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Study Shows New Technology can Revive Britain’s Former Lake District Lead Mine

According to a recent report by Lancaster University, the local community and economy can considerably benefit by reviving the rich cultural history of one of the largest lead mines in the UK, concealed in the core of the Lake District.

Professor Edward Truch (right) with Tim Clarke after a visit to Greenside Lead Mine (Image credit: Lancaster University)

A research carried out by students and academics from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) investigates the viability of conserving the rich heritage of Greenside. Located in Glenridding, Cumbria, the 300-year-old lead mine ceased its operation in 1962 after being instrumental to the advancement of Glenridding and Patterdale communities for many years.

Considering the rich cultural history of the mining community and mine, the researchers believe that this heritage can be presented in a novel way to provide a new kind of visitor attraction commemorating local heritage and improving the economy of the region.

In 2017, the Lake District achieved World Heritage status, and therefore, it is required to conserve its industrial and natural heritage. This spurred Patterdale Parish Council to instruct local enthusiast Tim Clarke to commence the report, with support from the John Muir Trust and the Lake District Estates.

The study was performed for three months which involved consultation with community members, the Parish Council, Patterdale schoolchildren, businesses, visitors and also visits to the region’s other lead mine heritage centers. All these led to the presentation of a business case for a “Greenside Mine Heritage, Education and Learning Centre.”

Today, most of Greenside’s infrastructure and equipment above ground has been removed, so there is little evidence left of its rich heritage. What the study indicated was that more than two-thirds of visitors arriving by the Ullswater Steamers to Glenridding were completely unaware of the existence of the mine, and the important cultural heritage it represents. The results of our market research, including two public meetings and school visits, indicate all age groups throughout the local community believe it’s very important to preserve memories associated with the mine in order to protect local heritage, understand its historical importance to the county and country, and remember all the people who were so intertwined with its history.

Edward Truch, Professor, Lancaster University Management School

Professor Truch supervised the study.

The business case for Greenside Building builds on the “Smart Parks” research performed by Lancaster University Management School. This study explored how large urban and rural spaces could be improved by the use of technology. The business case for Greenside Building applies instances of mining-related heritage centers and museums worldwide that use technology to revive the hidden elements of history.

It is clear that our Smart Parks model lends itself very well to industrial heritage sites. We find clear examples of existing and emerging technologies in use across the world that help preserve and breathe new life into hidden gems of history like Greenside, where safety or financial concerns would otherwise stop projects in their tracks. By exploring new methods and making the use of technology and strong community settings, there are opportunities to improve visitor experience and attract more tourism; increase community participation, and boost the local economy—all at relatively low cost.

Juliana Sutanto, Study Co-Author and Professor, Lancaster University

The study has shown there is overwhelming support for the idea behind such a project. Now that we have this formal report from such a reputable institution, our next steps are to consult more deeply with the local community to see what we really want, and to initiate a complete feasibility study to seek funding. I believe it is vital that the knowledge and memories of the very few people still alive who have direct knowledge of the mine are captured and brought to life. It is also important that any heritage centre is not just focused on the past but presents a wider view of cultural life in Glenridding and the new challenges that we face. This has been a true community undertaking to date, and will continue to be as we work to make it a reality. As a result of considerable feedback from all community groups, we hope the community will put forward a range of options to address concerns about increased traffic, the cost of implementation and future financial viability and sustainability.

Tim Clarke, Resident, Glenridding

Clarke initiated the report.

Outlining a strong case for a heritage center, the new report recommends the following factors:

  • A community-based project set up to operate in partnership or independently with local businesses with the aid of the Lake District National Park Authority.
  • While the mine cannot be re-opened owing to its present condition, a model section of the mine (like that constructed at Mining Museum and Threlkeld Quarry) can possibly be developed, or a virtual reality experience can be produced with the help of smart technology.
  • A multi-purpose facility can be made out of the Glenridding Village Hall and the land surrounding it, and could be fitted with a permanent “mine tunnel” experience. Other live displays in various areas across the village can add to this experience.

People know absolutely nothing about the mine—people walk past the mine on their way to Helvellyn and don’t even know it’s there. I’m 100% sure that without tourists coming up here, there’ll be no young people here at all. To keep young people here and to keep them in jobs, we have got to have tourism.

Octogenarian Eddie Pool, Local Resident and Former Engineer, Greenside Lead Mine

Rory Stewart, Penrith and the Border MP, also supported the project.

He stated that, “I very much welcome this community-led initiative to celebrate and honour the history and culture of the Glenridding community. A new heritage centre, devoted not only to telling a story about Glenridding’s industrial past, but also to its current place and role in the development of Ullswater Valley, could be a splendid asset for the Lakes as a whole.”

We are very excited about the prospect of the Glenridding Heritage Centre, which celebrates both the history of Greenside and the whole local area, including farming and tourism. We are very grateful to the excellent work done to date by the team and look forward to moving the project to the next stage, where we can set up a new community interest group to make their vision a reality.

Rob Shephard, Chair, Patterdale Parish Council

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