- Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 December 2020 20:45
- Written by GRAHAM BROOKS
LEAD MINE MINE SHOPS.
A lot of lead mines in the north Pennines and Lake District are situated away from the main places of inhabitation. It was therefore necessary to build a shelter near to the entrance of the mine to protect the miner and provide some where for him to store his tools etc. At the larger mines a blacksmith would have a smithy in the shop to sharpen drills etc and make brackets etc for use in the mine.
The reconstructed forge in the shop at Killhope lead mining museum.
When the mine is to far from the miners houses for the miner to walk to and from walk on a daily basis a 2 storey building would be constructed. The lower floor would be for the smith and storage whilst the upper floor was used as living quarters for the miners during the week. Bunkbeds would be constructed and the miners would sleep multiple men to one bed. Due to the number of men housed in the building these buildings were not very hygenic and there are a number of reports on the unhygenic conditions there.
MINE SHOP CONDITIONS IN THE 1840’S
‘I should think it no hardship to have remained 24 hours in a mine, but I should be terrified at being ordered to be shut up a quarter of an hour in the bed-room of a lodging-shop’.
From The Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Mines 1842.
James Mitchell submitted a report on the conditions in mine shops.
"The first one of them which I saw was about nine miles across the fell south from Stanhope. It was a plain building, constructed of sandstone, covered with a coarse slate, and all very substantial. There was no opening or window at either end, or at the back, or on the roof. On the front or south side was a door towards the west end, and two windows, one a little above the other. On entering the door it was seen that the lower part was one room, lighted by one of the windows, and had a great fire burning at the east end. By pacing the floor the length was ascertained to be about 18 feet, and the breadth about 15 feet. Along the one side, that next the window, was a meal table, extending the whole length of the room, and alongside of it was a form, and there were two other forms in the room. All along the other side on the wall were little cupboards, 48 in number, in four tiers above each other, six of the cupboards with the doors off, but most of the rest carefully locked with padlocks, and in which the several miners had deposited their wallets, with their provisions for five days. Throughout the room, more particularly at the end farthest from the fire, were hung, from hooks and nails in the joists, miners trousers and jackets, to be ready to be put on in case of the owners returning wet from their work.
In addition to the articles already named were the following: - One earthen pitcher to fetch water, one tea-kettle, one pan for boiling potatoes, two pans for frying bacon, iron fender, poker, and shovel, a besom.
"There was a large box in the room, secured by a padlock, said to contain the cloths which the masters put on when they came to see the mines”. "On ascending to the upper room by a ladder, it was seen to be a sleeping-room. The dimensions of the floor were of course the same as of the room below. There was no fireplace, which indeed was not wanted, but neither was there any opening into the chimney to produce circulation of air. Along one side of the room were three beds, each six feet long, by about four feet and a half wide - the three beds extending the length of the room, then there were three other beds on the other side; and at the farther end was a seventh bed, extending from the one line of beds to the other. Immediately over these seven beds, and supported on posts, were seven other beds, placed exactly in the same way. Of course the person who slept in each of the six beds next the wall of the upper tier could raise his head only a very little way, on account of the roof. Each of these 14 beds was intended for two persons, when only few men were employed at the mine, but they might be made to receive three men each; and, in case of need, a boy might lie across at their feet. There was no opening of any sort to let out the foul air. Yet from 30 to 40 persons might have to sleep there, the men perspiring from their work, and inhaling the small dust from their clothes floating in clouds. The beds were stuffed with chaff. There were blankets, but no sheets. "The furniture of the lodging-shops is supplied by the masters”. “The beds and blankets are supplied by the miners themselves”. “They are taken home sometimes to be washed”. "On Friday, when the miners leave, the beds are rolled up to prevent damp. I visited the lodging-shop on
Monday morning. The beds had not been slept in for the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights preceding, yet was the smell most noxious”.
"There was one excellent thing connected with this lodging-shop. There was a small but beautiful stream of water, which was conducted across the fell to this spot, and came through an iron pipe near the door, so that the men had an abundant supply of the pure element”.
"I next went to see another lodging-shop on a larger scale. On the ground floor were five rooms. The first is a blacksmith's shop. Next to it is the cooking and eating-room of the miners, exactly like the room of the lodging-shop already described. Adjoining to it is a room in which they hang up their wet clothes. At the end is a stable for the horses, which are employed to draw the wagons with ore from the pits”. "By a ladder close to the wall, between the cooking-room and drying-room, an ascent to a room exactly like that in the lodging-house already described, with the same number of beds. One little pipe of about two inches diameter was the only communication with the exterior air”.
"Through the partition wall is an opening into a bed-room, extending over the dryingroom and the stable. Across this room extended two beds, leaving a space for passing. Above these two was a tier of other two beds. Then at a short interval was a second set of beds, four in number, and farther on a third set, similarly arranged four in number. Thus in the space above the cooking-room, drying-room, and stable, were 26 beds, each intended for two or three men, as it might be, and perhaps more, and the same beds for sets of miners in their turns, as one set came from their work and another went off”.
"Though the beds had not been occupied for the three preceding nights the smell was to me utterly intolerable. What the place must be in the summer's nights is, happily for those who have never felt it, utterly inconceivable. The medical men are best able to give a judgment on these matters, but, for my own part, I cannot but believe that these lodging-houses are more destructive than the air of the mines. I should think it no hardship to have to remain 24 hours in a mine, but I should be terrified at being ordered to be shut up a quarter of an hour in the bedroom of a lodging-shop”.
"Many miners speak of the horrors of lodging-shops in the former days; but the only difference I could learn was, that at many mines there were not now so many men and boys at work, and consequently, the lodging-shops were not so crowded. Some mines are not now wrought which formerly had large lodging-shops, for example Manner Gill, of which a miner stated to me that he was one of 120 who lodged in a suite of rooms there, and he declared that the nuisance was much aggravated by the great number”.
"In such a dense accumulation of bodies, one man who might be ill was a disturbance to the rest. The coughing of a few interrupted the sleep of others. Men coming from the mine at 12 o'clock at night, and frying their bacon at the fire below sent up an odour which added to the already too suffocating smell in the sleeping-room above. The great number was an aggravation of what is intolerable at best”.
"The miners showed me a tank through which running water passed, in which they had placed their bottles of milk which they had brought with them for their coffee.
"There was an excellent supply of running water of the best quality, and it was the only beverage which the men had, for they stated that there was no public-house or beershop nearer than seven miles, and, if there were one, they durst not go into it for fear of being discharged”.
"The men all said that their lodging-shop was a fair sample of all the lodging-shops in the country, the only difference being the greater or less number of men lodging in them, which would depend entirely upon the state of the mine. I have, however, since seen one refinement of which these men did not seem to be aware, and that was a lodging-shop in which were not only the beds in tiers all round the room, but there was also a bed suspended or swung from the top of the room, which economically filled up a space which otherwise would have been vacant."
William Eddy gave the following statement about Greenside mine.
I went to work in Greenside four years. Our lodging-rooms were such as not to be fit for a swine to live in. In one house there was 16 bedsteads in the room up stairs, and 50 occupied these beds at the same time. We could not always all get all in together, but we got in whenwe could. Often three at a time in the bed, and one at the foot. I have several times had to get out of bed, and sit up all night to make room for my little brothers, who were there as washers. There was not a single flag or board on the lower floor, and there were pools of water 12 inches deep. You might have taken a coal-rake and raked off the dirt and potato peelings six inches deep. At one time we had not a single coal. After I had been there two years, rules were laid down, and two men were appointed by the master to clean the house up stairs twice a-week. The lower compartment wqs to be cleaned twice a-day Then the shop floor was boarded, and two tables were placed in the shop. After that two more shops were fitted up., but the increase of workmen more than kept up with the increased accommodation. The breathing at night when all were in bed was dreadful. The workmen received more harm from the sleeping –places than from work. There was one pane of glass which we could open, but it was close to a bed-head.
The mines at Greenside were well ventilated, and in that respect there was nothing to complain of.
In winter time the icicles came through the roof, and within 12 inches of the people sleeping in bed .During a thaw, water dropped plentifully into the beds. In the upper beds the person sleeping next to the wall cannot raise his head or change his shirt.
On 11th February 1843 the following comment appeared in the Carlisle Journal
GREENSIDE MINE – The Greenside mines in Patterdale, are at present very rich in ore, the low level having exceeded the expectations of the shareholders. Should the projected railway between Penrith and Carlisle go forward, the company contemplate running a steamer on Ullswater Lake in order to expediate and economise the carriage of the lead; they having recently purchased pieces of ground at each end of the lake for that purpose.
This comment drew the following response the next week
Sir – On reading over the notice in your last weks’ Journal of the prosperous state of the Greenside Mines, I was very forcibly struck with the enquiry which almost naturally suggested itself to my mind, namely –whether the comforts and conveniences of the miners engaged in producing the vast wealth which these Mines are at present supposed to be yielding to the lucky proprietors, were allowed to keep pace with the increase of riches and enjoyment of which they have thus fortunately become the possessors, which enquiry was, however, I am very sorry to say, soon answered by a friend of mine by the following statement of fact of which he had himself been an eye-witness. The men engaged at the mines, to the number of I believe nearly 00, including a considerable number of boys employed in washing ore, reside for the most part at the distance of several miles over the surrounding country, and many of them reside in the towns of Penrith and Keswick, a distance of twelve miles or upwards, and consequently are under the necessity of lodging during their working days in what are called Groove Shops, hovels built by the company in the immediate vicinity of the mines which are known to be situated near to the summits of some of the highest mountains in the North of England, exposed to every bitter blast and storm with which those high Northern attitudes are so frequently visited where they have to carry their victuals, and cook for themselves, for four or five days in the week; now all this would not be much to complain of were the hovels provided for their accommodation at all in keeping with the wealth and luxuries these men are instrumental of producing; but my friend states that one of these shops which he visited during last autumn, and which is said to be the best of the number, consists of a single room on the ground floor, and one room on the first story; the ground floor room, which serves as dining room, kitchen, sitting room, provision store room, and all other conveniences for thirty to forty men, is only twenty-one feet long, by eleven feet wide, and seven feet in height, and which, besides serving all the purposes above-mentioned, also contains four beds, in tiers of two each, one above the other, with a space of about three feet between the lower and upper tiers. The upper room which is of the same length and width as the last is two feet high from the floor to the eaves and anbout eight feet high in the middle to the ridge; here we find eight miserable dirty beds on frames raiswed a little way from the floor, and three (if possible more miserable looking) slung in ropes, hammock fashion, from the roof, which is thatched with straw; indeed,, no sight I ever witnessed, can equal the dirty and filthy state in which these beds are kept, the men not being subjected to any regulation whatever, and hhaving no one to over-look the state of their accommodation. In fact the very stabling provided for the company’s horses employed about the mines, affords accommodation greatly superior to what I have just been describing. The men likewise to find their own beds and bedding, which they generally wear as long as it will hang on the beds, for the most part without ever being washed, and several of the men have not even so much as a bed or bedding of any description, but are obliged to steal an occasional sleep in the beds of their fellow workmen which happen to be unoccupied. It is fortunate that vermin cannot live among them on account of the noxious quality of the dust from the lead ore, with which the bed clothes are completely saturated, otherwise the miseries of these hard working men must have been alarmingly aggravated. The only light available to the upper room, besides a square hole in the middle of the floor by which the men enter from an upright ladder, is derived from a small window in one end of the room, about two feet by one foot three inches, in which is a small casement about three or four inches square for the ventilation. The ground floor room is lighted and ventilated by an entrance door, and one small window about two feet six inches square both on one side of the building. Many of the men complain heavily of the disagreeable and uncomfortable nature of their accommodations, the storm frequently beating through the roof upon their beds, so forcing them to leave them during the night. I am informed that the London Mining Company provide their workmen at the mines in the neighbourhood of Alston Moor with superior accommodation to those found at Greenside, the beds and bedding being provided by the company and the men placed under wholesome regulations for securing cleanliness and comfort, and why could not the same plan be adopted in one case as in the other? I hope the subject needs only to be brought under the notice of the proprietors to secure the immediate improvement of the conditions of their workmen, several of the shareholders, I am informed, have never seen for themselves the miserable conditions in which the miners spend their working time: one of the proprietors has, indeed, taken laudable pains to provide religious and other instruction for the miners and others in the employ of the company; but it is well known, that men who are exposed to the evil influences described, are not in the most fit state for receiving mental culture. Hoping the above notice will have the effect of attracting the attention of the directors and proprietors, I take my leave of them at present, however, to return to the subject again, should the circumstances call for it.
I am etc
If the information supplied to Philanthropos is correct then it is obvious from his description that the improvements suggested to be made to the factory inspectors in 1841 had not been made. To date I have not come across any further correspondence on the subject by Philanthropos.
(from Bulletin of the Cumbria Industrial History Society December 2011.)
In 1864 another report was produced called the Kinnard Report and Robert Bainbridge gave evidence on behalf of the London Lead Company.
"there are beds which will contain two men each, two men are allowed to sleep together. When asked if the beds are used in shifts, being occupied all of the time he answered. "In general I apprehend that two men appropriate a bed and stick to that bed, they do not like sleeping indiscriminately in each others beds." On the question of how many beds would be in a room he said. “That varies very materially; the beds are six feet four inches in length, and four feet four inches in breadth, if I mistake not; we generally fill a room with beds, and we have two tiers in general, but I may say that practically the upper tier is seldom used; the lower beds are generally those which are used, the upper tier is only put into requisition when there is a greater number of men than are sufficient to occupy the lower."
"With regard to the ventilation, I may state further that we carry up a tube parallel with the chimney flue. The object of that is to carry off the impure and heated air. When the fire is on, the heat in the chimney flue extends to this tube and rarefies the air in it, so that it will either carry the vitiated air off or bring fresh air in, and whichever it doe it is beneficial; that is our means of ventilation which we have; we make use of that also in our cottages here; the company have built a number of cottages for the use of the miners upon the spot, and we make an opening under the ceiling, and carry up a tube, so of three or four inches in diameter, parallel with the chimney but quite distinct from the chimney, still the air in that parallel tube is affected by the heat in the chimney, and it will create either an internal or an external draught; it will either admit pure atmospheric air down the tube or it will carry off the vitiated air of the room into the open air at the ridge."
In 1848 Francis Cockshott described a journey through Teesdale, where he visited a lead mine shop in upper Teesdale and described it as follows
They stay here about five months in the year, dig out the lead ore: break it up with hammers into small pieces, then wash it (or as they say"dolly it") and then carry it for a short way in bags to where there is a track for donkeys or ponies to travel on. They are now forming a road up to the house; there are 3 or 4 men and about the same number of boys, but no females.
This house has 2 rooms, or rather one room with a partition half way across the middle. No furniture but a rude table propped beneath the window, a plank, one end of which is thrust into a hole in the wall and the other resting on the floor, and a second plank, one end fixed into a rude ladder which leads to a small loft above, and, like the previous one, an end rests on the ground. Upon each of these planks are fastened a few bundles of dry heather; a comfortably inclined plane is by these means formed and consequently each plank resolves itself into a not unenviable resting place...
They live near the high Force, and during the sumer months come up here every Monday, returning home on the Saturday, in winter of course this building is uninhabited....
EXAMPLES OF MINE SHOPS.
A BASIC SINGLE STORY SHOP AT MIDDLECLEUGH LEVEL NY 78921 42503
A SINGLE STOREY SHOP SLIGHTLY MORE ADVANCED THAT THE ABOVE CARRS LEVEL NY 78519 43201.
A TWO STOREY SHOP NEXT TO THE ADIT HODGSON HIGH LEVEL. NY 78663 42879
THE GROUND FLOOR HAS A SMITHY UPSTAIRS WAS FOR LIVING AND SLEEPING. THE ENTRANCE IS IN THE GABLE ABOVE THE ADIT.
(ALL THE ABOVE SHOPS WERE RESTORED BY THE NORTH PENINNE HERITAGE TRUST)
A SINGLE STOREY SHOP WITH 2 SEPERATE ROOMS. HIDDEN HOLE MINE NY 77195 36639.
A RUINED 2 STOREY MINE SHOP AT BENTYFIELD MINE NY 755 425.
THE RUINED SHOP AT CASHBURN NY 71682 36754
THE RUINED SHOP AT CLARGYLL HEAD NEXT TO THE ADIT NY 76989 37228.
THE RUINED SHOP AT ST. JOHN MINE NY 76148 37808
SHOP NEXT TO SMALLCLEUGH ADIT. tHIS SHOP WAS EXCAVATED AND CONSOLIDATED AND THE FLOOR PLAN IS SHOW BELOW
Adit and remains of a small shop on the side of the River Tees at NY 73458 34772
Remains of a two storey shop at Calvert Burn mine. The adit is to the right side of the Building
The shop at Silverband mine NY 70235 31744. This was still being used as office and workshop etc. until closure in 2006. since then the vandals have wrecked the building.
A well preserved mineshop in Gilderdale NY 88503 44248.
This building is very similar to the one at Hodgson's level at Nenthead.
The downstairs had a blacksmiths shop in it, with the forge still preset ( to much stuff inside to allow photo.)
The reverse of the same building showing the seperate entrance to the upstairs living area.
Ruined shop at Foxfold mine NY 85724 38449.