Report - Scaleburn Vein, Rampgill Mine, Nenthead (March-May 2016)

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Apr 3, 2015

Rampgill is one of several mines scattered around Nenthead in Cumbria - in itself, it consists of mile after mile of levels, stopes, flats, sumps and crosscuts. A report on the whole of the Rampgill Mine is completely impractical so for the first of my reports from this area, I'm concentrating on a single vein working (Scaleburn). Subsequent reports will take in other areas of Rampgill.


The Nenthead/Alston area has been mined since antiquity, mainly for lead in shallow workings in Roman times but as technology and desire drove men deeper, adits were driven into the hillsides to win lead, zinc and other minerals. Rampgill Mine was first driven in the mid-late eighteenth century under the auspices of the London Lead Company. Ownership of the mineral rights varied over the next hundred years, with Greenwich Hospital, the Nenthead and Tynedale Lead and Zinc Company and Vieille Montagne Zinc Company assuming control at various points up to 1896. It was the latter company that really drove the expansion of the Nenthead mines, introducing new technology and more efficient working practices to result in the enormous engineering feats that are still visible today. Post World War II, control of Nenthead transferred to Anglo-Austral mines, a subsidiary of Imperial Smelting Corporation Ltd. Eventually the mines declined until the last of the Nenthead Mines closed as recently as 1994, ending a long history of lead, zinc and fluorspar mining in the area.

Scaleburn Vein

The Rampgill Horse Level is followed from the old dressing floor for around 500m until you reach the junction of the Fairhill Cross Vein (trending SE towards the Rampgill Vein) and the Scaleburn Vein (trending NE). Before you reach the junction however, you can branch off right and take a quick look at the 350-foot drop of Brewery Shaft


This monumental feat of engineering was originally driven to access the Rampgill Deep Level and the Nentforce Level but was used in later years to create the compressed air for driving machinery in the mine. Much of the original pipework remains.

Some very ornate gating blocks a sluice that feeds the shaft.


The water is generally around welly height in the horse level and this can make for some very picturesque photos before reaching the Scaleburn junction:


Once into Scaleburn, the water levels drop and you can follow the original tub tracks into the mine.




There's a fabulous mix of carefully-crafted stonework and rough-hewn natural rock forming the horse level as you progress through. Eventually, you reach an area where the roof opens out into a huge stope where the vein has been followed up through the roof.


Ochre abounds here:


On the way in, you pass some steps up to a higher level (more on that later):


Eventually, the level closes in to an old collapse that has been partially dug out: time to crawl ....


Past here and you reach a junction in the level: straight on to more collapses (more on that later) or left into Low Borehole Sump and the remnants of an old horse gin:



This gin was used as haulage for the huge shaft elsewhere in this chamber and is about nine feet in diameter.


There is a small working running out of the back of this chamber which leads to a large open stope that heads dizzyingly upwards into the void.


Returning to the Horse Level, you crawl through a further collapse:


And then you are met with this ......


The infamous 'oil drum crawl'. This is where my bottle ran out - unless I can shed some pounds, I really wouldn't feel comfortable about going through there. That second drum is VERY narrow and I have it on good authority that the crawl is even harder when you're trying to get back through from the other side. I'll leave that one for people with more stones than me for now .....

Heading back down the level, it's time to explore those tempting stairs up into the Top Sills ..... two flights of carved steps later, you enter Moria:


The Top Sills level is a shattered death zone in very poor strata and some spectacular slabby roof sections that are hanging by divine providence. I explored along the crawls a little way but didn't take my camera gear through lack of space. I might head back into the further reaches of this level in the future to try and get a shot of a scary-looking slab of loose roof the size of a galley kitchen, but then again I might not.

There are crosscuts galore off the Top Sills, including one right by the twin portals shown above that leads to a beautiful little sump in a chamber:


At this point, I retraced my steps, taking photos of the other features I hadn't spotted on the way in, including ore hoppers, shafts, rises and other old artefacts of a long-gone industry.




I know I've only really scratched the surface of what Scaleburn has to offer: there are sumps and rises that are accessible to those with SRT kit but that's beyond my remit at the moment. I don't consider this a comprehensive report on Scaleburn but I hope it's of interest to those of you who like mines. I'll be a fairly frequent visitor here over the next few months/years so hope to keep things updated once I explore further.

Thanks for reading.


Last edited:


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Apr 3, 2015
Cheers fellas. Need a couple more visits into Rampgill itself before I'll have enough for a decent report on that one.
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