- Last Updated: Friday, 17 July 2020 20:11
- Written by Graham Brooks
MINE AND QUARRY BUILDINGS
As part of my interest in walking the hills of Northern England and Scotland i have visited a large number of mining sites and quarries. The mines and quarries all have a variety of buildings. Each site will have buildings that are common to most mines of the same type, for example mine shops and bousteads for lead mines and dressing sheds for slate quarries.
The lead mines of the north Pennines usually had a series of buildings and structures associated with them.
This was a means of exposing mineral veins by using a flow of water down a hillside to remove the overlying soil etc. Then as work progressed to remove the ore from the vein the flow of water was used to remove the waasterock from the working area. The water was usually collected at the top of the hush in a earth dam to form a small reservoir. The dam would be breached to allow a flow of water or in larger concerns a sluice gate was constructed to control the water flow.
Most of the driven adits had a building near the etnrance. These were either 0ne or two storey. The ground floor was usually a smithy for the sharpening of drills for use in the mine and also possibly a shelter for a person to act as a counter of tubs drawn out. In two storey buiuldings the upper floor was usually uswed for miners who lived to far from the mine to travel each day to sleep in during the week.
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These are usually stone walled bays, single or multiple, into which ore produced in the mine was tipped. Each tream of miners would possibly have their own bay.
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Most of the lead mines in both the north Pennine and Lake District were not close to the major coal fields and the cost of transporting coal to the sites before the development of the railways was too expensive and so steam engines do not usually appear associated with lead mines in these areas. However as anyone who frequents the area there is a tendency for a lot of rain. this water was collected and used to turn waterwheels which provided power for pumping and haulage usually up shafts. These wheels were originally mounted on wooden frames. The later ones were mounted in stone built pits or pits hewen out of the natural rock.
POWDER AND EXPLOSIVE STORES.
Originally miners kept their black powder at home but after a number of disasters the government introduced a law requiring explosives to be stored in specifically designed buildings.
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The minerals in vein can be accessed by either a level driven into the hill side or by shafts sunk down from the surface to vein. These shafts can be used for access, hauling ore up ore, pumping water and ventilation. In some areas the shaft was used to produce a head of water to produce compressed air to use for ventilation and later for compressed to power air drills.
The ore as it was extracted from the mine was still mixed with other minerals and also the native rock. These impurities had to be removed before the ore was sent to the smelt mill. This invloved breaking the lumps of rock up to seperate the ore from the impurities. Once crushed to a suitable size then large pieces of ore and rock xcould be seperated by eye and hand. the smnaller pieces can be seperated using the differences in specific gravity between lead ore (galena) and the usual contaminates. The galena has a much higher specific gravity (denser) and so is less easily moved by water than similar sized piece of waste. Therefore flowing water can be used to seperate the ore. This was usually done in a houching tub or in buddles.
Originally a lot of these processes were originally done by hand but they were eventually mechanised and power was usually supplied by waterwheels, which in later times were mounted in stone built wheel pits.
SMELT MILL SITES.
The lead ore (Galena) needs to be heated to break down the ore and release the lead. This was carried out in the smelt mill. These were either built near to the mine i.e. Nenthead or on the edgeof the mining area for example Langley.
The site was usually water powered and so there is usually a waterwheel pit associated. The smelting was carried out in a hearth with a flue above which was connected to a flue and chimney.
The site would have a bingstead to store the ore in after it arrives from the mine and before smelting.
As the process was improved and mills get bigger then flues were improved, and secondary buildings were added.