Map of the lead mines in the Allen Dales following the rivers and the site of the Blackett level.
Allen Mill is a 'green' development site, based on sustainability and a concern to preserve an important part of the cultural heritage of the Allen Valleys. The Allen Mill site was the centre of the lead mining industry in the Allen Valley from the 17th Century and much of the original flue tunnels and bunkers etc. remain. Original buildings on site have been restored and new build on original foundations recreates the appearance of the site in its heyday. The site has undergone a substantial programme of conservation, restoration and rebuilding to provide a vital boost to the economy of the Allen Valley.
Allen Mill was the centre of the lead mining industry in the Valley between 1600 and 1897. In the 19th century the site became one of the largest producers of Northumbrian silver at over 16,000 ounces a year. Part of the Allen Mill Regeneration site is scheduled ancient monument comprising ore bunkers, flue tunnels, smelting hearths and water wheel pits. This is being preserved and will be developed and interpreted as an industrial heritage trail.
The entrance to the Blackett Level by the East Allen River near Allendale Town.
The level travels up the Allen Valley for 4.5 miles. It was hoped that that it would go all the way to Allenheads but construction stopped in 1903 with the collapse of the lead mining industry. If it had been completed it would have been 7 miles long. Four shafts were constructed, one at Studdon Dene (88ft deep), one at Holmes Lynn (330 ft deep), one at Sipton (192 ft deep) and one at Breckon Hill (430 ft deep) although not all sources quote the same depths. Unfortunately, the Blackett Level did
not yield the results that had been hoped for and the only mines originating from the exploration were at St Peter’s and Sipton (the ore from these mines was smelted here at Allen Mil)l. The project was successful in lowering the water table however making it possible for the local mines to continue long after others had shut down.
Adit – A tunnel driven to drain a mine
Bing – Standard measurement of lead concentrate, equivalent to 8 hundred weight
Bingstead – Place where ore was tipped prior to smelting
Bouse – unwashed ore straight from the mine
Bouseteams – place where unwashed ore is placed prior to dressing
Transporting the ore and the water
There were no roads in the West Allen until 1826 so the lead ore was brought to the smelt mill over the moors in sacks on the backs of ponies known as ‘galloways’ (2 hundred weight per pony) except in the winter when the ground was soft and the load had to be lighter which doubled the cost of transport as more ponies and more men were needed to transport the ore. Coal was also required to smelt the ore and in 1865 records show 36 coal workings in the parish of Allendale although only one, the Stublick Colliery is recorded as being used for smelting. The railway came to Catton in 1869 and a connecting line between the station and the mill yard was built in 1896 which considerably eased the transportation problems both to and from the mill.