It’s soft, malleable and heavy and in abundant supply in Nidderdale AONB – what is it? Lead.
The AONB’s limestone geology underpins a plentiful supply of lead, and lead mining activity, especially around Greenhow, can be traced back to Roman times. Lead mining also featured in the growing empires of local monasteries and had its heyday during the 18th and 19th centuries. Lead mining has left a dramatic mark on the landscape in the form of mine shafts, spoil heaps and ruined smelt mills. Smelt mills were built to process the mined lead by allowing the smoke to cool and the lead to condense on the flue. There are still a few smelt mills in the Nidderdale AONB – a reminder of the importance of the lead mining industry
Thin bands of ironstone and coal outcrop within the millstone grit have also been extensively exploited through coal mining. In the early 1900’s coal was supplied locally for domestic use, smelting and for powering steam engines. The most productive coal mines were in upper Nidderdale and upper Colsterdale, where there were coal mining seams up to one foot thick. Demand from the Nidderdale coal mines fell after the opening of the railway with ready access to cheap coal from the larger Yorkshire coalfields.
Photo: Prosperous Lead Mine courtesy of Elsbeth Wild.