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Mining and engineering enthusiasts sought to help restore Lake District mine machinery

Blacksmith Dave Perks working on the machinery at Force Crag Mine during the visit of the Conservation Award judges in 2005. Credit National Trust / Penny Webb
Blacksmith Dave Perks working on the machinery at Force Crag Mine during the visit of the Conservation Award judges in 2005. Credit National Trust / Penny Webb

[T]he National Trust is seeking mining and engineering enthusiasts to join one of the country’s leading machinery conservation experts, Tim Martin, to care for the machines at Force Crag Mine, in the Coledale Valley, near Keswick this September.

Force Crag Mine was the last working metalliferous ore mine in the Lake District, only ceasing production in 1992. The processing mill was where the crushed ore, mined from beneath Grizedale Pike, was turned into powdered barytes and zinc, used in the manufacture of glass and ceramics.

Tim Martin of Context Engineering led the original work that took place in 2004 to preserve the machinery in the processing mill, winning a prestigious British Conservation Award for the work and earning praise from the Award’s judges for the company’s well-researched and meticulous approach. Volunteers who join Tim on the five day project from 12th September 2016 will work alongside him in cleaning, repairing and treating the machinery with a mixture of oil and wax to help protect against the rusting process.

“Force Crag Mine is the most fantastic location to work in, nestled under the crag and looking down Coledale to Braithwaite. It will be great to be back 11 years on, working with volunteers to ensure the mine’s processing machinery is cleaned and preserved for the future. It’s the sort of volunteering opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. No special skills are necessary – just a willingness to get involved and get your hands dirty!” says Tim.

Caroline Cotgrove, conservator for the National Trust said “the fascinating thing about my job is it involves conserving a diverse range of collections – from fragile silk furnishings and oil paintings, to rock-crushing machinery at a Lake District mining site. This is a unique opportunity for volunteers to get involved in the behind-the-scenes work and find out more about the techniques involved in caring for a really special and significant collection”.

When Force Crag Mine closed, some of the underground machinery was taken away to work on other projects elsewhere. Really excitingly, an ‘Eimco Rocker Shovel Loader’ (used in the mine tunnel to load the blasted rock into tubs that transported the material from underground to the surface) has been donated to the National Trust by the family of one of the last people to work Force Crag Mine before it closed. The loader has undergone some conservation work in Wales and is now returning to Force Crag Mine for the first time since 1992.

Penny Webb, Countryside Manager for the National Trust North Lakes team said “We’re really excited that the loader is finally  coming back to Force Crag Mine. It represents the missing link between the underground work at the mine and the work carried out in the processing mill to extract the minerals from the native rock dug out of the hillside.”

Anyone interested in helping out with the machinery conservation project can sign up via www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteer

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