead Gill mine

Survey drawing of the northern half of Greenhead Gill mine

In the wider area to the south-west of the main mine complex, there is evidence for extensive surface exploration in the form of a large curvilinear hushed channel located on the steep hillside west of Greenhead Gill. This excavation would have been used to chase near-surface deposits of the ore vein downslope of the main complex. Prospecting in the form of hushing was widespread during and after the Elizabethan period in the Lake District

Large hushed channel on the hillside above Greenhead Gill

Large hushed channel on the hillside above Greenhead Gill

In September 1569 ‘four great augers to bore the wooden pipes’ were transported from Grasmere to Newlands. This entry would suggest that at least one of the shaft was then supplied with either a suction or a paternoster or ‘rag and chain’ type pump. This would have been constructed of a series of connected hollowed-out sections of timber up which water was drawn from the shaft and to allow mining to continue. Shallow open workings could be dewatered by hand, winching the water to the surface in heavy wooden ‘kibbles’ however, this was impractical for deeper shaft workings where pumps would be needed. The account books for 1569 record that nine water kibbles (fashioned from wooden planks bound together by an iron band) were taken to the mine, and is the same year that a pump was installed.

Sixteenth century depiction of a suction pump

Sixteenth century depiction of a suction pump

While it was feasible to sort and crush small volumes of lead ore to a usable and transportable size by hand, the volume of lead ore being raised in 1568/9 from St Benedict’s shaft would have been too great to use manual methods economically. In May 1569 the head carpenter Wolffgang Hochholzer was involved in starting construction of the stamp mill; the felling and transportation of 63 oak trees and sixty thick planks to site is recorded in the company accounts for that month. By July the timber frame was complete, with work continuing to erect the stone walls and build the stamps. The stamp mill cost £107 7s 3d to complete, and was a huge investment for the time.

A later inventory drawn up by the Mines Royal of property surviving at the disused Grasmere mine recorded the stamp as measuring 36ft x 31ft and constructed of stone with lime and very good timber. The inventory for the stamp mill included a great waterwheel with axle tree, and three launder supports ‘standing without the howse for the troughs or water race of the great wheel’ . Beneath the stamps there were large ‘troughs’ which contained the ore during stamping, indicating that rather than being a ‘dry stamp mill’  this was a ‘wet stamp mill’ where the ore was crushed by the stamps within a steady flow of water. The water aided the separation of the heavier lead ore from the lighter gangue or natural rock while also washing the ore to assist with subsequent sorting and grading.

Sixteenth century depiction of a wet stamp mill and buddles

Sixteenth century depiction of a wet stamp mill and buddles

The ore raised from both shafts was presumably carried over in wooden ‘kibbles’, to the dressing floor for initial sorting and crushing by hand on a ‘bucking floor’. Given the quantities of ore being produced in 1569 it is possible that the ore store located on the edge of the working floor was built at this time.  The opening at the back of the surviving structure would have allowed ore to be tipped in from the rear and it still presently still contains ore-rich material. The main processing area has two phases of working superimposed with at least one nineteenth century dry-stone structure (a miners bothy) constructed on top of the Elizabethan platform.

Processing waste on the main working floor - Greenhead Gill mine

Processing waste on the main working floor – Greenhead Gill mine

The main Elizabethan processing area was where the reduction and sorting of veinstone into grades suitable for further processing took place, the ore would have been alternately dressed, stamp crushed and washed. The structure consists of a large trapezoidal working floor that has been levelled behind a platformed retaining wall on the east side of Greenhead Gill. Adjacent to the platform are a series of small enigmatic wall foundations on the southern end and some square areas that may be the locations of troughs, sorting tables or primary buddles for separating ore from the veinstone immediately adjacent to the stamp mill.

Detailed survey drawing of the Elizabethan mine and working area - Greenheasd Gill Mine

Detailed survey drawing of the Elizabethan mine and working area – Greenheasd Gill Mine

Platform for the Elizabethan stamp mill with later bothy on top - Greenhead Gill mine

Platform for the Elizabethan stamp mill with later bothy on top – Greenhead Gill mine

The ruinous bothy structure surviving on the working floor clearly post-dates the Elizabethan mine working, however, the northern end wall of this structure is of an earlier, more massive construction than the rest of the building, and it would appear that this is an earlier wall against which the bothy was built. The north wall  is most likely to be the load-bearing footing wall for a water wheel. This putative structure is too small in size when compared to the extent of the stamp mill recorded in the Elizabethan documents and it is likely that the stamp mill took up more space on the southern end of the working floor, as defined by the substantial kinked retaining wall on the west side.

The bothy and ore bin on the stamp mill platform - Greenhead Gill mine

The bothy and ore bin on the stamp mill platform – Greenhead Gill mine

The water wheel would have provided power for the Elizabethan stamp mill. When mounted on the bearing wall it would have been fed from a long water leat that runs diagonally down the steep slope for around 155m on the east side of Greenhead Gill towards the working floor from Rowantree Gill. The water would have been taken-off at the downslope northern end via a wooden launder running to the water wheel to provide power for the stamp mill, but could also have served to provide water for a wet stamp mill operation.

Survey drawing of the southern half of Greenhead Gill mine

Survey drawing of the southern half of Greenhead Gill mine

The other obvious surviving evidence for buddles are located to the south of the mine; where there is a group of adjoining buddles located in the base of a dried up streambed on the eastern side of Greenhead Gill. The streambed has been blocked on the upslope end and water has been taken off at a small dammed area.  The water would have been fed over a wooden launder, via a platform so as to regulate water flow onto and between the cascade of buddles, and then the water would have drained down and back into Greenhead Gill further downslope.

The survey has confirmed that Greenhead Gill is one of the most important early lead working sites in Cumbria which was relatively short-lived but forms an important facet of the Company’s exploration and subsequent exploitation of various metalliferous ores of the region during the Elizabethan era. The relatively untouched nature of the main mine complex and the surviving extant surface remains for both extraction and processing contemporary with the earliest working of the site demonstrate a very rare survival of comparable remains both for the region and nationally.

Windermere Reflections Community Archaeology 2012 – Fulling mills survey report online

Montage of volunteers surveying on the Windermere Reflections project 2012

Montage of volunteers surveying on the Windermere Reflections Project in 2012

As part of the 2012 season of community archaeology survey for the Windermere Reflections project, the Fulling mills survey report is now available online at the OA Library.

Just to recap I have already posted on the fieldwork for this season of the project in 2013. As part of the 2012 field season 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 five fulling mill sites. These were each located in the water catchment area of Windermere Lake in the Lake District. The project was intended to undertake a series of detailed topographic surveys and desk-based analyses of the potential ruinous fulling mills sites while providing support and training for volunteers in areas such as archaeological survey and archive research.

Volunteers doing both plane table and theodolite surveying at Sourmilk Gill, Easedale

Volunteers doing both plane table and theodolite surveying at Sourmilk Gill, Easedale

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.

Windermere Reflections Logo

Topographic survey was undertaken between the 9th April and 5th May 2012 to identify, record, and describe any extant structures and features associated with the possible fulling mills. 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 9th and 10th May 2012.

Drawing of a fulling mill taken from Theatrum Machinarum Novum (1661)

Drawing of a fulling mill taken from Theatrum Machinarum Novum (1661)

Fulling describes the process of cleaning and de-greasing woollen cloth, either with potash, dung and urine or fuller’s earth, and the pounding of the cloth to compact the fibres of the fabric. The pounding of the roughly woven woollen cloth was undertaken using large wooden hammers (known as stocks) which were lifted by cams on an axle turned by a water wheel. The stocks would act upon the cloth within a large fulling trough which also contained water and fuller’s earth. After fulling, the cloth would be washed, stretched and dried.

Location map of the five fulling mill sites investigated in 2012

Location map of the five fulling mill sites investigated in 2012

Four of the five sites examined by the survey are located within the northern part of the catchment, near the villages of Grasmere and Langdale, an area documented as important for fulling and weaving. The condition of the mills was variable, with one at Sourmilk Gill being an exceptional survival and representing an archetypal medieval fulling mill, whereas at Loughrigg Terrace, for example, there is reasonable survival of the water system but the mill remains are open to interpretation. Two of the mills, that at Sourmilk Gill and Stickle Ghyll, were originally stone founded structures, associated with well-defined water supply systems, comprising head race, wheel pit and tail race, and, at Sourmilk Gill, a launder platform also. Both mill structures were potentially reused and their operational life is uncertain.

Detailed topographic survey drawing of the Sourmilk Gill fulling mill

Detailed topographic survey drawing of the Sourmilk Gill fulling mill

At Loughrigg Terrace, the putative mill platform is only 4.5m by 2.6m in size and it is possible to conjecture that the stocks and trough would not have been contained within a building, although a simple timber structure could have been erected over the working components. There would, in any case, have only been room for a single stock hammer and trough.

Foundation remains of the fulling mill and race at Sourmilk Gill, Easedale

Foundation remains of the fulling mill and race at Sourmilk Gill, Easedale

The head and tail races were the most diagnostic features of all the mills, and often provided the most definitive evidence for a mill, notably at Loughrigg Terrace. The relatively limited water supply for many of these water wheels indicates that the supply would have been taken over the top of an overshot wheel (as opposed to an undershot wheel which required a large flow of water) using a wooden launder. These rarely survive; but a large stone platform for a launder survives at Sourmilk Gill.

Surveying the mill pond in Low Wood, Elterwater

Surveying the mill pond in Low Wood, Elterwater

At three of the mill sites (Sourmilk Gill, Low Wood and Little Ore Gate) a series of ponds survived, which drew water from a divert channel, although their function as part of the fulling process were potentially varied.

The process of fulling was bound into a broadly agricultural economy of mixed farming, including the rearing of sheep and shearing, as well as weaving and potash manufacture. Spatially associated with a number of the mills were stock pounds, arable farming remains and potash kilns, which reinforce the historical evidence that indicates that fulling was undertaken on a part-time basis alongside a large range of agricultural activities and was seasonal following on from the annual wool shear typically in mid-summer.

Gazebo malfunction at Loughrigg Terrace, by the side of Grasmere Tarn

Gazebo malfunction at Loughrigg Terrace, by the side of Grasmere Tarn

Special thanks must go to all of the volunteers who participated on the five survey projects, especially for their fortitude in ofter trying weather conditions.

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