Case Study: Uncovering the History of Lead and Barytes Mining
One of 14 projects being delivered through the HLF funded Stiperstones & Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme, the ‘Lead & barytes mining’ project aimed to tell the story of lead and barytes mining in the Scheme area. This was done through conservation and enhancement work at key sites, integrated with improvements to site access and interpretation.
What was done
The mining heritage of the Stiperstones and Corndon area is one of the most distinctive and characteristic elements of this landscape, with a history extending back to at least the Roman period. Some of the remains can be quickly identified – but significantly more are hidden, obscured or disguised. Within the project area, echoes of the mining story have a powerful cultural and social relevance. This is partly a story of process and production, but even more a story about the pursuit of wealth by the privileged, and the effect on the lives of ordinary people in small communities scraping a tough living from the landscape. The project has carried out work at three of the area’s most significant mining sites.
At Cothercott barytes mine, the little known story of barytes mining has been told, through:
- consolidation of the mill building remains,
- new interpretation of the visible archaeology of the site (integrated with the overall story of mining in the area); and
- access improvements to enable better public access and appreciation (including car park area, site infrastructure, permissive access path and route waymarking).
A new promoted walking route has been created, linking the permissive site access to the rights of way network and taking in other local heritage sites of interest. Volunteers from the Shropshire Caving & Mining Club have also carried out measured surveys of the archaeological remains to ensure that the workings of the mill are better understood. This mine was worked extensively between 1910 and 1928, and produced a total of 23,000 tons of very pure barytes (barium sulphate) – a dense white filler used in paint, paper, lino and pottery. The ore was ground at the mill using 10 pairs of French burr stones, some of which have been excavated as part of the project and used to mount interpretation panels.
At Snailbeach Lead Mine, the best preserved lead mine in Britain, the project has match funded extensive restoration work carried out by the local authority in 2015. It has also put in place, in consultation with the Shropshire Mines Trust which manages the site, a range of interpretation materials to convey more fully the story of lead mining at Snailbeach and across the local area.
At Tankerville lead mine, also managed by Shropshire Mines Trust, the project has designed and installed new interpretation panels.
Across all three sites, the project has coordinated volunteer work parties to clear invasive vegetation and to help maintain the condition and extent of the cultural heritage.
- 500m permissive access route created to link to existing public right of way
- New footpath furniture, fencing and gates installed
- All-ability car park created
- 3 cultural heritage sites better interpreted
- 1 Scheduled Ancient Monument (Snailbeach) secured for the future
- 1 historic site (Cothercott barytes mill site) consolidated
- At Cothercott mine site, engagement with the private landowner, and the landowner’s enthusiasm for the site and willingness to allow permissive public access, was crucial to the project work going ahead.
- Consultation with local special interest organisations – Shropshire Mines Trust and Shropshire Caving & Mining Club – enabled the project to benefit from specialist knowledge and expertise, particularly useful in designing the new interpretation materials across all three sites.
- See http://www.shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Church-Pulverbatch-Walk-Medieval-Mottes.pdf for downloadable version of new promoted route ‘Medieval mottes, barytes mining and ancient lanes’ which takes in the Cothercott barytes mine, and which was designed by a local group in support of this project.
Quote from project manager:
“Having delivered access, interpretation and conservation outcomes this has been a really satisfying and interesting project to work on. As a result of the project, visitors can access the sites more readily and understand more about mining and its place in the historic landscape. I’m extremely grateful to the landowners, partners and colleagues involved, as without their support the project wouldn’t have been possible.” – Joe Penfold, Project Officer
Quote from participant:
“The mill site up the hill looked like just a few blocks of concrete and hardly anybody knew what it was. With some excavation, a new path, excellent panels and a walk leaflet it’s become a real feature of interest and an asset to the community.” – Friends of Castle Pulverbatch
Key search words: Barytes, lead, mining, industrial heritage, access, interpretation
Photo Credits: Interpretation panels mounted upon excavated ‘French burr stone’ mill stone at Cothercott barytes mine, Examples of interpretation panels installed in the loco shed at Snailbeach and at Tankerville lead mines – Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership