Leadmining was an important industry in Britain from the time of the Romans until the late nineteenth century - its remains are to be found scattered in and under the hills of Cornwall, Devon, the Mendips, the Pennines, the Lake District, Wales, the Isle of Man and Scotland. From the thousands of early small mines, worked generally under medieval laws, leadmining by the eighteenth century was forced to use capital-intensive methods to cope with deeper deposits and great inflows of water, including very long levels and steam engines. Lead smelters, too, had to adapt and developed new furnaces and used spectacular flues and chimneys in otherwise wild landscapes to reduce pollution problems. By the 1880s, however, imports killed the industry - and only three mines have been successful since, all now closed. Today, and for the foreseeable future, lead ore production in Britain is only a by-product of mining for other minerals.
Lynn Willies has been interested in leadmining for many years. He has specialized in the Peak District industry and was awarded a PhD for his work by Leicester University. He has helped to reopen the Magpie Sough, raise an hydraulic engine from deep underground and restore the oldest industrial chimney in the world. He is project leader for the Peak District Mining Museum and is involved as a mining archaeological consultant both in Britain and overseas.