Report - - Various Mines - Nenthead - October 2017 | Mines and Quarries | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Various Mines - Nenthead - October 2017

The Lone Ranger

Safety is paramount!
Staff member
Various Mines - Nenthead - October 2017


History – A Brief Overview

Nenthead is one of England's highest villages, at around 450 m (1,500 feet). It was not built until the middle of the 18th century and was one of the earliest purpose-built industrial villages in Britain. Nenthead was a major centre for lead and silver mining in the North Pennines of Britain.

The start of mining at Nenthead is likely to date from around the 17th century. In 1735 the Alston Moor estate was granted to the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich in London, who leased out mines on the moor. One of the major lease-holders, George Liddle, began working at Nenthead from 1736, and built the first smelt mill.

In 1745, the leases were taken on by the London Lead Company, who successfully developed and modernised the mines, becoming the largest employer in the area. The London Lead Company gave up its leases in 1882.

Between 1882 and 1896, the mines were run by the Nenthead and Tynedale Lead and Zinc Company, and from 1896, by the Vielle Montagne Zinc Company of Belgium, who concentrated on producing concentrates of zinc and lead from both mined ore and the reprocessing of spoil dumps. In the Second World War, the mines were requisitioned by the Ministry of Supply. Following the war, the mines were worked by the Anglo-Austral Mining company (from 1949), and then by a series of small concerns, who were mainly interested in the reprocessing of spoil heaps rather than undertaking further mining.

By the 1970s, activity at the site had largely ceased, and the smelt mill and other buildings were systematically destroyed.

For many mine explorers Nenthead is a mecca as many miles of accessible mines remain. It features some of the most stunning mines in the country with several horse whims and an 80m (260-foot) engine shaft in Rampghill.

In 2013 the Canadian mining company Minco sunk five 500 m (1,640 foot) -deep boreholes in an effort to discover the extent of zinc deposits beneath Nenthead; the company believes that the village may be sited on huge deposits of the chemical element. The zinc is 150 m (490 feet) below the surface and was previously too deep to reach by old mining techniques.

My Visit

Was lucky enough to have a few free days to entertain myself and decided that underground was probably the best option; so off I trotted to Nenthead on my lonesome.

I’d not been up here before, but was well aware of the mines in the area. As soon as someone suggested it I’d booked myself into the Miners Arms and started planning where I wanted to see.

I arrived late afternoon so decided to have a quick look at area and popped down Caplecleugh Lead Mine.

Caplecleugh Lead Mine


I liked what I saw, water wasn't too deep, the audit was not too stoopy and kept on going.


Some nice features and reflections. Shortly after this the water started getting deeper, and deeper. Once it was just about tickling my crown jewels I decided to bail as I hadn't checked in at the Miners Arms yet and the thought of a safety brew was very appealing. At least I had some idea where the mines were and what to expect the following day.

Rampgill Lead Mine - Horse Level

Rampgill seemed the obvious choice to start with the following day, on the survey it didn't look too complicated and from reading previous reports and looking at photographs it seemed an interesting one to visit.

After a short section of stone lined adit it opens up exposing the strata in the bed rock. Again it wasn't too stoopy and there were some great colours from the leaching minerals.


Not too far in the adit splits, the right hand branch is only short, but gives a view of The Brewery Shaft; which is a 3.6m diameter concrete lined shaft which goes down to the Nent Force Level and Rampgill Deep Level. From the surface it is 100m deep and from the side access on Rampgill Horse Level it is 78m deep. Originally the shaft was know as the Deep Sump, and its name changed to the current one after the London Lead Company purchased the land that it was located on from the Alston Brewery Company.

The right hand branch is the continuation of the Horse Level, but also provides a brief look down the Brewery Shaft.


The Horse level continues past plenty of leaching mineral deposits and stalactites.


Further along the you pass another branch where where the Scaleburn Vein joins, I stuck to the main adit and soon ended up at Whisky Junction, there's a stone pillar with an assortment of empty whisky bottles here. The right branch takes you along the Hangingshaw Level, I followed this for a bit before returning and continued along the left branch - Rampgill Horse Level.


I liked this section, just because of the exposed tracks and the water running over them.


You have to get the obligatory selfie every now and then, gives a sense of scale.


The next feature was where the Patterdale Vein splits off, again a quick venture up here before turning back to the main passage.


Section of the Horse Level showing some timber roof props.


Shortly after this you get to the Engine Shaft, water was pouring down this making photography difficult. The left hand brach soon ended, but the right hand is a continuation of the Horse Level.


After the Engine Shaft the adits run paralell for a short section.


And the pipe work continues to run along the roof after this for a reasonable distance.


The pipe work continues through a wall and a small hatch provides access to the remainder of the Horse Level beyond. As it was a solo visit, and 'Safety is Paramount' I decided to leave this section for a future visit and back track to look at some of the side adits I'd passed.


Scaleburn Vein - Horse Level (Off Rampgill Horse Level)

Passing Whisky Junction I ended up back at the junction where the Scaleburn Vein intersects the Horse Level. The audit is about the same diameter and has some nice features along it. First were the flight of stairs on the left of this photo taking you up to the Top Sills Level.


The steps leading up to the Top Sills Level.


I just had a brief visit to the Top Sills Level, the adits got a bit smaller so left them for a revisit.


Back down in Scaleburn I finaly found the Scaleburn Horse Gin, I'd have been miffed if I hadn't found it.


Another selfie, just for scale - honest.


I continued on for a bit more, but the water got a bit deeper and as I was on my own decided to leave it and retrace my steps back to the carpark and empty my wellies and have a safety brew and buttie.

Smallcleugh Lead Mine

Smallcleugh lies further up the valley, and as there was still plenty of time left I thought I have a look around. It was blowing a hoolie and raining too which soon turned my map into a streaky bit of paper, just enough left though to find the entrance. I met a few folk from the Nenthead Mines Conservation Society working on a nearby entrance. Was good to see they were a friendly bunch and appreciate all the hard work they obviously have put into the mines over the years. I'd seen from surveys that Smallcleugh Mine doesn't live up to its name; it's a labyrinth of passages and shafts in 3 dimensions, so was glad of a bit of advice as to which way to head.

Initially Smallclough is a lot more open than Rampgill.


It soon gets smaller, with plenty of roof colapses and debris to negotiate.


This section of track was fun, the white growth on the timber supports appears to be some kind of fungus growth.


I kept to the main adit, but explored each side adit as I passed. Evidence of shaft rigged for SRT and small passaged to upper levels.


Plenty of old timer props in the roof of the passages.


Smallclough was totally different from the sections of Rampgill and Scaleburn I'd previously visited.


All along the adit I visited were side chambers, usually with a shaft. Some of the shafts were only a meter or so deep, others dissapeared to the levels below.


Again I reached a point where I decided that 'Safety is Paramount' and retraced my steps to the entrance.


From here I poped up for a quick look at Caplecleugh-High-Level (Hodgsons-High-Level) Lead Mine situated just above Smallclough. The first phot on the report is of the entrance to this mine.

I then retreated back to the Miners Arms for a well earned safety brew or 2.The following day the weather was a lot worse and I was feeling the effects of a full day underground the previous day so decided to cut my losses and head home and plan my next visit.

These are a stunning set of mines and glad I managed to get a brief look at a small section of them.




The Lone Ranger

Safety is paramount!
Staff member


28DL Member
28DL Member
I've just been in Scaleburn today to have a look at the horse gin and found your post when I was looking for trip reports, some of it sounded familiar then I realised we met you in the car park after you came down from Smallcleugh. Great report and it was nice meeting you.

The Lone Ranger

Safety is paramount!
Staff member
I've just been in Scaleburn today to have a look at the horse gin and found your post when I was looking for trip reports, some of it sounded familiar then I realised we met you in the car park after you came down from Smallcleugh. Great report and it was nice meeting you.
Cheers, was good to meet you too and hope you had a nice trip down Smallcleugh yourself that day as well as Scaleburn today. Need to get myself back up to Nenthead in the near future :thumb


28DL Member
28DL Member
Cheers, was good to meet you too and hope you had a nice trip down Smallcleugh yourself that day as well as Scaleburn today. Need to get myself back up to Nenthead in the near future :thumb
Both were really good fun thanks plus we stopped and chatted to the cave preservation guys on the way in and they mentioned a little srt trip from Smallcleugh to Rampgill so we went back to do that on the Sunday, there's so much to do so we only rally scratched the surface. Hopefully bump into you when you're next up.