Roker Heritage Group visit to Killhope Lead Mining Museum

11.05.17 09:30

Roker Pier may still be closed for repairs due to the storm last year but there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes.

Roker Pier may still be closed for repairs due to the storm last year but there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes. We’re making sure that when the pier reopens, we’re ready to launch tours of the Roker pier, tunnel and lighthouse.

With this in mind, our group of volunteers visited the Victoria Tunnel in Ouseburn, Newcastle. We wanted to discover how the volunteers at the Victoria Tunnel ran their tours. And we wanted to find out whether there were lessons we could learn when offering our tunnel tours to the public under Roker Pier. You can read all about our visit here.

And more recently our volunteer group also made to a visit to Killhope Lead Mining Museum in Weardale.

Killhope Lead Mining Museum is a restored 19th century lead mine, famous for its working waterwheel. Our group were primarily interested in the mine tour at Killhope, to see if we could learn lessons that we could use when delivering our tunnel tours underneath Roker Pier.

We set off in a mini-bus from Sunderland for the 90-minute drive through Durham and Weardale to Killhope. The scenery en-route was beautiful with rolling hills and pretty villages. It was a fantastic experience being able to follow the route of the river Wear from where it “cast the land asunder” all the way to its source in Wearhead.  

When we arrived at Killhope, after a cup of coffee in the museum’s very welcoming café, our group was suited and booted with hard hats, wellies and torches. Wellies are essential for a tour through the Killhope mine due to the amount of water that visitors need to plodge through.

Once inside the tunnel, our group was led by the guide and given an entertaining commentary about the life of the lead miners who worked the seam in gruelling conditions. At its peak Killhope was one of the richest lead mines in the whole of Great Britain.

The highlight of the tour came as the tunnel opened up into a cavern, called the wheel chamber. Here there was a 5.5 metre underground waterwheel, installed to pump water from the lower levels so that the miners could continue their work.  

Despite the cold and wading through the water in the Victorian lead mine, everyone said they really enjoyed the experience and would highly recommend it to friends.  After the mine tour, we had lunch in the friendly café before visiting the rest of the site, which includes a museum and a shop. There is a hive, where if you are lucky, you might see red squirrels and there’s a beautiful forest walk too.  

It was my first visit to Killhope lead mining museum and I hope it won’t be the last. We all agreed it had been a truly memorable day.

You can find out more about Killhope Lead Mining Museum at http://www.killhope.org.uk/

And if you’d like to find out more about volunteering with Roker Heritage Group, the information is here: www.rokerpier.co.uk/volunteer-us

By Glenda Young
Roker Heritage Group Volunteer
Twitter: @Flaming_Nora
Website: www.glendayoungbooks.com