Muker – NY 879016

Keldside mill, at the head of Swaledale, has been dated to between 1835 and 1839. When Henry Jackson & Company leased the Lane End, Keldside and Little Moor Foot mines, in 1829, one of the covenants of the lease was that a mill would be built when there was enough ore to yield six marks (31.4 tons) of lead. Because the industry was entering a massive slump, however, no lead was made until August 1835.54 The former date can be proposed with some confidence because there is nothing to suggest that the ore was smelted elsewhere. The mill was working in 1859, but it is generally held to have been closed around 1868, when the Kisdon Mining Company gave up the Sir George Level. The latter company produced very little ore, however, and if the mill was used, it was only sporadically. Interestingly, in 1882, the Mining Journal published a list of smelting companies which included the Swaledale Lead Company, at West Swaledale. This would have been at Keldside but nothing is known of the venture.

Dr Raistrick rightly pointed out that, by comparison to many Dales mills, Keldside mill had a short life (about 24 years) but his statement that it “cannot be regarded as being very successful” is potentially misleading because it really applies to the mines. We simply do not have the data to assess the mill’s efficiency.

This site was surveyed by Ed Dennison Archæological Services for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in July 1996. Further archival work has shown that Lonsdale Bradley’s West Swaledale Mines, which included Keld Side Mill, were closed towards the end of 1861. By May 1865, Bradley was negotiating the sale of machinery on the mines and at the mill to Sir George Denys, but a price could not be agreed until early 1868.

At that time, Sir George was the managing director of companies running the Kisdon and the Blakethwaite/Lownathwaite Mines, which were succeeded by the AD Lead Mining Company Ltd in 1873. These ventures smelted their ore at Blakethwaite Mill and there is no evidence of their using Keld Side. This makes it possible to refine the likely closure date of the latter mill from 1868 to the end of 1861 or early 1862.

The Mineral Lords kept the building in repair until the roofing slates and timber were sold by auction on November 4th 1897. As Dennison noted: “The conversion of the smelt mill to agricultural use appears to have led to the loss of much of the original fabric”.

One direction for future research is in the area to the north of Keld Side smelt mill, between the B6270 road and Birkdale Beck. This area is called “Stamp Mill Green” on an 1824 map, but no buildings are shown, suggesting that any such mill would date from the time of the Company of Mine Adventurers of England, around 1730 to 1757. Ore from this area was then smelted at the company’s Spout Gill Mill.

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