Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Jewel Mines

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, Weardale was a major centre for lead mining. Lead ore was extracted from narrow veins in the rocks and tens of thousands of tonnes of spoil were hauled out of tunnels by ponies pulling trucks carried on wooden rails. It was tipped at the end of the tracks, creating fan-tails of spoil that can cover whole hillsides, as they do in this photograph taken at Cowshill last weekend. Weather constantly erodes the heaps, revealing beautiful amythyst-coloured crystals of ‘fluorspar’, or fluorite amongst the spoil. When our kids were little they used to bring back pocketfuls of these ‘jewels’ from ‘the jewel mines’. Some of the finest crystals – like those at http://www.ukminingventures.com/WeardaleMines.htm
- are sought after by collectors. Footpaths and bridleways across the dale are decorated with fluorspar fragments that look their best after a light shower of rain, glittering in the sunlight.


  1. Fascinating subject and really interesting link. I guess the Weardale fluorspar has formed slightly differently from that in the Blue John mines in Derbyshire.
    The distant view certainly shows how industrial mining can change the landscape.

  2. I really enjoy my visits here; I always learn so much.
    Another fascinating post, with excellent pictures.

  3. Thanks to both of your for the comments. Weardale has some remarkable relics of its old lead mining industry, including a working lead crushing mill with a giant waterwheel up at Killhope...where they also have red squirrels. Must pay a visit before too long.


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