Skip to content


Mining in Weardale dates back to the 12th century. Both Weardale and Teesdale were centres for lead mining and referred to as the ‘lead-dales’. 

The earliest records of mining in the dales links back to Frosterley marble, a dark and highly fossiliferous metamorphic limestone, When polished it is very attractive. This marble was used as early as the 13th century in Durham Cathedral. 

The mining industry emerged from its medieval phase in the 18th century. During this time two main companies were founded. The London Lead Company being the most significant leasing land from the Alston watershed, Teesdale and later working through most of Weardale too.

During the 19th century Durhams coalfields were leading producers. As many as 500 pits were mined across County Durham.

The coal mines throughout the dales vastly changed the landscape, numerous villages were built turning into market towns and bringing life to areas that had never been really lived in before. 

Killhope wheel proved to be a huge leap froward in how mines worked. Built in 1878 by the Blackett- Beaumont Company, the use of water to lift ore from within the mine was groundbreaking.

Of the six mines in Weardale, the discovery of the Boltsburn (Rookhope) vein at the turn of the century was the most succesful. The discovery of this mine ensured that exploitation of the mineral continued to be just about profitable until the early 1930s.

At the beginning of the 19th century the county was producing no more than 2,000,000 tons; in 1913, its peak year, output reached 41 ,500,000 tons. Over the same period the number of miners rose from fewer than 10,000 to 165,000. Statistic from Wilcuma.