AMHS Newsletter April 2018
Alston Moor Historical Society

Alston Moor Historical Society Newsletter

Autumn 2018 Issue


Summer Walks

Alston Foundry
Alston Foundry
This summer saw a new departure for the Society – a meeting in August and an afternoon walk. About 30 people gathered in the Station Car Park on Sunday 5th to learn about ‘Industrial Alston’. The walk itself wasn’t very long and it was all on the flat, alongside the railway line from the road to the sewage works and back to the station.
The places looked at were the former market garden that was on the holme, the limeworks at the top of North Loaning, with its inclined plane (a gravity-worked railway on a slope) that took the lime down to the main line. There was the Woodlands Iron Mine on the other side of the river with its own bridge to reach the sidings. There was a quick look at Alston castle near the mine, then the quarries around the Lowbyer Manor House, mined by ANLCo., the Alston and Nentforce Limestone Company.
After a look at the station with its lengthy sidings we went to the main road to learn about the linen mill/woollen mill and foundry, the gas works, and the Nent Force Level before finishing up in the ANLCo. tunnel under the road, which was arranged with the co-operation of the South Tynedale Railway.
Walk around Nenthead
September’s meeting was also a walk, this time in the evening for ‘A Look at Nenthead – The model village and the international community’. About 14 people came along, as well as millions of midgies. After a view from the car park of Bevan Terrace, the site of the old dressing mill and a hint of the mine entrances to Rampgill, Caplecleugh and Smallcleugh, the group went to look at Smeaton Terrace, then ‘The Arches’ that were the base for the aerial ropeway to the mine at Wellhope Shaft and the little tramway that ran from the village to Wellgill.
Ian Wright happened to be on the scene and very kindly invited the group in for a look at Wright’s Bus Garage, formerly the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company’s ore-dressing mill. Group members were probably among the last people to do so because this rare, perhaps unique, building has now been demolished. After this, while standing next to the information board about the VM, it was hard for everyone to imagine the old Nenthead village centre of the market hall with its public baths and laundry rooms, ‘Old Peter’ the clock tower, and the old school that had changed to a mine office.
The chapel featured next, with information about religion in Nenthead (John Wesley preached here twice), then came the Reading Room with its ‘decorated’ window sill. The evening finished with the story of ‘The Battle of Nenthead’ of 1905, between the Italian miners employed by the VM and every English person they could find. To be fair the Italians had been severely provoked and this was taken into consideration when they went to court. All but one were let off lightly and the remaining lad was given the choice of a £2 fine or two weeks in jail.
Nenthead Walk
Walk around Nenthead

A cautionary tale

Two of the window sills of the Reading Room/Village Shop are peppered with circular indentations. Now, what could possibly make drill-sized holes in a solid piece of sandstone? Answer = miners’ drills and miners in an idle moment. 2 + 2 = 4! That’s what Alastair Robertson, the walk guide, told the assembled masses. But not so! In this case he’d made 2 + 2 = 5! The story got back to Eddie Carr, a former resident of Nenthead, who stopped Alastair in the street to put him right. The holes had been made by generations of Nintheed lads with old pennies, gradually twisting them back and forwards in the stone sills to make those indentations. Bang went the drill theory, egg on the face of the local historian, and many thanks to Eddie for a nice little story.

October's Meeting

Roachburn 1908
Roachburn Pit 1908
The society returned indoors for October’s talk about ‘January 28th 1908 – The Roachburn Pit Disaster’. Roachburn is situated beside Tindale Fell, near Hallbankgate on the A689 to Brampton. One night in 1908 a small drip of water from the roof of one of the ‘bords’, or workplaces, in the mine became a flood of water from two nearby tarns overhead and three men drowned. This moving story brought visitors from Coanwood, Allenheads and Allendale to listen, as well as local members of the society.


News from the Archives

News is that the Society has received several parcels of archival stationery materials and volunteers have made a start to re-package all the maps, photo’s and documents so that precious items from Alston’s past can be safely handled and will be secure for posterity, with no harmful toxic substances or danger from tearing or mishandling.
The materials were paid for by a grant from Eden Community Fund with matching funding from Alston Moor Parish Council (whom the Society would like to thank for its support) and the Historical Society itself.
The Archive opening hours have changed to 12 noon to 3pm on Saturdays; volunteers are still experimenting with what works best, and don’t forget that the Archives can be opened on request. And more volunteers are welcome.
The latest display is ‘Alston Foundry’, which should evoke many memories from people who worked there.


News from the Continent

Demolished Nenthead Garage
Vielle Montagne Museum
Alastair Robertson went to Kelmis in Belgium for the weekend of Friday 14th to Sunday 16th September to attend the opening of a museum for the Vieille Montagne Zinc Mining Company of Belgium, which worked in this area from 1896 to 1949, and a meeting of the Vieille Montagne Heritage Association, of which he has the honour to be Vice-President.
The weather was perfect and hundreds of local people turned up for the first open session. The museum is a real state-of-the-art affair, and it is to be hoped that a corner of Nenthead Chapel can be dedicated to the VM to complement it. For one thing, the potential for international family history research based in Nenthead is tremendous.
It was a coincidence that at the same time as Wright’s bus garage, formerly the VM’s lead and zinc ore dressing mill, built 1909-10, was disappearing from the face of the earth, hundreds of miles away another VM building was rising like a phoenix from the ashes to become a museum

Picking over the pieces of Nenthead Garage

Next Meeting

The topic will be ‘Nenthead Mines’, by Peter Jackson, Chairman of the Nenthead Mines Conservation Society.
Noverember AMHS Meeting Poster
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Working in the Archives
Keep in touch with the Society and the Archives by looking at Facebook and our website. And call in to the Archives any Saturday between 10.30 and 2.30.
Alston Moor Historical Society
Archive Office, Alston Town Hall, Alston, Cumbria. CA9 3RF
Phone: 01434 381769

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