Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum

Between Glas­gow and Carlisle are signs for a lead min­ing muse­um — and it is bril­liant: Wan­lock­head has a great atmos­phere and feels very remote, yet is only a few miles from the motorway.

Our inter­est in lead and how it is mined is because coun­try pot­ters used raw lead as the prime con­stituent of their glazes. When mixed with clay into a cream-like con­sis­ten­cy, pots are dipped into it and then fired. The lead pro­vides the nec­es­sary glass mak­ing qual­i­ties to make a glaze.

The M74 pass­es through moorland

Just off the M74, the moor­land rolls around in lush greens

Hous­es were built in amongst the moors

The Min­ing Muse­um Vis­tor Centre

The Lead Min­ing Muse­um is spread through­out the vil­lage at five dif­fer­ent sites: the vis­i­tor cen­tre, the mine, the min­ers cot­tages, the min­ers library and a place you can prospect for gold.

The vis­i­tor cen­tre is in a build­ing that had been used as a smelter and as a black­smiths. Robert Burns, as the vis­it­ing excise man, had his horse shod here, and paid for it with a poem.

Man­nequins are used to help describe aspects of min­ing life. This scene shows lead ore being melt­ed to extract the lead. The process caus­es poi­so­nous fumes and was the cause of much ill­ness and ear­ly deaths.

Smelt­ing the ore

Min­ers were only paid once a year, based on how much lead they mined. This meant they and their fam­i­lies had to live on cred­it from the com­pa­ny stores, who had a monop­oly — which meant the min­ers got a bad deal.

The head min­er nego­ti­ates a price for his lead

Click on the gallery to see more images from Wan­lock­head, The Muse­um of Lead Mining.

The Museum of Lead Mining photo gallery