Big copper potential for coniston

Published on: 18 Nov 2014

One of the country's most significant copper mines boasting royal backing and a place in Empire building is in line for a major funding boost.
 
Extensive plans to protect and conserve the Coniston workings have passed the first phase of a bid for over £400,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

A development grant of £16,000 has been given to fund detailed actions in the run-up to the full submission and a decision will be announced next summer.

Lake District archaeology and heritage adviser, Eleanor Kingston, said it was a hugely exciting time for everyone who cared about the scheduled monument. Its incredible history includes the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I.

She explained: "The project is a partnership between ourselves, land owners, Ruskin Museum and Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society.

"Not only will this give us a unique chance to preserve an exceptional mining heritage, it also provides opportunities for people to find out more and really get involved."

Spreading across a spectacular 57 hectare site above Coniston Water and below the famed 803m Old Man mountain, the mines have a long legacy.

Chalcopyrite, or fools' gold, extraction dates back 400 years and was a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth. In the 16th century, she introduced German workers and its fortunes flourished.

The mineral was important to emerging industries of a growing Empire. It sheathed ships' hulls as they sailed the seven seas, was used in weaponry, for coinage and by the navy.

Although there were peaks and troughs in the market, Coniston copper continued to be mined until the 1950s.

 Eleanor added: "Despite the magnitude of their industrial importance, they are at risk of continuing decline and dereliction. If successful, our HLF grant will allow us to consolidate, stabilise and conserve a number of key elements.

"We are looking at a programme of practical conservation work, information sharing and encouraging the community and volunteers to help us protect and understand this remarkable place."

Eleanor said partners were hopeful Coniston copper mines and a compelling industrial history could be preserved for future generations.

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