National Lottery casts future for historic copper mine

Published on: 24 May 2016

The future of two of the country’s most significant historic copper mines in Coniston, Cumbria, is secure, thanks to a £450,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Reaching back over 400 years, Coniston Copper Mines and Penny Rigg Mill sites spread across 57 hectares in the south west of the Lake District National Park, below Coniston Old Man. The project will take place over the next two years, with work beginning on site in June. It will focus on conserving over 150 items of repair, stabilisation and reconstruction across ten different structures at the two sites.

Without this project this important heritage is at risk.  At its peak in the 19th century, Coppermines Valley employed around 600 people, employed in the extraction, preparation and transportation of copper ore, however the underground mines in the valley date back to the 16th century.

There will be training and volunteering opportunities for people to get involved, including conservation and archaeological survey work. The information will then be shared for the benefit of local community and visitors, providing a new insight into the rich mining history of the south Lakes. We will be surveying Penny Rigg Mill in the summer – if anyone would like to get involved email or telephone 01539 724555

The project is a partnership between Lake District National Park, land owners, Ruskin Museum, YHA Coniston, Grizedale Arts and Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society.

Lake District Strategy and Partnership adviser, Eleanor Kingston, said: “This is fantastic news, not only to preserve the mining history, but also for the Coniston community. It’s a real opportunity for local people to get involved, connect with their heritage and contribute towards the future of this special site.

Sara Hilton, Head of HLF North West, said: “Copper mining is indelibly linked to the heritage and landscape of Coniston. Tens of thousands of people visit every year yet few will be aware of the role the area played in the industrialisation of Britain. It was clear to us therefore that investing National Lottery money could make a real difference in preserving what’s left and ensuring this important history is shared much more widely.”   

History of mining in Coniston

Copper extraction dates back 400 years and was a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. 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.

More information and opportunities for volunteering can be found at:

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