Grid Ref : NY 781436
The small village of Nenthead in the North Pennines is England’s highest village at 1500 feet. Nenthead was a major centre for lead and silver mining, and in its time had the most productive lead mine in the country.
The London Lead Company was formed by Quakers in 1704, and the directors, in common with other Quaker industrialists, recognised a moral responsibility to their workforce. They built the first purpose-built industrial village in England and laid the foundations for today’s social welfare system. Complete with free lending libary and compulsory schooling for all children, the village of Nenthead was born.
The benevolent Quakers built, amongst other things, housing, a school, a reading room, public baths and a wash-house for the miners and their families. Nenthead was the first village in the UK to have electric street lighting from excess power generated by the mines. The foresight of the Company, and its caring attitude towards its employees, brought immense prosperity to one of the most remote and inhospitable regions in the country.
The Reading Room was the first free library in England, built by the company in 1833. All company workers were encouraged to read and study, especially technical subjects and chemistry, in order to develop the superior smelting techniques, which were essential if the company was to maintain its reputation for the best quality lead and silver on the market.
St John the Evangelist’s church, by Ignatius Bonomi, was built in 1845, with the site, burial ground and parsonage house presented by the London Lead Company; a post office was built in 1848, and a water supply was provided in 1850.
Falling lead prices and cheap imports caused many families to emigrate to America and Australia in the late nineteen century, and the mines were sold to the Belgian Vielle Montagne Company, who mined for zinc until the early 1940’s. Nenthead Mines finally closed in 1961.
The Nenthead Mines Heritage Centre, officially opened on 15 July 1996 by John Craven, now occupies former mine workshops that have been restored by the North Pennines Heritage Trust. Here you can explore the geology and history in the Heritage Centre, and explore the site through self-guided trails.
Note: January 2013 – North Pennines Heritage Trust is now in administration. A new society has been formed to bring together everyone who is interested in the continuing conservation of the Nenthead Mines site- see : Nenthead Mines Conservation Society
For a lot of mine explorers, Nenthead is a mecca, as hundreds of miles of accessible mines still exist. It features some of the most stunning mines in the country, with several horse whims, and an 80 metre engine shaft in Rampghill.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was already well attended, for Methodism was, and remains, a strong faith in the area, following John Wesley’s visits in 1748 and 1770.
The economy of the village is now based around tourism.
England’s most popular long distance cycle route, the C2C, passes through the village.
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