A unique piece of British lead mining industrial heritage has been painstakingly reassembled at the Dales Countryside Museum (DCM) in Hawes.
The Old Providence Mine ore crusher, rescued from Dowber Gill near Kettlewell in Wharfedale, arrived in bits at the museum three years ago.
A team of a dozen volunteers has spent a total of 870 hours putting it back together. It is the most complete water wheel and double roller ore crusher in the country.
The crusher was one of 860 objects gifted to DCM by the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum in Earby when it closed in 2015.
The project has capped a memorable year for DCM, in which it has celebrated its 40th birthday and undergone significant redevelopment, including the addition of a new textiles gallery.
Volunteer Dave Carlisle, a long-time member of the Earby Mines Research Group which saved the crusher in 1971, said: “We’ve re-constructed it from what looked like a pile of scrap; it had been demolished in a hurry at Earby. It took 18 months just to lay out all the pieces and do the painting and rust proofing to get ready for assembly.
“It feels great to see it up. There are plenty of old water wheels running, but this is the only ore crusher remaining in the Yorkshire Dales. There is nothing like this in the North of England. In Britain it’s unique. It’s just a pity it’s not a whole wheel. By the time it was rescued in the ‘70s, half of it had been taken away for scrap or washed down the beck.”
Restoring the ore crusher has been one part of a National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported project called, “A Rich Seam: Lead Mining and Textile Heritage in the Yorkshire Dales”.
A grant of £90,600 has enabled DCM to re-examine and display the objects received from the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum. It has also helped pay for the new textiles gallery. Lead mining and textile industries once went hand-in-hand in the Dales, with miners often knitting on the way to work to supplement their income. DCM’s collection of knitting sticks, which were often made as love tokens, are now on permanent display.
Other recent improvements at DCM include the introduction of the Firebox café run by local business Stage 1 Cycles, and a major security upgrade to enable it to host pieces from national collections. By the end of October of this financial year (2019/20), the museum had received 14,348 visitors; it means the DCM is on course to exceed last year’s admissions total of 14,863.
DCM Manager Fiona Rosher said: “The gifts from the former Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum, and the stories of the Earby Mines Research Group which came with them, have made our collections even more special. The ore crusher, in particular, is a new local landmark and visitor attraction. We are now able to better highlight the importance of lead mining to the Yorkshire Dales.”
Member Champion for Cultural Heritage at the Park Authority, Julie Martin, said: “Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby opened what was then the Upper Dales Folk Museum in March 1979, taking over the former Hawes station premises. Over the years the museum has gone from strength to strength, in no small part because of the backing of a Friends group, dedicated staff members and volunteers, and people interested in research. There are several interesting and timely projects in the pipeline and I can highly recommend our latest special exhibition, Dairy Days.”