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Healeyfield Lead Mine and Smelter

(The following information is reproduced from Fairbairn R.A. "Allendale, Tynedale and Derwent Lead Mines" (Keighley: Northern Mines Research Society, British Mining No. 65, 2000) by kind permission of R.A. Fairbairn and the Northern Mines Research Society - © Reserved)


The vein traverses a region of deeply indented valleys, one of which, Dene Howl, probably exposed the vein in the past and led to its discovery. The mine is said to be ancient, possibly mediæval. Despite its antiquity, however, the history of the mine is poorly documented, but, photographs showing the mine and the dressing plant at Dene Howl as they were at the end of the 19th century are preserved in Beamish Museum. The mine belongs to the Dean and Chapter of Durham.

Healeyfield Mine, Consett. The tall building housed a beam pumping engine and the one near the chimney held a steam winder
(Beamish, 3116)

The vein is unusual in that it has a large throw, 21 fathoms down to the east, yet it carries ore for about one and a half miles. Normally such a large throw would result in the vein being filled with gouge, but at this point much of the strata is sandstone or grit which would help to keep the fissure open for the ore-carrying solutions. The following generalised section was published by Smith, though it should be noted that he queried the correlation used on the mine sections:-'

Shale 15
Sandstone with shale and `grey beds' 55
Sandstone [Healeyfield Firestone] 25
Shale 25
Grey beds 18
Shale 30
Sandstone 30
Sandstone [Lower Dene Howl Firestone] 45
Shale (Top Level) 10
Sandstone 10
Shale 10
Sandstone 25
Shale 20
Sandstone 25
Shale 10
Sandstone [Grindstone Sill] 40
Shale (Derwent Level)
     Horizon of the Fell Top Limestone
Sandstone, shale and grey beds 25
Sandstone 15
Shale 10
Sandstone 10
Shale 40
Sandstone, Upper Slate Sill 30
Grey beds 5
Sandstone, Lower Slate Sill 25
Shale (Bottom Level) 25

Most of the activity centred around the Dene Howl Shaft, where the levels were used to drain the water, rather than to extract the ore. The Engine Shaft is 60 fathoms deep and, near it, the vein has been worked at all horizons. The Derwent Level has been driven to the south from the side of the Derwent for about one mile. About 32 fathoms below the Top Level, it took the water pumped from the Bottom Level. The Bottom Level is driven to the south from the Engine Shaft.

Mid 19th century reports give the impression that the mine was then not particularly rich. In 1885 they were working three stopes, yielding between 10 and 15 cwt per fathom, but they were also carrying out a lot of development work. At the time John Trelease was manager, having taken over from James Blenkiron.

In 1885 a beam engine was bought for the mine. It was delivered to Rowley station at the beginning of July 1885 and was started with some ceremony in October, being named `Whitwell' by Lieutenant Colonel Monk of Durham, a director of the company.

The Top Level is driven from near the Engine Shaft for 1370 metres to the south. The most extensive workings lay between the Engine and Fell Shafts, from the surface down to about 15 fathoms below the Top Level. The main ore-bearing horizon was the Lower Dene Howl Firestone.

The dressing mill at Healeyfield mine. The large watermill drove the crushers and the smaller one drove jigs and a Lisburn buddle
(Beamish, 34813)

Production prior to 1853 is not known, but from 1853 to 1891 over 10,000 tons of lead ore were produced, with about 15 ozs of silver per ton of lead. Between 1860 and 1871, the mine is recorded as being worked by the Healey Field Company. From 1872 to 1873, it was worked by William Muschamp & Co., and from 1874 to 1891 by the Healey Field Mining Company. The latter company is recorded in 1881 as William Whitwell, Lane & Blenkiron. The Healeyfield Mining Company (Limited) was registered in July 1882, when the directors were Messrs W Whitwell, J. Blenkiron, H. Pritchard, J. Monk and E. Reid. The capital of the company was £30,000 in shares of £1. The lead ore from the mine was smelted at Castleside smelt mill.


This mill was built in 1805 to smelt ore from Healey Field Mine. In 1821 it had one roasting furnace, two ore-hearths, one refining furnace and one reducing furnace, and it was in the hands of the Healey Field Mine Company.

According to Parson and White's Directory of 1828, Muggleswick parish yielded large quantities of ore which was smelted in a mill in the parish near Healeyfield, belonging to Thomas Featherstone and Company of Newcastle, producing about "2,000 bings of pig lead and a portion of silver". Presumably bings is an error and it should be pieces.

On July 3rd 1849 the mill was advertised for sale by auction. By 1923 it was in the hands of Messrs John Walton & Co. and had not been used to smelt ore since 1913, but it continued to be used to smelt lead residues.

Reproduced from Fairbairn R.A. "Weardale Mines" (Keighley: Northern Mines Research Society, British Mining No. 65, 1996) by kind permission of R.A. Fairbairn and the Northern Mines Research Society - © Reserved

See also "Some Notes on the Healeyfield Lead Mine"