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Greenside Mine, Glenridding, Cumbria.

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Mining on the Greenside site started around 1690, with the first operations probably being carried out at the higher altitudes on the fell were the vein was exposed at the surface. Subsequent mining was carried out lower down the fell. By the 1800's a large amount of ground had been excavated by hand picking. As the surface pits became deeper, levels were driven to the stoped out areas. The earliest levels driven were the Top, Middle and High Levels. The ore excavated up to this period would have been hand washed and dressed, and then taken by mule to a smelter, near Keswick.

It was not until the late 1820's that Greenside was developed further by a group of adventurers, which ultimately formed the Greenside Mining Company in 1822 after initial preparations, indicated that the vein was very rich. During these early years the old levels were cleared out and a new one was driven, Gillgowar's Level. A mill (High Horse Mill) near these levels was built which processed the ore. This level subsequently became the main horse level for the period. Shortly afterwards another level was driven further down, and this was the High Horse Level. The mining operations started to reach new heights of productivity and the ore ended up being sent to the smelter at Nenthead to recoup more silver from the lead. However, the costs of sending the ore that distance proved to be too draining on profits and a smelter was built on site. With the ore being gained above the new levels proving to be very rich, the decision to drive a new lower level some 64m below the High Horse Level was taken, this eventually became the Low Horse Level. The mining activities carried on being very successful and much new expansion was commissioned between the mid 1830's and 1850. A great deal of the mines success at this time was due to the high silver content of the lead ore, most of which ended up at the Royal Mint.

Driving of the Low Horse Level took a long time. When it reached below the upper workings it improved ventilation of the level and provided a fast way for the ore to reach the surface. With most of the ore coming out now via the new level, the High Horse Mill became redundant and a new mill was planned and built above the smelter. In the early 1850's a huge undertaking was proposed, in the driving of a new level, the Lucy Tongue. Output of lead and silver continued to be good throughout the on going years and promoted even more expansion of the mine. In 1862 a fall in the mine know as the Big Crush occurred when a colossal piece of vein material detached itself on the High Level and came crashing down to the Low Horse Level. Amazingly there were no casualties. The fall material was estimated to have been some 110,000 tonnes, worth £80,000 and it took 4 years to clear. The uppermost craters visible today on Greenside are not quarries as indicated by current OS maps, but are the result of the fall.

In the late 1860's continuing good fortunes brought the introduction of steel rails and rope for use in the mine and the Keppel Cove dam was built to provide water for the new mill and smelter. A connection was finally made with the Lucy Tongue and Low Horse Levels improving ventilation in the ever expanding system. Shafts had also started to be sunk below the horizon of the Lucy Tongue Level. In 1870 another new crosscut level was driven in the next valley to test the main ore body. The crosscut was Glencoyne Level, but it proved to be barren. During the same period the northern end of the High Horse Level, which was also barren was being dammed up to provide an underground water storage facility for use by a hydraulic engine at the Willie Shaft. The Glencoyne Level then was also dammed and connected to the High Horse Level to increase water storage and to power a second hydraulic engine.

Between the mid 1870's and the end of the century saw again, more new development at the mine. The dam network was expanded and the water was used to generate electricity for powering winding gear, fans, pumps, lights and eventually electric locos. 1880 saw the introduction of compressed air rock drills and in 1887 dynamite was introduced. The shafts being sunk from the Lucy Tongue level had reached 110m in depth, and the level itself by 1895 was over 2km in from the portal. During the early part of the 1900's the mining below the Lucy Tongue Level was continually expanded and by 1910, Smiths Shaft had reached a depth of 165m. During the years of the First World War, production carried on but was much reduced. By 1919 the mine was in a poor state due to the fall in world markets, not for lack of ore. Eventually in 1920, the Greenside Mining Company went into liquidation.

In 1923 a new company was formed to start up mining operations again. After some restructuring, smelting was stopped on site and all concentrate was shipped to Newcastle for smelting, development of the lower levels continued reaching a depth of almost 250m at Murray's Shaft. In 1927 the Keppel Cove dam burst due to a freak storm and flooded Glenridding, causing a massive amount of damage. This affected the village community greatly as mining operations could not carry on. The company was blamed for the disaster and ended paying out for claims. With the mine without an electricity supply, president was set to rebuild the burst dam with a new concrete one, which took 2 years. The electricity supply was upgraded at the same time with new turbines and generators. Disaster almost struck again in 1931 when the new dam partially breached due to being sited on bad bedrock. Fortunately most of it held and a repeat of the earlier disaster was avoided. A number of other accidents occurred at the mine and coupled with a declining market, work totally stopped for the first time in over 100 years.

In 1936 the Basinghall Mining Company took over Greenside, signalling more investment. At the same time Glenridding was connected to the national grid making the mine less reliant on its own electricity generation. The depth of operation below the Lucy Tongue Level had reached 275m and new ground was constantly being gained. The floatation method of ore separation was brought on line and the yield of concentrates went up, by 1938 the mine was producing 275 tonnes a day. At the outbreak of the Second World War, production was ramped up for the war effort. As the war progressed POW's and refugees from Europe made up the additional labour force and the mine was expanded to a depth of 365m. A new working above the Lucy Tongue Level was also opened up, which was the Alma Stope. At the end of the war the working depth had reached almost 400m.

At the start of 1950's the mine was getting increasing difficult and expensive to work. The depth now had reached 430m, the vein was not yielding as much ore as it used to and the company tried to get leases to look at older workings. The middle of 1952 was the setting of a terrible accident when a fire started on the 200 Fathom Level (365m below), which then swept through the workings killing many men and injuring others. The accident brought on radical safety changes, one of which was the second escape route driven in 1953 via the old upper workings to the Glencoyne Level adit. Despite investment in new machinery, production started to fall off and geological surveys at the end of the 1950's produced disappointing news. The mine managed to carry on working by a strange turn of events involving the Atomic Weapon Research Establishment. The AWRE wanted to use the lower workings of the mine to conduct a number of large explosions to see how seismic instruments would interpret them, but the experiments were short lived and the work was finished in summer of 1960. After they left the mine resumed normal operations, but it never started up to previous levels, and despite some new exploration work the mine closed during April 1961.

Over its working life, Greenside Mine milled 1.2 million tonnes of ore, producing 350,000 tonnes of lead and 35,000 kg of silver, most of which was carried out by the use of manual labour. Whole generations worked in the mines and when it finally closed, it truly was the end of an era.

Greenside Surface Features

Surface features around Greenside Mine complex.

Updated 18/10/09.

COMRU Greenside Through Trip

In at the Glencoyne Level, many hours of ladder madness and finally out at the Lucy Tongue Level.

Aubrey, Brian, Karli, Mike, Paul. T, Paul. Wh, and Paul. Wi, 18th October 2009.