A Rich Seam: Lead Mining and Textile Heritage in the Yorkshire Dales

One of our biggest projects in recent years, A Rich Seam: Lead Mining and Textile Heritage in the Yorkshire Dales will involve us re-housing and exhibiting one of the country’s most fascinating lead mining collections.

A total of 860 objects, including mining wagons and tools, were given to the DCM by the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum in Earby when it closed in 2015. Now with a fantastic grant of £90,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund it means that the artefacts can now be re-examined and displayed, while the stories of miners and of the members of Earby Mine Research Group who assembled the objects over 50 years can be told. These items are very significant to the history of the Yorkshire Dales as there had been lead mining here for many centuries.

One of the most challenging tasks will be to reassemble what has been described as the most complete water wheel and double roller ore crusher in the country. In 1840 the Old Providence Company, who owned the mine at Kettlewell in Wharfedale, had the crusher built and modernised the existing smelt mills during a brief spell of prosperity. Both mines and mill closed in 1875 and the mill, crushers and water wheel were abandoned. The wheel was rescued from the Providence Mine near Kettlewell and was transferred to the museum in pieces.

Kettlwell Wheel
The water wheel at Earby Yorkshire Mining Museum – which is now closed.

As well as bringing the lead mining collection back to life, new exhibitions will be created from the museum’s extensive textile holdings. The lead mining and textile industries were once vital to the Dales, especially in the 19th century. They went hand-in-hand, with miners often knitting on the way to work to supplement their income.

“A Rich Seam” will run over the next 18 months. Significant building work will take place at the DCM, which is owned and run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. A mezzanine floor will be extended to create more space, while the lighting, electrics and decoration will be improved. A team of around 20 volunteers will be recruited to work alongside staff on the re-interpretation and display of the lead mining collection.

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