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Tyne and Wear HER(3349): Chopwell, Bail Hill - Details

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Chopwell, Bail Hill




Metal Production Furnace



Documentary Evidence

Shaft, marked as Old on the 1st edition OS mapping, so out of use by 1856. The name "Bail Hill" also indicates early lead working. A bole, bale, bail or bayle hill was a shallow open-air furnace used when smelting galena. It was a circular pit one or two metres wide, with a sloping base - so molten lead would form, collect and solidify in a pool. Around the edge was a wall with gaps in it to allow the wind to fan the flames. They were built on hills to take advantage of strong wind. Crushed galena was placed on top of wood fuel. The fuel was set alight and as the ore was chemically reduced to lead it was collected in the hollow. Bellows could be used to fan the flames. Bail hills were used in the Medieval period, until they were replaced in the 16th century by smelt furnaces. In the 18th century smelting in cupolas (reverberatory furnace) took place. Remains of bolehills usually comprise a circular burnt area of ground with bits of fuel and Galena in black soil and pieces of slag piled up on one side. The nearest lead orefield to Chopwell is in the North Pennines (Allendale to Baldersdale). The lead was brought along the 'Ledehepes Way', a ridgeway running from Blanchland, through Hedley Fell and Leadgate for export from Blaydon or Swalwell. As early as the 1150s the ridgeway demarcated the northern boundary of Chopwell. There were also bail hills near Winlaton Blanchland, Stanhope, Wolsingham (Baal hill) and Mickleton. In the 1420s lead from Weardale was brought along a road through another Leadgate near modern Consett, to its staiths at Swalwell. By 1510 the Tyne's annual export of lead had reduced to only 30 tons. Rising demand in the reign of Elizabeth, found new sources of lead. From 1567 to 1593, over 100 tons of 'Newcastle lead' came from Mickleton on the Tees. Lead refining at Blaydon and Swalwell is likely to have had a long but intermittent existence. A survey of bridges in 1615 by Durham Justices shows the lead roads. See HER 3320.




<< HER 3349 >> 1st edition Ordnance Survey Map, c.1855, 6 inch scale, Durham, 5; D. Kiernan and Robert van de Noort, 'Bole smelting in Derbyshire' in L. Willies and D. Cranstone (eds.), Boles and Smeltmills (Historical Metallurgy Society, 1992), 19-21; R. F. Tylecote, A History of Metallurgy (2nd edn, Institute of Materials, London 1992), 90 113. ""; Eric Clavering and Alan Rounding, 1995, Early Tyneside Industrialism: The lower Derwent and Blaydon Burn Valleys 1550-1700, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 5, Vol XXIII, page 253; W. Bourn, 1896, History of the Parish of Ryton, pp 171-2; L. Drury, 1987, Leadworks in Weardale 1423-5; VCH Durham II, p 350; CM Fraser, 1987, Accounts of the Chamberlains of Newcastle on Tyne 1508-1511; Durham Record Office D/St/B/2/142-145

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