In 1763, a soldier engaged on the development of the Previous Navy Highway working from Carlisle to Portpatrick found lead inside the bedrock at Blackcraig. Virtually instantly, the Craigtown Mining Firm purchased a 38-year lease of the land and opened the Blackcraig Lead Mines.
260 years later the panorama is sort of unrecognisable, however we’ve unearthed some attention-grabbing clues about this reminder of Scotland’s industrial previous.
Treasure within the rock
Blackcraig Lead Mines might be discovered on and under Daltamie Hill, close to Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway. Largely managed by Forestry and Land Scotland, the realm is understood for strolling and off-road biking. Nevertheless, peppered inside the bushes and trails are the stays of a once-thriving trade.
Information present that business mining within the space was being thought of from a minimum of 1758 when Cuthbert Redshaw, William Carruthers and George Clerk fashioned the Craigtown Mining Firm.
After the lead was found, the Craigtown Firm opened two mines: East and West Blackcraig. Earlier than too lengthy, this now-peaceful spot was reworked right into a hive of commercial exercise.
Information inform us that the mining operation peaked round 1780. Monetary losses had been recorded in 1783 earlier than the mines had been closed within the 1790s. They’d re-open twice: within the mid-1800s and in 1917, for a really brief operation to assist assist the conflict effort.
A household affair
Dozens of individuals labored on the Blackcraig mines. Within the 18th and nineteenth centuries, lead miners had been sometimes self-employed. A mining firm would promote for staff and full households would supply their companies. Males and older boys can be within the mines whereas girls and kids would typically assist with much less bodily processing duties.
A household would supply a young to dig a sure size of mine or extract a sure weight of stone every season at a pre-agreed worth. They may work as typically or as little as they selected, however they had been solely paid in the event that they met the agreed targets.
We all know from the document that 44 males labored at Blackcraig mines in 1780. This included 25 miners and seven smelters. The stays of their houses and neighborhood survive, which means we will add a social facet to the mostly-industrial historical past of mining.
Cottages and a neighborhood
Housing for the mining households can be supplied, or provided for lease, by the mining firms. As such, the settlement of Craigton grew a brief distance to the west of the mines.
Historic maps by the Ordnance Survey present the structure of the miners’ village. Finding out them provides us a sign of the flucuating fortunes of the trade. Durations when the mines had been open and worthwhile are marked by many occupied cottages. More durable occasions and closure, in the meantime, are mirrored in deserted houses.
Remarkably, on our web site go to, we may determine each home and yard proven on the outdated maps. Round a dozen ruinous cottages might be seen, laid out round a triangular open house. Outbuildings, yards, gardens, together with sunken tracks and lanes, will also be made out.
Shafts, stones and shops
Away from the village, we recorded an abundance of commercial stays which present simply how busy Blackcraig as soon as was.
On the base of the hill, six mine shafts are seen as massive spoil heaps with a despair within the centre marking the infilled shaft. The doorway to the principle shaft remains to be open with some stonework seen. The scale and depth of this principal shaft exhibits the most important scale of commercial exercise at Blackcraig.
On the prime of web site is the lade, a man-made channel carrying water from the lochs of Bruntis and Little Bruntis. The water carried by the lade was used to energy a stone crushing and processing mill.
West of the mill’s reservoir are two adits – stone lower tunnels related to mine shafts for drainage and entry. Close by there are examples of open-cast mining and smaller shafts, as soon as used for prospecting and trials.
Near the cottages lie the stays of an extended and slender constructing, spilt into 9 compartments or rooms. It’s most likely the stays of mining shops or processing rooms.
From result in lidar
Historic paperwork like maps and firm data advised us a terrific deal about life and work at Blackcraig. Combining our desk-based analysis with on-the-ground exploration really helped us perceive the lifestyle for miners right here.
We realized much more on a second go to because of the advantages of collaboration between land managers and the heritage sector. Forestry and Land Scotland introduced thrilling new data: Lidar survey outcomes.
Lidar (an acronym of “gentle detection and ranging”) is a technique for figuring out ranges utilizing a laser from the air. It helped verify the placement and bodily type of many options at Blackcraig and even recognized some beforehand unrecorded options.
Our analysis and web site visits demonstrated that the Blackcraig Lead Mines are of nationwide significance. The stays of the mines and the employees’ village are actually designated as a Scheduled Monument, serving to us admire how 18th and nineteenth century trade massively and irreversibly formed Scotland and our society as we speak.
Much more to find?
There may nonetheless be extra so as to add to the story of mining in Blackcraig. We all know a employee on the Previous Navy Highway inadvertently began the commercial operations on the web site. From archaeological data we will see that the street follows the road of a Roman street that ran from Glenlochar to Loch Ryan.
The Romans had been definitely conscious of beneficial minerals and valuable metals in bedrock and operated mines throughout their Empire. So may they’ve discovered the lead-rich Blackcraig bedrock first? We don’t have proof for Roman mining at Blackcraig, however historic accounts from 1904 check with historical horizontal mine ranges often called “outdated males” within the space. The sort of mine pre-dates these sunk by the Craigtown Mining Firm… so do we have to dig even deeper?
Discover out extra – or make a proposal!
Anybody is welcome to suggest a historic place for designation by Historic Surroundings Scotland and the number of websites we work with is staggering! Our Designations Workforce have explored every thing from prehistoric forts to Second World Battle coastal defences.
You possibly can learn our full report into Blackcraig Lead Mines and browse 1000’s of different designated websites on our Heritage Portal. On Canmore, there’s a plethora of images, prints, work and plans of Scheduled Monuments. For extra social and industrial historical past, try tales of life at Stanley Mills within the Forties.