Blacton Smelt Mill, Teesdale

Of lambs and lead mines

The nineteenth century was a boom time for the sleepy villages and farmhouses of the North Pennines. High quality lead had been mined in the area for centuries, but the introduction of new technology harnessing the power of water and steam meant production could be stepped up. For a few decades in the 1800s, hundreds of people flocked from other parts of the country to be part of Blanchland and Hunstanworth's lead mining success story.

Hill farmers have also made a living from the moorlands surrounding the villages for hundreds of years, grazing their hardy flocks on the rugged hilltops and improved pastures in the valleys. Usually, lead mining families combined work in the mines with grazing livestock on an allotment, creating landscapes of small cottages dotted on the hillsides with field strips attached to them.

These pages describe aspects of the industries that shaped the area and dominated the lives of its people.