Coniston Copper Mines

Coniston Copper Mines

An ancient industrial site in the shadow of the Old Man of Coniston could be in line for a cash boost to conserve it.

A project to protect Coniston Copper Mines has passed the first hurdle in its bid for a £400,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The now-derelict workings, which can trace their origin back to Elizabethan times, were one of the most significant copper mines in the country. The decaying remains of the mine workings, which are passed by thousands of walkers and climbers heading for the nearby 803m (2,635ft) mountain, were last used in the 1950s.

A development grant of £16,000 has been given to fund detailed actions in the run-up to the full submission and a decision will be announced next summer.

Lake District archaeology and heritage adviser Eleanor Kingston said it was a hugely exciting time for everyone who cared about the scheduled monument. Its history includes the patronage of Elizabeth I.

Ms Kingston said: “The project is a partnership between ourselves, land owners, Ruskin Museum and Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society.

“Not only will this give us a unique chance to preserve an exceptional mining heritage, it also provides opportunities for people to find out more and really get involved.”

Spreading across a spectacular 57 hectare site above Coniston Water and below the famed 803m Old Man mountain, the mines have a long legacy.

Extraction of Chalcopyrite, or fools’ gold, extraction dates back 400 years on the 57ha (141-acre) site and was a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth. In the 16th century, she introduced German workers and its fortunes flourished.

Walkers pass the youth hostel in Coppermines Valley, with the Old Man in the distance

Walkers pass the youth hostel in Coppermines Valley, with the Old Man in the distance

The mineral was important to emerging industries of a growing Empire. It sheathed ships’ hulls as they sailed the seven seas, was used in weaponry, for coinage and by the navy.

Ms Kingston said: “Despite the magnitude of their industrial importance, they are at risk of continuing decline and dereliction. If successful, our HLF grant will allow us to consolidate, stabilise and conserve a number of key elements.

“We are looking at a programme of practical conservation work, information sharing and encouraging the community and volunteers to help us protect and understand this remarkable place.”

She said partners were hopeful Coniston copper mines and a compelling industrial history could be preserved for future generations.

A first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for lottery money.

The Coniston Copper Mines application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.