Peak District Mines Historical Society
Promoting and preserving mining heritage
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David Kiernan's Views on the Lodge Moor Bole Site from Newsletter 158

Site 1: South Bole: SK 2362 8850; North Bole: SK 2363 8863
On the crest of a ridge about 400m above sea level there is a large area of stone debris, some of which bears the appearance of having been burned.  The site is just outside the corner of a wire fence that, according to the land owner, has in recent years been erected around the plateau summit of the moor by Natural England as a protection from over-grazing.  Above the disturbed area two distinct oval-shaped features can be identified.  Both are roughly eight metres along the NW/SE axis and seven metres on the NE/SW axis.  Both also face south west, catching the strong prevailing winds which funnel up Ladybower Brook and across the Moscar plateau.  A clear boundary of contamination has limited the growth of vegetation within the two ovals, but only a few pieces of white bole slag remain.  The small quantities of visible smelting refuse, the flattened nature of the sites and the stone debris on the hillside below them suggest that the boles have been cleared of slag and surface structures.  The centres of the two boles are roughly thirty metres apart.  Their approximate location and that of the other two sites is shown in the modified aerial photograph shown below.  There are two surface features which might possibly be identified as casting areas.  The first, at SK 2363 8858, is about seven metres SW of the south bole.  There is a small hollowed square of debris where fragments of small, light slag are present in the soil.  The second is a raised sandy mound about seven metres to the NW of the north bole.  A narrow path (possibly caused by sheep, but fairly straight) can be traced through the vegetation diagonally down the hill for about 60 metres to Site 2.

Site 1. The South Bole - Photo: David Kiernan

Site 2: SK 2360 8867

This site was provisionally identified as a smelting site by John Barnatt.  It lies about 65 metres down the slope to the NW of the boles on the edge of a shallow valley created by a dry stream bed which, in wet weather, drains from the moor above.  John has described this feature in his earlier article.  My interpretation of the site, however, is different. I suggest that the heap borders on a washing area for slag left over from the bole firings on Site 1.  Large white slag found at the southern end of the feature certainly looks like bole slag.  A number of contemporary records refer to the washing places at the boles where slag had to be cleaned before it could be re-smelted. Later, perhaps, the site may have served as a slag collection point after the boles at Site 1 and slag ovens at Site 3 were broken up, possibly at a much later date, for re-smelting in a water-powered slag mill. Entries in the Holmesfield Manor Court Rolls suggest that such bole debris reclamation was carried out in the mid-18th century. 

Aerial view of the lead smelting sites on Lodge Moor

There is also a record of a bole being broken up in the sixteenth century; the remains were not worth much then, but later smelting processes were likely to have been more effective.  The variety of slag – in size, structure and colour - found at the site may provide some clue to its function. According to the landowner, the stream does flow in the winter, though it is clearly overgrown.  It may have been more active before the moors were drained in the 19th century for grouse shooting. Up from the slag heap the watercourse appears to have been disturbed, perhaps to provide a steeper gradient for wash troughs, though the evidence for this is by no means clear. The dry ditch carries on up the hill for a considerable distance in a faint but obvious course under the wire fence and onto the moor plateau.  This location is far more sheltered from the wind than the other two sites and I doubt that it could have been used for primary smelting.  It is also is very close to an old cart road which curves around the west edge of the moor and leads to Long Lane, the original road from Sheffield to the Derwent Valley.  This track, however, may have been built much later as it leads up the hill to the north east to the ruins of Bamford Lodge which was erected c.1810 (see below).

Site 3: Smelting Ovens at SK 2366 8870, SK 2367 8870, SK 2366 8871
As most large bole complexes seemed to have included small slag smelting furnaces – known by contemporaries as smelting ovens – on our second visit to the site my son Tom and I checked further north along the ridge where we found a small area of debris about 50 metres NE of the Site 2.  A few pieces of light slag were located in this area.  Above the debris, just below the ridge top, we found three slightly raised circular mounds surrounded by stones. Again a few small pieces of slag were evident.  The three features were situated within a few metres of each other and at roughly the same elevation as the boles (404-406 metres).  Smelting ovens were described in sixteenth-century sources as roughmade stone furnaces which used charcoal as fuel. No remains of charcoal have yet been discovered in the vicinity.  Although the ovens were closed furnaces that were blown by hand-powered bellows, they would have been constructed on a site with sufficient natural draft to clear the fumes away from the operatives who were known as smelters or smilters; the bole operatives were called brenners (i.e. burners.).  Slag smelting in the bole period (c.1100 – c.1580) was a small-scale affair.  Only a limited proportion of the bole slag could be re-smelted; the lead produced was regarded as inferior to bole lead and was worth considerably less in the London markets.

Site 3, one of the smelting ovens.  Photo: David Kiernan

Within the photograph shown above the area of the large slag heap is the clearest feature.  The line of the former stream and the disturbance to its course above theslag heap is also visible.  The line of the track running diagonally to the west of the heap is quite clearly shown. The sites of the boles and smelting ovens do not stand out at this distance, but the faint track from the slag heap up the hill to a possible casting area can just be discerned and the sandy mound of this feature appears as a white spot.  I have drawn in the sites of the boles and smelting ovens but their positioning is approximate.  What is most apparent from the photograph is the relationship of the three sites which I would regard as typical of a latemedieval bole complex.  The smelting process required a south-west facing hillside above 300 metres, a supply of water for slag washing, access to nearby woodland for fuel and, ideally, proximity to a transport route for the supply of ore from the mines to the south west and the despatch of large pieces of smelted lead to the markets in the east.

My interpretation of the area as outlined above is based on several visits and a visual examination of the existing features.  Further survey work and soil sampling may well alter this view, but it is my opinion that lead was smelted here primarily using wind rather than water power.  The smelting complex consisted of two boles, a washing area and slag ovens. It is the most northerly Peak District bole yet discovered and, more importantly, one of the least disturbed that I have visited; a full archaeological survey of the area would add greatly to our knowledge of medieval lead smelting in the Peak District.

On my second visit my colleague Ray Battye and I had a long conversation with the landowner Mr Stephen White and his father who run Moscar Cross Farm.  They were very interested to discover that the areas of disturbance that they had known about for many years were linked to lead smelting.  Mr White told me that the hillside where the boles are sited had been identified by Natural England as areas of degradation caused by over-grazing; which he had thought was nonsense at the time.  The area is not currently well furnished with woodland, but the Whites assured me that the fields running westwards from the site towards the road leading to the Strines Inn were originally wooded and that some trees still remained when Stephen’s grandfather had purchased the farm.  It may be no coincidence that a large field adjacent to the Strines road is labelled Bull Piece on OS maps.  Mr White believes that his land had previously belonged to the Duke of Norfolk and, according to G. H. B. Ward, who was writing in 1951:

‘Lodge Moor – or “Piece” is Bamford Lodge Moor. Bamford was first gamekeeper on these ... moors whose tower-like house, now a humble ruin [as it remains], not inhabited for more than eighty years, was called Bamford Lodge. Bamford Lodge would be built for him by the Duke of Norfolk – in, or about, 1810.’ (Sissons, 179)

The Norfolk ownership probably dated back to the early 17th century when the family inherited a third of the estates of the Talbot, Earls of Shrewsbury who were bole owners and lead traders in the 15th and 16th centuries.

David Kiernan

Barnatt, J.  2016  Smelting Lead on Lodge Moor, Ughill, Sheffield, South Yorks, SK 2360 8867,’ PDMHS newsletter  157, pp. 8-9.

Kiernan, D.  1989  The Derbyshire Lead Industry in the Sixteenth Century (esp. Chapter 2 The Bole and the Brenners). Chesterfield: Derbyshire Records Society XIV.

Sissons, D. (ed.)  2002  The Best of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers’ Handbooks: ‘Ward’s Piece’. Tiverton: Halsgrove.

As David has said there is debate between us over how to interpret details of this site and we beg to differ; my view, for what it is worth, is that he may be overinterpreting such features as the vegetation differences, the ‘stream’, and the small amounts of smelting slag found at Sites 1 and 3. Similarly, I question whether the main heap at Site 2 is moved material. However, where we are in full agreement is that further work needs to be done to resolve these issues; at the outset this could revolve around remote sensing in the form of magnetometer survey to look for actual hearths and XRF analysis of soil samples to quantify the real spread of lead slag around Site 2, to see whether there are indeed hot spots of activity and the ridge above as David suggests.  The challenge we currently face is finding the resources to buy expensive equipment or persuading others with access to this to get involved. Further down the line archaeological excavations may well be desirable, but this should not be undertaken lightly, for the essential costs of laboratory analyses would be significant.

John Barnatt

To Return to the main narrative: The Project at Lodge Moor