Killhope Lead Mining Museum

The North Of England Lead Mining Museum


Useful Information

Location: Cowshill, Bishop Auckland DL13 1AR.
Leave M6 at junction 40 and follow the A686 to Alston. Turn right on A689, on the right-hand side of the road between Alston and Stanhope.
(54.782749, -2.272558)
Open: APR to OCT daily 10-16:30, last entry 15:30.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: MineLead Mine SubterraneaMining Museum former 19th Century ore dressing mill.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: Underground tour: D=1 h, MinAge=4.
Traditional mine visit: D=3.5 h, MinAge=4.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Killhope, The North of England Lead Mining Museum, Cowshill, Upper Weardale, County Durham DL13 1AR, Tel: +44-1388-537505, Fax: +44-1388-537617. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1818 mining in the area controlled by W B Lead Co.
1853 mining at Park Level Mine started by W B Lead Co.
late 1870s Park Level Mill built to crush ore and seperate it from waste material.
1910 mine closed.
1980 Killhope Wheel facing demolition.
1984 museum opened to the public.
1996 Park Level Mine opened to the public.

Geology

Lead ore in the North Pennines occurs in mineralised veins within Carboniferous rocks. Park Level Mine intersected 11 mineral veins.

Description

The Centre has been developed on the site of a large 19th century ore dressing mill. The most imposing feature is the 10 metre diameter overshot waterwheel which once operated machinery in the mill building. Other buildings contain displays on the working conditions of the ore dressers, and there is an adit, Park Level, which can be visited. Underground there is another working waterwheel used to demonstrate how water was pumped out of the deeper mine workings. A reconstructed dressing floor contains working examples of hand operated ore-dressing machinery. Staff on the site are trained in disability awareness and whenever possible are available to assist. The Visitor Centre contains exhibits, a cafe and a well stocked gift shop. There is ample free parking.

You are only an hour from Tyneside, Teesdale and the Lakes. Whichever way you come, the Pennine scenery is wonderful.

Come dressed for adventure! Pennine lead miners were hardy folk. Killhope is 450 meters above sea level. Warm, waterproof clothing and sensible footwear are recommended. For the mine trip bring your wellies or borrow them at the mine.


Text by Tony Oldham (2001). With kind permission.

They actually call it just Killhope, but it seems the name Killhope Lead Mining Museum is easier to understand by tourists and thus preferred by tourist offices and guide books. It contains the unique name and explains what it is at the same time. The North of England Lead Mining Museum seems a bit too highfalutin to really be used. That's why we recently changed the name on showcaves.com to Killhope Lead Mining Museum. There was actually no name change of the site. But one thing changed definitely, the site is now free.

The regular visit is a self-guided tour of the mining museum. It does not include the underground tour. There are also guided underground tours which take about an hour. The so-called Traditional mine visit is guided and takes 3.5 hours. It includes the underground mine trip, the washing floor, the mine shop, the mine agent’s office, the lodging shop, and the blacksmith’s workshop. It also includes a 30-minute break for lunch. Afterwards it's possible to visit the museum with the mineral exhibitions, spar boxes and the Life as a miner exhibition. The tour is only four groups after appointment.

One of the highlights of the mining museum is the Killhope Wheel, which was restored to working order. The 10-metre-diameter metal waterwheel was constructed by the Tyneside firm of William Armstrong. This was not the only, but the largest, and the only one which survived the decades when the mine was abandoned. The Killhope Wheel was facing demolition, the Durham County Council took over the site in 1980 and began restoration. The mineshop was completed first and opened to the public in May 1984. The Killhope Wheel was restored to working order in 1991. The underground mine tour was opened to the public in 1996.

A weird quirk is, that the underground mine is actually artificial. Park Level was found to be generally in sound condition and the first 100 m are used as an access route. But the vein workings were badly collapsed and unsafe. Finally, a chamber was excavated from the surface, and the rock surfaces are fibreglass casts from Killhope and from other mines in the Nenthead district. They are quite good, and it is not possible to see any difference, but this is actually a mine replica.