Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæol.

Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society (Volume vol 8 no 1) online

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Vol. VIII., Part I.






FOUNDED 186 6.



y 1885.



The Right Hon. the Lord Muncaster, Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland.
The Right Hon. the Lord Hothfield, Lord Lieutenant of Westmorland.
The Right Rev. the Loro Bishop of Carlisle.

The Rev. Canon Simpson, LL.D., F.S.A., Kirkby Stephen.

James Atkinson, JCsq.

E. B. VV. Balme, Esq

The Earl of Bective, M.P.

W. Browne, Esq.

James Cropper, Esq., M.P.

The Dean of Carlisle.

H. F. Curwen, Esq.

Robt. Ferguson Esq., M.P., F.S.A.

Right Hon. VV. E. Forster, M.P.

Gkurge Howard, Esq., M.P.

VV. Jackson, Esq., F.S.A.

G. J. Johnson, Esq.

Hon. VV. Lowther, M.P.

H. Fletcher Rigge, Esq.

H. P. Senhouse, Esq.

M. VV. Taylor, Esq., M.D., F.S.A.

Hon. Pekcy S. VVyndham, M.P.

"lcciecl gULcrrtbctrg ot (louucil

G. F. Braithwaite, Esq., Kendal.

Rev.VV.S.Calverley, F.S.A., Aspatria

Isaac Cartmell, Esq., Carlisle.

J. A. Cory, Esq., Carlisle.

J. F.Crosthwaite, Esq. ,F. S.A.Keswick

C. J. Ferguson, Esq., F.S.A., Carlisle.

T. F. PAnson, Esq., M.D., Whitehaven
Key. Thomas Lees, F.S.A., Wreay.
W. Nanson, Esq., F.S.A., Carlisle.
C. Wilkinson, Esq., Kendal.
Rev. Canon Weston, Crosby

|EdUo£ :

R. S. Ferguson, Esq., M.A., LL.M., F.S.A., Carlisle.

g8«dtto£§ :
Richard Nelson, Esq., Kendal. | Frank Wilson, Esq., Kendal.

|fca§ut 1 et l :
W. H. Wakefield, Esq., Sedgwick.


Mr. T. WILSON, Aynam Lodge, Kendal.








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Art. I. — The Roman Camp at Low Borrow Bridge. Report
of the Committee appointed Aug. 22, 1883; laid, before the
Society at Alston, July 10th, 1884.

IN the early days of its existence this Society applied to
William Earl of Lonsdale for permission to excavate
in the Roman Camp at Low Borrow Bridge. This was
readily granted, but for some reason or other, nothing was
done, and the matter slumbered, until the camp was visi-
ted by the Society on June 27th, 1883, when a paper by the
editor on "The Roman Camp at Low Borrow Bridge"* was
read, in which the writer pointed out the importance of
the questions that might be solved, if inscribed stones
should be found at Low Borrow Bridge, and of its bearing
on the crux vexata of the 10 th Iter. He further urged upon
the Society the necessity of applying to the present Lord
Lonsdale for renewed permission. An interesting paper
by the Secretary on " The Roman road from Low Borrow
Bridge camp to Kendal over WhinfelT't was also read,
the result of researches made by himself and Mr. Thomas
Long, who possesses an unrivalled knowledge as to the
Roman roads, pack-horse tracks, and drift ways in West-
morland. As the result of the interest thus created, appli-
cation was made to the present Lord Lonsdale, and the
required permission was granted by him no less readily
than by his grand uncle Earl William, the first President
of this Society.

The work was entrusted to a committee of the following
members: the president (Dr. Simpson), the editor (Mr.
Ferguson), the Rev. T. Lees, Dr. Taylor, Mr. W. Nan-

* Transactions, vol. vii., p. 79.
t Ibid, vol. vii., p. 90.






son, and the Secretary. Arrangements were easily made
with Mr. Day, the courteous tenant of the land, but owing
to a sheep fair annually held in the camp, operations
could not be commenced until the month of October, an
unfortunate delay, as the setting in of wintry and stormy
weather proved. The first meeting of the excavation
committee was held at the camp on Tuesday, October 2nd,
when arrangements for the work and for its supervision
were made, and stakes placed for the guidance of the
excavators. Work was commenced on Friday of the same
week, and was continued until the end of November, two
labourers being employed. The committee regret that they
were not able to so constantly supervise the work, as they
would have wished, but the distance members had to tra-
vel, the inconvenience of the train service, and the inclem-
ency of the weather were much against a constant or
regular attendance.

Before giving the results of their work, the committee
would remind the Society that attention was first drawn to
this camp by the late Mr. John Just in a paper on " the 10 th
Iter of Antoninus" read before the British Archaeological
Association in 1852.*

Mr. Just's account of this station is printed in these
Transactions, vol. vii. pp. So, 81, and need not again be

That account may be supplemented by the following
memorandum, taken from some unpublished papers of Mr.
Just, which were kindly placed in Canon Ware's hand for

When 1 visited the place in the spring of 1827 the occupier of the
land had commenced his work of modernising the ramparts. This
offered a complete section of the remains, and shewed the process
the Romans take in raising their walls. The foundation was secured
by flags and the interior strongly cemented with lime run in among
the interstices in a semi-fluid state. The lime had been burned

* British Archaeological Journal, vol. viii., pp. 35, 40-43.




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with wood, as many pieces of charcoal were blended with it. The
sites of the Praetorian and Decuman gates were very visible, as well
as those through which the vicinal ways had entered. Since that
time I understand a whole side has been cleared ; the foundation of a
gate discovered, and some remains found within the iuterior of the

The committee are much disappointed at the result of
their excavations : they had hoped to have found inscribed
stones or tiles, which might throw light on the name of the
camp, and so help to elucidate the io th Iter. The results
in that direction have been nil.

Some trenches were dug in the interior of the camp,
which is known to have been frequently under the plough.
The soil proved to be impregnated with charcoal, bits of
coarse pottery, tile, and soot, and the plough seems to have
mashed up pavements and hypocausts in nihilum. The
depth to the undisturbed clay from the surface was very
little, and the plough seems to have torn through what
remains may have existed. Search in the interior was
therefore for the present abandoned, as it seemed likely to
destroy more pasture than was financially prudent, and to
promise little in the way of inscribed stones, towards which
our quest was mainly directed.

The eastern rampart was next attacked ; trenches were
driven from the exterior, through the fallen rubbish, to the
face of the wall. This was built on a foundation of large
rough slabs of Silurian slate from the adjoining fells, laid
in clay and projecting as a footing course beyond the wall.
The wall was of the same local stone, very little dressed, if
at all. In the centre of this side, where the gateway (the
Decuman gateway of Mr. Just) should be, the upper and
lower pivot stones of a gate were found lying about.
But the jambs, lintels, and thresholds of the gateway have
disappeared down to the very course of footing stones which
alone remain, laid in clay. Fragments of freestone, which
must have been brought from a distance were frequent.
The dearth of freestone in the neighbourhood has been the



motive which led to the total destruction of this gate, whose
lintels, jambs, and thresholds were (as proved by the west-
ern gate) of dressed freestone. This gate seems to have
been double, and some of us were of opinion that the
northern entrance had been closed by a wall of stone at a
later period. If the foundation stones are all in situ, the
gateway must have projected externally beyond the line of
the wall, but, so complete has the destruction been, that it
is impossible to be certain about this or anything else.

Trenches were dug across the southern rampart in vari-
ous places ; it proved to have been completely cleared away
throughout its whole length down to the footing stones.
This, we were told, was done in living memory, in 1826 or
1827; by aid of Mr. Just's memorandum which we have
cited above, we fix the date as 1827.

The western rampart was similarly attacked, and the
western or Praetorian gate was found : here some of the
freestone of the gateway, showing the diamond broaching
was found in situ, and we were able to ascertain that the
width of the entrance was six feet three inches, but it is
possible the gateway was double ; this could not be ascer-
tained, the wall having been here extensively spoiled during
the making of the London and North Western railway to
provide materials for a now ruined cottage, standing on the

Nothing was attempted with regard to the north rampart,
except that a trench was dug through the fallen rubbish to
the face of the wall : a hedgerow and trees interposed diffi-
culties, as also did the weather, the winter snow having

We dug in the inn garden south of the camp, where the
spade struck on something hard ; this garden had long been
supposed to be the site of the cemetery, but the walls of a
building were found, and also a pavement of bright red
concrete (pounded brick) with a raised border round it.
This pavement measured six feet in width, and its length



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was ten feet seven inches : a hypocaust seemed to exist
under it, but we hurriedly closed our excavations here for
fear of the pavement being broken up by frost.

The grouting of the bridge across the Borrow still remains,
hard and firm, but a coating of lichen has covered it, and it
is difficult to distinguish from the living rock to which it
is attached.

Nothing has been found to throw any light upon the io ,h
Iter : the tough intractable Silurian slate of the neighbour-
ing fells does not readily lend itself to the mason's chisel,
and the freestone must have been brought a toilsome
journey, from Shap Fells, or Orton Low Moor, five and six
miles off respectively. This local scarcity of freestone has
led to its being carried away for building purposes, and, if
inscribed stones exist at Low Borrow Bridge, they are pro-
bably in the walls of the inn or of its outbuildings, or of the
buildings north of the Borrow. The roofing material used
in the camp seems to have been slate, not tile, and the hope
of finding lettered tiles thus becomes very small. We
found no coins : no tesselated pavements : very little pot-
tery : no miscellaneous relics : the camp has no suburbs :
the walls shew repairs of various styles. Two coins have
since been found in earth we turned up, but have not been
submitted to us : we can only hear of three others ever
having been found. All these facts indicate that the camp
has been occupied at different times, but never for very
long. Except in summer it is a bleak, cold, and dreary
spot ; no Roman would live there who could possibly get
away ; it would only be garrisoned in troublous times, and
so long only as necessity dictated.

A careful plan of the camp, shewing the places where we
dug has been prepared by Mr. A. Hoggarth, Land Sur-
veyor, of Kendal, under the supervision of our Secretary :
we are indebted to Canon Weston for drawings, which we
submit to the Society : to Canon Ware for Mr. Just's



papers, and to the Rev. Thomas Lees and Mr. A. Barnes-
Moss for assistance in superintending the work. Much
annoyance was caused by the appearance in several pa-
pers and in the "Antiquary " Magazine for January of an
unauthorised report of our proceedings, containing many
erroneous statements : by the courtesy of the editor of the
Antiquary a corrected account by the editor of our Tran-
sactions appeared in the Antiquary for February.


Art II. — Alston. By the Rev. W. Nall, M.A.
Read at that place, July 10th, 1884.

THE wealth which in bygone days made the town of
Alston and the adjacent villages of Nenthead and Gar-
rigill was mainly derived from lead mines. The district
of Alston Moor is traversed from east to west, and from
north to south by a number of mineral veins, which in their
original state, that is before the discovery of them by civil-
ised man, contained rich deposits of lead ore. The ex-
traction of this ore from the veins by digging and blasting,
the separation of it from worthless matter by washing,
and the reduction of it to the metallic state by smelting
and refining, constitute the industry called lead-mining,
probably the most ancient, certainly the most important
industry in Alston Moor. It must not, however, be sup-
posed that all these processes were in operation in very
early times. There would be no need for blasting when
a supply of lead ore sufficient to meet the demand could
be obtained from the beds of the Tyne and its tributary
streams; and there could be no means for refining in a
smelting furnace which consisted of a pile of stones and a
log fire. Among the ancient customs of Alston Moor there
was one, mentioned by Mr. Westgarth Forster in his
chapter on the " Discovery of Mines," which throws some
light on the early history of lead-mining. It was called
the custom of shoading, from the circumstance that at suit-
able times in the year the miners went a-shoading, that is,
went in search of shoad. Lead ores were then classified
by miners as float ore and shoad ore, or float and shoad,
the float consisting of pieces which were much water
worn, the shoad of pieces slightly, or not at all worn,
though discoloured by exposure to the air. The discovery
of shoad was regarded as an indication of the existence of
a mineral vein in the neighbourhood, its angular condition



being; regarded as a proof that it had not long been ex-
posed to the action of air and water. We learn also from
Forster that the primitive smelting furnace consisted of a
"pile of stones erected on the western brow of some hill,"
and that the fuel for the fire was obtained from the neigh-
bouring forest, the hill, upon which' this rude kind of
furnace was built, being known as the Bole or Bayle Hill,
and the place where the fuel was obtained being called the
" Hag Hill or Hag bank." Here we trace the origin of the
Bayles, and Bayle hills of Cumberland, Northumberland,
Durham, and Derbyshire, and the Hags and Hag banks of
Alston Moor. The forests, which once covered the sides
of the Northern Pennines, have completely disappeared,
but their names still survive. In Alston Moor we hear of
Gilderdale forest, in Teesdale we hear of the forest of Tees-
dale, and in Weardale of the forest of Weardale. When
peat was extensively used as fuel the remains of those
ancient forests were frequently dug up at the peat castings.
We infer from the passages just cited from Westgarth
Forster that in ancient times lead mining in this district
at least, consisted of two very simple operations — the pick-
ing, to use a mining expression — of pieces of float and
shoad out of the beds of the streams, and the smelting
of the ore in an ordinary wood fire. The first lead mine
took the form of a shallow pit, or trench, in a bed of gravel,
if the term mine can be applied to such a work.

When the deposits of float and shoad were somewhat
exhausted the workmen extended their operations to the
banks of the streams and the slopes of the hills. They
sank deeper pits and cut longer trenches, partly with the
view of finding more shoad, partly for the purpose of dis-
covering mineral veins. Thus stage by stage, as time
proceeded, lead mining became an important industry.
The shallow pit, put down in the first instance for the
purpose of exploring the gravel and clay, was afterwards
enlarged and sunk deeper for the purpose of trying the


Alston. Q

veins in the stratified rocks. To this larger and deeper
pit the term shaft was applied. The trench was pushed
forward into the sides of the hills in a soft stratum of shale,
if one was available, otherwise in a stratum of sandstone
or limestone. To that portion of the trench which was
driven underneath the hill the term level was applied.
Before the invention of gunpowder, and the application of
it to the purpose of blasting, the rocks were split asunder
by the process of stouping. A shallow hole having been
drilled in a stratum of rock a wooden wedge was first driven
tightly into it with a heavy hammer. A wedge of steel
was then driven into the wood. This simple method of
rending the rocks was not invented by lead miners. It was
in use three thousand years ago in Syria and Egypt, and
at a later period in Greece and Italy. The material thus
rent from the rocks by the mell and the wedge was next
brought to the surface. From the bottom of the shaft it
was raised by means of the windlass and kibble ; from the
forehead of the level it was conveyed to the day by means
of a wooden railroad. The motive power in both cases
was supplied by the workmen. During the last century the
whimsey or great shaft was constructed, and having been
fitted with a suitable windlass the horse took the place of
man at the handle. In recent times the hydraulic engine,
the invention of Sir William Armstrong, and the steam
engine, have been substituted for the old windlass.

Great improvements have also been made in the level.
It has also been enlarged, and, in some mines, pushed for-
ward to a great distance. Iron rails and iron waggons
have taken the places of the old wooden rails and waggons,
and the horse has been trained to travel underground by
the feeble light of a dip. The climax with respect to levels
was reached in Alston Moor with the construction of the
one called the Nent Force Level. This truly gigantic work
was designed by the celebrated Smeaton, the engineer of the
Eddystone Lighthouse, and was carried out by the Com-

id; ruva


missioners of the Greenwich Hospital at a cost of £90,000.
It is nine feet high by nine in width, and is nearly five
miles in length. It is not the longest level in the north of
England, the Blackett Level in East Allendale exceeding
it by two miles. It was intended to serve the double pur-
pose of a drain for the Nenthead mines and of a trial, as
the miners would say, for discovering lead ore deposits.
All other levels have some ascent, the larger portion of
this at Nent Force has none. It is perfectly true, dead the
miners would say, for a distance of three miles. Yet the
geologist would say that it gains 240 feet in depth in this
distance, since its mouth is immediately underneath the
Scar Limestone (not the Great Scar Limestone, be it ob-
served) whilst its forehead at Nentsberry Hags, three miles
up the dale, is in the Tynebottom Plate. This immense
fall is due to two causes — the rise in the strata and the
throw of the several mineral veins which are traversed by
it. Among these mineral veins is the famous Hudgill
Burn vein, which at one time yielded an immense quan-
tity of lead ore, and suddenly enriched all who had an
interest in it. The ore was not found at the random, that
is to say, at the same depth as the level, but much nearer
the surface. There are no rails in the Nent Force Level,
but there is, instead, four feet of water. The workmen
who made it sailed in and out, taking in with them tools
and other mining requisites, and bringing back the ma-
terial which they had managed to dig out of the forehead.
This level is an object of interest to geologists and miners,
and of curiosity to tourists.

The largest shaft in Alston Moor is the one on Middle
Fell, between the villages of Nenthead and Garrigill, which
is said to measure 100 fathoms, or 200 yards in perpendi-
cular depth.

This preliminary sketch of the origin and growth of
lead-mining is necessary to the right understanding of the
brief history of the industry which I now propose to give.



Lead mining, in the form of shoading, was probably
carried on for many centuries before the opening of any of
our existing mines. The circumstances now to be referred
to, though not of themselves conclusive on the point, yet
go a long way towards proving that the Romans carried
on lead mining during their long stay in this district.
They were skilful miners, and well able, if they had thought
it expedient, to have executed any kind of mining work,
whether it were the driving of a level, or the sinking of a

The military works executed by them in this country
sufficiently attest their skill in the art of excavation. Did
they apply that skill to the discovery of lead-ore ? They
seem to have done so in some parts of England, for we have
in the British Museum pigs of lead stamped with the names
of the Emperors Hadrian and Domitian. Is there then
any probability that they mined in Alston Moor? We
think there is. We think it highly improbable either that
they should have overlooked or neglected the mineral
wealth of a district in which they occupied such a station
as the one at Whitley, and to which they had so splendid
a road as the Maiden Way. A local writer thought it
highly probable that the Maiden Way was made partly,
at least, with the view of protecting the mines and of trans-
porting the ores.

When we consider the extent of the ruins at Whitley,
which cover nine acres — the character of the remains found
there, among which are portions of a Roman sudatory, or
bath house, Roman altars, pieces of statuary, pottery,
querns, or hand mills, but especially fragments of leaden
pipe, pieces of calcareous and fluor spar, and of lead ore ;
and, when we further consider that the Maiden Way is not
a mere bridle-path, but a broad road, paved to the depth
of three feet with large blocks of stone, and that in its
course from the Roman station at Kirkbythore, in Westmor-
land, to that at Caervorran, in the parish of Haltwhistle, it



crosses the bearings of several mineral veins, we feel dis-
posed to indorse the opinion of our local writers, Mr. W.
Bainbridge and Mr. Thos. Sopwith, that the Romans pro-
bably worked this mining field. If such were the case
they would naturally endeavour to protect the miners, and
they could do that most effectually by placing a cohort at
Whitley, in the large British camp they found existing
there, with outposts at Hall Hill and Tynehead. Whether
or not the Romans were acquainted with the Virgula
Divina, or magic rod, which at one time was supposed to
possess the power of discovering the presence of metalli-
ferous ores in the earth, we do not know.

The Romans finally withdrew from Britain about the
year 425 a.d. Hodgson, the historian of Northumberland,
fixes upon this year as the date of their withdrawal from
this district. The long period which intervenes between
their withdrawal and the reign of Henry I., is, as respects
Alston Moor, almost a blank. Towards the latter end of
this reign, we emerge from the period of legend and fable,
and enter upon the real, though very fragmentary history
of Alston Moor. The earliest piece of authentic informa-
tion which we have is contained in the Pipe Roll of 31 st
Henry I., 1130-1. It is an account of certain moneys which
were due to the King from the burgesses of Carlisle, in
respect of a certain mine, called Carlisle Silver Mine,
which was held by them from the King, under lease.
Subsequent accounts enable us to identify the so-called
silver mine of Carlisle with the lead-mines of Alston.
Though these mines are really lead-mines, yet, it is a fact
that they yield a small quantity of silver. The ore con-
tains silver in combination with the lead, in the proportion
of about ten ounces of silver to one ton of lead. Hodgson
informs us that the Northumberland Pipe Roll for 1226
contains a charge of £2,154 f° r tn e old rent of the silver
mine at Carlisle, and this charge is carried forward annually

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