Introduction to Skeleron Lead Mines (again from Mike Rothwell’s book)

Rimington Lead Mines, Skeleron SD 814 450
A lead and barytes mine, situated along the east side of Ings Beck, which until 1974 marked the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The earliest known references to the mine occur in the late sixteenth century when William Pudsay of Bolton Hall, reputedly worked the veins for silver. Pudsay's grandson, Ambrose, appears to have also briefly run the mine before 1660.

Operations seem to have been spasmodic thereafter, although there is documentary evidence of mining in the period 1764-80.

In 1822 a lease was taken by Tomkinson and Heyes of Liverpool, who produced calamine at the site, but this venture had failed by 1833. Two later attempts to work the veins, in 1835 and about 1867, also proved abortive. About 1875 Baynes and Colville reopened the workings and began to extract lead, barytes, zinc and calamine. In 1880 the York and Lancaster United Mining Company Limited was formed by William Bowman of Middleton and others to take over the operation.

Leases to work under Ings End and Ox Close were negotiated, and in 1881 a new lode of lead and calamine was struck at Ox Close. By this time the company employed a workforce of around 40.

Unfortunately this success was short lived and in 1885 the company, unable to pay its miners' wages, went into liquidation. The business was acquired by Matthew Curtis of Manchester, and after his death was continued by executors until 1892, when the machinery was offered for sale. Amongst the plant were a 27' diameter water-wheel and lead crushers, a double winding engine, a 52" cylinder beam engine, a horizontal with pump gear, and a 12" stroke engine by Robeys.

Commercial exploitation virtually ceased after 1892, although there were brief attempts to rework the site in 1914, 1920, when Whalley and Stanworth of Burnley sunk a new shaft, c1933 and during the 1950's.

The major remains are situated about 200 metres north-west of Ings End, below the former manager's cottage. Spoil heaps extend along the beck to Skeleron Wood.

The ruins of the York and Lancaster winding house are located to the south-east of the site. Adjacent is an infilled shaft. On the hillside above is a circular stone-lined air shaft of the York and Lancaster mine, which may have been deepened in 1920. Immediately below these remains is a cutting running east into the hillside. Slightly to the north-east are the earthworks of a drained reservoir, which probably dates from the last twenty five years of the nineteenth century. The spoil along this section of the stream probably marks the site of a smelting house erected by Tomkinson & Heyes.

A number of drifts or adits were opened in Skeleron Wood. One, at the north-west extremity of the wood, remains open.

Above, on the hillside overlooking Hollins Farm, are the remains of at least three bell pits, probably of sixteenth and seventeenth century origin, and a later limestone quarry.

A second quarry, near the upper shaft, can be seen on the cart track which leads from the bell pits back to Ings End. A good, general view of the valley workings is available from this point.

No trace remains of a shaft near Ox Close. The rising ground south-west of Ings Beck, also has indications of extractive industry. Approximately 1600 metres south-east of Skelhorn is Bale Hill, a name which may indicate the site of medieval lead working activity

 

 Brian Jeffery and Peter del Strother 03 May 2020

Within the Hollins Farm area, there is part of a medieval field system, a lime quarry and its kilns, plus the scattered remains of the Rimington Lead Mines. A public footpath runs across the site, but to explore more fully please ask the farmer’s permission.

From Pudsey’s ‘Bell-Pits’ (now known as shaft mounds), you can look at the distant views over the Ribble Valley from Longridge Fell to Penyghent and speculate, because of the nearby Roman Road, as to whether the Romans mined at Skeleron. There is no evidence to support such a hypothesis, but William Pudsey, Squire of Bolland Hall, did try a little coin counterfeiting with silver supposedly mined at Skeleron. He was only saved from a beheading by being pardoned by Elizabeth I. She was his godmother.

There is no surface evidence of mining in the 17-18C’s, but the mines were briefly reopened in the 1820-1850’s for barytes, which was used to smooth paper, paint and cloth. Miners from the Yorkshire Dales, including the Baynes family, migrated into the Rimington area to escape rural poverty in the 1870’s. Joseph Baynes, the mine superintendent, died in 1877 and it was the Cornish Mine Captain, John Borlase, who, from then ran the barytes, lead and zinc mine for Baynes & Colville (later York & Lancaster United Mining Co.) until 1884. The Borlase family, including 7 children, lived above Pudsey’s ‘Bell-Pits’ in an old ‘railway carriage’ brought, reputedly, from Rimington Station.

In 1884 came disaster. The Company was fined £5 for irresponsible storage of explosives, James Wiseman, the banksman, fell to his death down the 165ft shaft and John Borlase, the mine captain, died. The Company was liquidated and James Borlase, John’s son, ex-railway contractor and new mine agent, was declared bankrupt in 1885.

The 20C brought a few desultory attempts to reopen the mine, but all were short-lived. Today, the mining area is very overgrown, but sufficient evidence remains for a very pleasant walk. There are some interesting specimens of barytes and the lead ore, called galena, to be found. Choose the right season and a lot of time can be spent looking for the lead-tolerant Spring Sandwort on Pudsey’s Mounds. Most fun can be had speculating over the various uses of mysterious overgrown bumps, ditches, adits, shafts and other holes you can discover.

1959 Field map courtesy of IA Williamson, past member of GeoLancashire

1959 Field map courtesy of IA Williamson, past member of GeoLancashire

Skeleron mines 1  Skeleron mines 2  Skeleron mines 6  Skeleron quarry  Skeleron remains of lime kiln  Skeleron mines 4

 

Here are links to some further articles 

Rimington Lead Mines  Archaeological Survey Report - Lancaster University Archaeological Unit (pdf)

Dickinson, J.M. 1968 The Rimington Lead and Silver Mines - Memoirs NCMRS (pdf)

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