Surprising discoveries at Killhope!
Excavating and surveying in the Buddle House
As part of the AA project’s industrial archaeology module, project volunteers have completed 2 phases of excavation with the Buddle House at Killhope, the North of England Lead Mining Museum, Weardale. As part of planned redevelopment at the museum, it is hoped to develop the Buddle House as an education room. In order to inform this possible redevelopment, it was necessary to excavate the floor of the building to ascertain whether or not any important archaeological deposits lay buried here. Excavations, directed by Richard Carlton of the Archaeological Practice, Newcastle upon Tyne, took place in November 2012 and October 2013. Volunteers also completed a detailed architectural survey of the building, essential for future conservation and interpretation work at the museum.
What is a Buddle House?
The Buddle House was built in 1876-78 as part of Park Level Mill, a new crushing and separation plant the giant water wheel of which still dominates the Killhope landscape. It contained four buddles, circular structures used to salvage fragments of lead ore from waste leaving the adjacent jigger house. The buddles were like large upturned saucers. Onto the high centre was fed a slurry of fine bouse (waste), and revolving brushes distributed this evenly around the whole ‘saucer’. The heavier ore settled out first, nearer the centre of the buddle, while the lighter waste was carried towards the edge. Thus the ore-rich material could be salvaged.
The Killhope buddles
The buddles were largely of timber, and it was generally assumed that they had been dismantled or had simply rotted away following abandonment of the Buddle House. However, the results of the AA excavations took everyone by surprise, as substantial remains of buddles and other structures survived buried within the floor. In the south half of the building, two buddles were found substantially intact; nothing like them survives anywhere else in the North Pennines. One was carefully lifted so it can be reconstructed and displayed in the revamped building; the other was carefully recorded and reburied in the floor. This work represents an important contribution to the internationally important lead mining heritage of the North Pennines; a full report will be available here in due course.
For further information about this project, or any other aspect of the Altogether Archaeology project, please contact the Project Manager, Paul Frodsham: firstname.lastname@example.org