During the 18th century there was a lead mine at Blackcraig, one of the many in the parish of Minnigaff. The mine has now gone, but in Kirroughtree Forest you can still find the remains of a lade. This was a man-made water channel which powered the operations at Blackcraig.
Discovery of lead in Minnigaff
The first discovery of lead in Minnigaff happened by accident. In 1763, a soldier was working on the construction of the military road from Carlisle to Portpatrick when he struck lead.
A few years earlier, an Englishman called Cuthbert Readshaw was looking to start up a lead mine in the south of Scotland. In 1755, he contacted merchants William Carruthers and George Clerk to get advice on how to do this.
They joined forces to form a mining company in 1758. Narrowing down their search to Minnigaff, it was not until the soldier's discovery that an opportunity presented itself.
Craigtown Mining Company
Patrick Heron was the owner of this land. In 1764, he gave the company a 38 year lease to mine his land. The Craigtown Mining Company was then created.
In the 1770s, Blackcraig mine was in full operation, but by the 1790s production was already dropping off.
In the mid 19th century, mining began again, this time for lead and zinc. It finally went out of use during World War I.
Storyteller Tony Bonning shares three local tales.
- Gilbert and Uchtred (mp3)
- Gilbert and Uchtred transcript (pdf)
- Bruce and the Macdoulls (mp3)
- Bruce and the Macdoulls transcript (pdf)
- The Wife of Craigencaillie (mp3)
- The Wife of Craigencaillie transcript (pdf)
Visiting Kirroughtree Lade
The exact location of Kirroughtree Lade is grid reference NX 452 646.
For details about access to the forest, see the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre web page.
All sites managed by Forestry and Land Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.
Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.
The mines at Blackcraig
The mining lease for Blackcraig allowed the Craigtown Mining Company to mine anywhere on the land. It also allowed them to construct any necessary buildings. You can discover some of the evidence of their activity while exploring the Kirroughtree Lade trail.
There were two mines at Blackcraig. West Blackcraig was located just south of the military road. East Blackcraig was to the north, where Kirroughtree Forest is today.
The mining process
Once mined, the galena ore was dressed. Water was a vital part of the process. It powered crushing equipment and to wash away any waste material. This left the ore clean and ready for smelting, which also needed water to power the bellows for the smelting furnace.
The mining company built a lade to bring the water for this process. This channel transported water from Loch Bruntis, at the top of the hill, down to the mining operations.
The mine's records
From 1778 until 1787, the Blackcraig mine's manager, William Mure, sent reports to one of the partners, George Clerk. These records provide an insight in to the running of the mine.
By the 1770s, the mine was in full operation. This site was easily accessible, close to the coast and the military road. The mine could obtain supplies without difficulty and transport lead to London to sell.
This was excellent for business, as good communications gave it an advantage over other Scottish lead mines located in more remote areas, such as Corrantee and Tyndrum.
The mine in operation
By 1780, 44 men worked at Blackcraig mines; this included 25 miners and seven men who smelted the ore to remove impurities from the lead. Business was going well.
The company sold lead in bars. Buyers would then turn the lead into a product, for example, lead piping. In 1780, however, the company built a shot mill in nearby Creetown to make their own product to sell - lead gun shot.
In 1783, the shot mill made a profit of £249; the mine, however, started to make a loss. Cost-cutting measures and the rising price of lead, however, kept it going for a while longer.
There were plans to build a better smelting furnace, designed by Robert Scott, but it is unlikely that this happened. At some point in the 1790s, Craigtown Mining Company stopped mining operations.