ELHAS News - January 2020

Meeting Report January 2020

For our first meeting of 2020 we welcomed George Gale to deliver an illustrated talk entitled "Proud of Nenthead". George, originally from Jarrow, is a retired engineer (formerly working at ROF Barnbow), a self taught genealogist and a volunteer at Whitby Museum. His talk however was not centred on the Yorkshire seaside town, but a small village in the north Pennines - Nenthead.

George began by explaining he became interested in Nenthead, the highest village in England, when he discovered through a family bible, that his ancestors had lived and worked there. Initially starting out to research his family, the 'Prouds', he became immersed in the history of the village itself.

So what is the claim to fame for this village of a few hundred inhabitants set high up in the Pennines 5 miles from the market town of Alston. Well, it is the highest village in England, situated 1400 - 1600 hundred feet above sea level. Another claim to fame is that it was the first place in England to have electric lighting, a by product of the mining industry on which the village was built.

George explained that both lead and silver had been mined at Nenthead and in the 1800's Allenheads Mine was the largest silver mine in the world. However lead was also extensively mined from the middle of the 1700's and this is what led to the development of the village. This was aided by the intervention of a group of Quakers from London during the first half of that century. Visiting the village they were appalled and distressed to see the poverty in the area, so in 1750 having each subscribed £5.00 ( £250.00 today) they set up The London Lead Company to mine and smelt the lead. Not only were they providing well paid work for the local population but also ensured the growth of the village by building amenities.

By 1828 the village had a school, a doctor's surgery, a chapel, a reading room and 35 cottages. The Quakers were keen on social welfare and education and promoted these within the village. An example of the regard for social welfare was the provision of "Mine Shops". Realising that many of the workers lived great distances from the mines, they built properties which housed up to six miners during the working week who then returned home at weekends. The mining company was also responsible for building all the roads which connected the village to the outside world. There was never any pressure for the villagers to follow the Quaker faith, although it was mandatory to keep the Sabbath.

The London Mining Company was taken over by Cameron Swan and Company in 1882, and later by the Belgium company Vielle Montagne in 1896. Mining ceased during the 20th century. The breakup of the London Lead Company happened six years after the death of William Proud, the last person in the village to have the Proud name.

We had been fascinated to hear about the history of the village made all the more interesting by being interwoven with the story of George's family. He ended his talk by advising that although there is no longer a mining museum at Nenthead , the Killhope Museum in the area was well worth a visit and since the area is also blessed with beautiful scenery, many of us determined to have a day out and see it all for ourselves.

The next meeting on Monday February 24th 2020 will be an illustrated talk by Chris Murphy entitled "Medieval Mafia".
You may be surprised by what you hear!! .

Photos courtesy of George Gale:
1) The Proud family of Nenthead
2) Nenthead near Alston in Cumbria