Report - - Scordale Lead Mines (Cumbria, 2020-2022) | Mines and Quarries | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Scordale Lead Mines (Cumbria, 2020-2022)


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Scordale is on the western edge of the Northern Pennine Orefield which was the main source of lead for the UK, and at one stage the world, in the 1800s.
Some parts of the valley have been mined for centuries but work had ceased by about 1900 although some baryte(s) extraction continued into the 1930s.
The red circles on the map below shows the main mining areas, with the Murton mines on the left side of the valley and the Hilton mines on the right, both following a series of lead veins running diagonally SW to NE, the main vein crossing the top of the valley.

There isn’t much left above ground and a detailed English Heritage survey covers it well, so no pictures of surface relics.
But if you want to see bumps in the ground and a few ruins just go for a walk - the whole area is a scheduled ancient monument complete with signs explaining what used to be there.

This report is the product of three trips over a couple of years and mostly covers the underground bits since there are very few photos of these, and nothing at all for some of them.
As usual pictures are phone for above ground and a mixture of phone and camera for below.

Starting with the ‘Mason Holes’ area, which is a ravine in the side of the valley produced by hushing from a line of dams above.
Hushing is an ancient technique in which water is collected in a reservoir and then let flood down in a mini tidal wave, stripping away topsoil and exposing underlying ore.
Once some of the ore has been dug out waste rock is then flushed away by another wave of water.
There’s blocked level (level = mine entrance) leading into the main Murton workings just below where this photo was taken.

This hole in the cliff looked like another level (James’s), but didn’t go very far, ending in a chamber with a small tunnel branching off, both half-full of mud and fallen roof.

A view of the Amber Hill region on the other side of the valley from entrance to the cliff level.
I had a look over there at some ruins and hushing waterworks, but couldn’t find anything to explore - potential entrances seemed to be blocked by scree.

Now for the Murton mine, starting with a view from the other side of the valley to illustrate the geology.

The outcrop running across the top is the ‘Whin Sill’, a band of igneous rock which is harder than the surrounding sedimentary layers.
The normal geological just-so story for mineralization is that hot water containing trace elements from deep underground percolated through near-vertical cracks resulting in near-vertical mineral veins.
However here, as in other locations in the Pennines, when the mineral-rich fluid hit the hard layer it spread out sideways forming horizontal deposits, or ‘flats’, and this is what the miners were after - thick bands of lead ore (galena) which could be hacked out easily.
First the Hardshins level, the only high level entrance I could find that was open.

Wooden rails, presumably from the 1700s although some areas inside were clearly blasted suggesting the mine was worked over a long period.

The place is a bit of a mess, with waste rock and fallen roof filling up about half of the worked-out spaces.

There are tunnels under the waste for ferrying stuff around and dumping ore down chutes to the low level.

More tunnels, these ones on the wrong side of ore chutes.

There’s a lot more with hobbit holes leading into further chambers, but after a while it all starts to look the same so just a few more pics.

Next into the Hardside low level - this is where ore was trundled out for processing in water-powered mills (now demolished).

Straight on got a bit low and muddy so I went left.

Ore chute.

Ever felt like a place is trying to kill you? Photo edit courtesy of Junior.

Another ore chute at the end of this section, with a route upstairs, probably to the flats where I had just been.

More shafts going up and down.

This is where I stopped, even though there seemed to be a crawl space round to the left, and made the long plod back.

In retrospect I should have persevered with the right-hand tunnel near the start since I subsequently found a mine plan showing it used to lead to about a kilometre more of tunnel(s) following an ore vein roughly west through the hill.
This vein was also tapped by the White Mines in the next valley over - I had a quick look at these but neither of the accessible levels went more than 30 yards before collapsing.



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Now for the Hilton mines on the other side of the valley, starting with a few of the accessible higher levels.
View of this region from further up, showing the Sill on the right.

I said I wasn’t going to show any surface ruins, but these ones are worth recording - some semicircular ore bins (there are a couple more on the Murton side).
The entrance to Jacques level can just be seen in the background.

This turned out to be wet and muddy and went quite a distance with the odd worked-out section visible on the left.

I stopped at this point although it seemed to carry on.

Back out.

Next the High Augill level, another muddy tunnel, this time with a nice limestone roof.
However when the mud got more than a couple of feet deep I was in danger of getting completely stuck so had to give up and didn’t get more than about 30 yards.

Now down to a lower entrance (Wilson’s middle level), but still above the Sill.
This one was also quite long but with tunnels under stacked waste in worked-out spaces, with a few side branches and a short shaft down to a lower level.

One of the windows in the side of the tunnel connected to workings above.

The end and back out.



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Finally into the Middle level, which leads into a large area of flats under the Sill running across the middle of the photo below.

These were much like the Murton flats but without tunnels under the waste.
Again there was a lot of it, all looking rather the same.

Cross cut connecting to the Dow Scar flats next door.

Sleepers - there were a couple of iron rails lying about somewhere.

Maybe a way down to a lower level.

The most noticeable feature of the flats, particularly on this side of the valley, is the holes in the walls where mineral collectors have been excavating.

These mines are well known for large crystals of ‘amber fluorite’ (orange fluorspar) growing in little voids.
Most of the good specimens have probably gone, but there’s still a lot of mineralogical crud lying around.
Anyway I probably spent more time taking phone pictures of rocks than clambering around, so here are some of things I did recognise either inside the mines or outside on the waste tips.

Easy one - quartz.

Barytes - this comes in different forms and is unmistakably heavy.

Galena in barytes and vice versa.

Lots of galena in various stages of purity - this is a little chunk of the pure ore.

Different types and colours of fluorite - plenty of this, usually growing on or mixed in with other minerals.
The last one is a small sample of amber fluorite.

View back down the valley from outside one of the Hilton levels, Murton mines on the right.

Plenty more to explore in this place, particularly if you like minerals.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Superb read and really enjoyed the individual mineral photos. Really adds to the report.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Just when you think your reports can't get any better, they do. Informative, interesting, well-researched. Fantastic.

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Cracking images. Liking the chutes. Liking the water coming down, makes the images really pop. The minerals are fab. I collect quartz etc. Fab report. Loved seeing the minerals directly from a mine. Excellent stuff:thumb

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