Heritage Sites - Wanlockhead

New Glencrieff
New Glencrieff

New Glencrieff Mine 

The New Glencrieff Mine was started in the early 18th century. It was one of the richest lead mines in Britain and closed in 1931 to reopen in the 1950's, but failed due to high costs and low prices for the lead.

The mine has a long history and has been worked on and off along the vein of the same name from 1718 right up to the late 1950's, including some reprocessing operations in the early 1960's. Discovery of the vein will have occurred during the search for native silver and silver-rich lead ores, but as this was never truly successful, lead only became the prime objective as soon as there started to be a market for this metal.

Over the whole of its history, 7 companies have operated the mine, improving the operations and installing new technology. One of the most impressive installations of new technology came in the form of hauling and pumping engines, examples of which can still be found in the mine on the Glenglass Level, towards the south end of the New Glencrieff vein.

By the time the mine was permanently closed, almost 105,000 tonnes of lead was smelted from the New Glencrieff vein. 

The primary minerals worked at the mine were galena (lead sulphide), and in the latter part of the 19th century, sphalerite (zinc sulphide).   

Pates Knowes Smelter

The Pates Knowes Smelter was originally built in 1746 to replace an earlier one which was situated where the Museum Visitor Centre is now.

At first, it had two Scotch Ore Hearths it was later extended to include a third and also a reverberating furnace.

The smelting process was similar to that of a blacksmith's hearth.

The ore was brought in by cart & tramway (The tramway was via the Bay Mine)

The ore of lead, Galena, having been crushed and washed to remove impurities, was mixed with burning coal & peat on a fire kept hot by an air blast from bellows operated by a waterwheel. (The wheel was approx 20ft in diameter and 3ft wide.)

The waterwheels were known as overshot type as the water to operate them was fed from above.

The molten lead ran into a collecting (Sumpter) pot and was ladled into moulds to form lead 'pigs' or bars.

A waterwheel inside the furnace house was used to drive bellows for all the hearths and an exhaust fan for the fumes.

Smelter building design was governed by the need for the bellows to be placed immediately behind the hearths and close to the waterwheel which drove them.

In 1780 an additional waterwheel was built on the north face of the smelter for the purpose of mechanically crushing ore on site. (The wheel was approx 8ft in diameter and 3ft wide)

The smelter workers suffered very ill-health and shorter life spans due to the toxic fumes created from the smelting process. (lead & arsenic fumes)

During its operational life, 1746 to 1845 it is estimated that the total amount of lead smelted at Pate Knowes was approximately 63,000 tonnes.

The larger smelt mill at Meadowfoot finally replaced the smelter.

Scotch Ore Hearths retained their usefulness into the 20th Century.