High up in Weardale, County Durham you will find Killhope Lead Mining Museum. The Durham Mining Museum website tells us it was owned in the 1880s by W.B. Beaumont and subsequently the Weardale Leading Mining Company Limited from around the 1890s.
The building with the large water-wheel attached is known as the Park Level Mill and was built in the late 1870s, with the action of gravity providing an efficient source of power for the day.
It ceased production around 1910, although it did reopen for a short amount of time in 1916 to support the country’s effort in World War 1. Following this short respite, the mine closed and the site became derelict with the harsh upper Dales weather also taking its toll.
The restoration of the site began in 1980 and year on year the site has been improved ever since. The mineshop and then the washing floor was renovated and reopened to the public. The restoration of the water-wheel was completed in 1991.
During an unauthorised visit in 1974 (boys will be boys) I managed to get up close to the wheel and it is when you are up close, you realise what a fantastic piece of engineering it is.
Film & TV
Catherine Cookson’s “Dinner of Herbs” heavily featured the site at Killhope. The great water wheel and the washing floor appeared in the very first scene.
The official website for Killhope Lead Mining Museum provides details of their opening hours, educational activities, events and mine tours.