There are lead ore deposits between Nidderdale and Wharfedale and in Arkengarthdale, Swaledale and Wensleydale.
Moulded blocks of lead, or 'pig irons" have been found in the Yorkshire Dales dating back as far as Roman times, when British lead was exported to Rome for use on roofs and to make paint.
In the middle ages, lead was used to make weapons, water pipes and for stained glass windows. Lead mining reached its peak during the 18th and 19th century, when Britain was the world's leading lead producer.
Lead mining was a horrible dirty and risky business, involving men, women and children in hard manual labour. At first bell pits were dug, with techniques developing to fit the landscape. "Hushing" was used on hillsides such as Gunnerside Ghyl, where a dam was built at the top of the mining area, collecting water until the dame was broken and water scoured the topsoil, taking with it stones to expose the lead veins. Levels were dug into the hillsides through caves such as Devils Hole near Grinton Smelt Mill.
The last Swaledale mine closed in 1912, but there are traces from the lead mining industry across the Yorkshire Dales.
You can see evidence of the former lead mining industry on Grassington Moor and on the road between Grassington and Greenhow near Stump Cross, as well as in numerous locations around Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, such as Old Gang Smelt Mill, and Surrender Mine Swaledale.