25 May 2012
A project to safeguard the historic features of a former County Durham lead mine has won the ‘Heritage Award’ at this year’s Constructing Excellence in the North East (CENE) awards ceremony.
Kevin Doonan Architects of Hexham collected the CENE’s award in the ‘best small heritage project’ for the work carried out at Low Slit Mine near Westgate in County Durham. The project was funded under an Environmental Stewardship agreement between Natural England and the landowners, Malcolm and James Nattrass.
Low Slit Lead Mine is a disused lead mine on Middlehope Burn in Weardale. It is designated a Scheduled Monument as it includes a well preserved concentration of lead mining features. The site has rare original features including the ore washing floor, where women and children separated the heavy lead ore from lighter waste minerals; a row of intact bouseteams, where the miners stored the lead they had brought out; and the base for an Armstrong hydraulic engine, which was the winding engine for the mine shaft.
Low Slit Mine is on the Heritage at Risk Register because of a series of long term problems, including damage from ivy and tree growth, erosion of the washing floor by the stream, and leaching of the lime mortars resulting in the decay of standing structures. The site forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the rare, lead tolerant plants now growing on the washing floor.
Works carried out on the various buildings and structures on site included removing damaging vegetation, rebuilding dry stone walls and re-capping the mine shaft. The 587ft deep mine shaft, previously capped with a thin metal plate in poor condition, was securely re-capped with concrete and a new bench has been built above the shaft reusing stone from the site. The new bench will provide a welcome spot for walkers to rest and a place to appreciate the historic legacy of this once-booming industrial landscape. The bench was specially designed for the site by architect Kate Wilson and echoes the oval shape and size of the shaft, providing a clue to visitors of what lies below.
Robert Burnett, Natural England’s North of England Regional Manager, said: “We are delighted that the work at Low Slit Mine has been recognised by Constructing Excellence North East in this way. This work wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of all the partners involved in this project, and we are very grateful for all their help. An important example of the industrial heritage of the North Pennines, along with the rare plants that have subsequently colonised the site, have been saved from further deterioration as a result of this work”.
Three specialist contractors were employed to undertake the work under the supervision of Kate Wilson of Kevin Doonan Architects. Graham Masonry, completed the majority of the masonry work, Burt Hunter, a dry stone waller, completed the river wall, and Dodwell Brothers Ltd completed the shaft cap
For further information (media enquiries only) please contact:
David Hirst, Natural England press office: email@example.com
Collaboration between individuals and organisations has been essential to the success of this project. Partners include Natural England, who provided funding through the Environmental Stewardship scheme, English Heritage gave Scheduled Monument Consent and advised throughout. The Environment Agency were involved in issues concerning the stream, along with consultation with various local interest groups, the project team and the three contractors.
CENE Twenty Twelve Awards
Heritage Award sponsored by: Hartlepool College and Miller Construction
Winner (Small project) - Kevin Doonan Architects Ltd, Malcolm & James Nattrass and Graham Masonry
Project: Low Slit Lead Mine, Westgate
Winner (Large project) - Mansell Construction Services Limited, Station Developments Limited, Lathams & Ramboll
Project: Restoration of Tynemouth Station
The judges looked for projects which demonstrated evidence of investigation, consideration of alternative options, choice of appropriate procurement route, application of well considered technical solutions, delivery of quality and enduring outcomes and a commitment to heritage skills and training.
About Environmental Stewardship
Environmental stewardship schemes are administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and fund farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.
The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:
Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
Protect the historic environment and natural resources
Kevin Doonan Architects
Kevin Doonan Architects was established in Hexham twenty five years ago. The practice has developed a reputation for sensitive design work associated with historic buildings. The Courtyard, in Hexham received a Civic Society award in 2008. The Calf House in Westgate received the Highly Commended award at last years CENE awards. They have worked on some of the most important Grade I listed Buildings in the north east including, St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle, Seaton Delaval Hall and Chesters.
About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and advising on their conservation.
We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.