Report - - Swaledale Lead Mines 5 - Lowenthwaite, Gunnerside (Yorkshire, 2020 - 2022) | Mines and Quarries | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Swaledale Lead Mines 5 - Lowenthwaite, Gunnerside (Yorkshire, 2020 - 2022)


28DL Regular User
Regular User
This report covers the surface remains and mine levels (tunnels) on the left of the map below, collectively known as the Lowenthwaite mine.

The area at the top around the Blakethwaite smelt mill including Blind Gill level was the subject of the previous post (Swaledale #4).

To keep things to a reasonable length, the area on the right of the stream, which is the western part of the Old Gang mine, will be done separately (#6).

All the mines worked the same set of broadly east-west oriented lead veins, although there are offshoots heading in other directions.

This same band of mineralization was mined at Beldi Hill (#1), Swinnergill (#2) and Arn Gill (#3) to the west and at Arkengathdale to the east.

The history of Lownathwaite is complicated and I won’t reproduce it here - the naming of levels and even ore veins varied over the years as owners changed.

More detail can be found in several books on the subject, the best one probably by Mike Gill, where the map came from.

According to Historic England, Lowenthwaite, together with the rest of Old Gang in the next valley over, “represent(s) an exceptionally well preserved lead mining landscape, containing a wide range of lead industry sites and individual features”.

The pictures below are the result of several walks and are basically a survey of what there is to see, without spending too much time exploring every little side tunnel.

There are surprisingly few underground pictures available, even for well known levels like Priscilla and Dolly, certainly nothing on here.

The main exception is the Sir Francis Level (off the bottom of the map), which was originally driven to serve both Lowenthwaite and Old Gang.

This is one of the best known mine levels in the country because it actually contains ‘stuff’ viz a water-powered pumping engine and you’ll find many pictures of this online.

It’s also the only one I haven’t done, being a bit dodgy to do solo due to sometimes low oxygen levels.

Pictures are phone for above ground and camera or phone for below.

Starting with the North Hush, this is a big ravine deliberately gouged by torrents of water released from dams above - the modern equivalent is power hoses.

As viewed from the other side of the valley.

Several levels are shown further up the hill in the hushed area but I couldn’t find any of them - the hush itself is a bit of moonscape of rubble and piles of dressing waste with no obvious source.

Further south Harriet and Silver Hill Levels are easily found at the heads of their respective spoil heaps.

The Silver Hill entrance was blocked, but Harriet was still open although flooded, hiding under a tuft of grass (the ‘floor’ is just a reflection of the roof).

Priscilla. A little to the north of the bottom of the North Hush is Priscilla Level - it can be seen in the first photo above.

Started in 1821 this was the last level in the area to be worked, operations finally ceasing c. 1906, with ore initially being smelted in the Blakethwaite mill.

It originally extended a long way north and west with connections to the Sir Francis and Blind Gill Levels.

The entrance must have been restored - someone should plant flowers in that tub.

The portal after I left, which is how I found it.

I don’t how long the currently accessible section is but I was in there for about an hour.

Tall worked-out space (photo taken looking back) with signs of a past dig.

It ends shortly after - I got the impression it once carried on under the rubble at the back.

Looking up at the end.

Back outside there’s a pair of what look like ore bins downhill at the end of a spoil heap, although they’re described as ‘wash kilns’ by Historic England.

Nearby is the water inlet pipe for the Sir Francis level engine, c. 40 yards below ground at this point.

The water came from a reservoir (Moss Dam) which also supplied the Blakethwaite mine.

Sun Hush. Just south of Priscilla is the Sun Hush Level, started at around the same time and extending at least 800 yards.

As viewed from across the valley, showing the large spoil heap with a building said to have housed storerooms, the mine office and miner's accommodation.

Further along is the remains of the wheel pit for a crushing mill.

The stone with the iron eye in it near the bottom of the picture may be one of the tensioning weights for the rollers.

This one is waist deep from the outset, and was a pleasant wade until I realised there was a tear in my waders and my left leg was filling up.

Must remember to avoid this on the way back.

Now a roof fall - easier over than round…

…but I’d had enough by this stage and stopped, although it seems to go on in the same fashion.



28DL Regular User
Regular User
Dolly. This level is thought to date from the late 1700’s and was still being worked in the 1870’s, eventually extending a long way west.

Again it’s hard to tell how long the currently accessible bits are but I was in there for over 2 hrs, albeit moving fairly slowly.

View from the other side of the valley showing the waste tips, with ore bins along the top.

Ore bins.

Remains of wheel pit and ore crusher.

And in.

Someone’s looking after the place.

Beyond the pipe.

Now following a side tunnel over the pile of waste at the end on the left - the ladder leads to a small worked-out space.

Beyond the ladder it’s a nice wade until a conclusive end.

Back in the main tunnel, things stay wet for a while…

..until this slightly collapsed section. Not a good picture, but it seems to continue beyond.

However I didn’t like the look of this so stopped here.

One more on the way out…

…to the Kings Head in Gunnerside - gotta like a pub with a mine plan on the wall.

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Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Cant help but admire and be quite stunned at the building of these. Loving that adit opening image of Harriet. And Dolly with the water, just stunning images. Great views. Quality:<3


Down t'pit
28DL Full Member
Great report there, and fair play for covering them all. It's a right trek up there even on the nicest of days.

I went down Sir Francis Level a couple of weekends ago and while it was just do able in waders the bad air made me turn back after a couple of hundred yards.