THE history and location of the lead mines on Grassington Moor are being recorded by a fledgling group of experienced cavers.

Many people know of the lead mining industry in the area’s past, but few know that many of the shafts, many of them very deep, are still there and with very little covering them to them to protect walkers - and animals.

Indeed several hill sheep have plunged to the bottom of the shafts unaware of the gaping cavern beneath their feet.

However, such dangers may be a thing of the past if the Grassington Mines Appreciation Group (GMAG) succeed in getting permission to preserve them, while making them safe.

Sam Roberts, treasurer of the group and himself a member of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.

He tells of his groups plans and how it all began.

“The group was established in 2017 by its founding members: myself, John Helm and Adam Clenton.

“Both John and I are members of Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association and following a discussion one night down at the rescue base, formed the group in order to explore, document and preserve the historic lead mines on Grassington Moor.

“Aside from a small number of books written on the subject, it soon became apparent that very little exploration had taken place following closure of the mines in the late nineteenth century.”

Being keen cavers and excited at the prospect of exploring underground spaces, the trio began using their specialist rope skills to access the shafts.

Mr Roberts added: “It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when mining first took place in Grassington, however there is mention of lead being purchased by the Bursar of Fountains Abbey from a Grassington man sometime between 1446 and 1458.

“Mining continued until 1882 and initially involved sinking shallow shafts, however as time progressed the shafts became ever deeper, requiring the use of horses and waterwheels to raise ore and pump water.

“Along with their exploratory activities, the group is also seeking to make the moor safer for those that stray from the footpaths. Many mineshafts are covered with wooden sleepers that are rotten and unstable.

“This is especially hazardous where the sleepers have been covered with a mound of turf which makes them a death trap to unsuspecting visitors and animals.

“ Some of these shafts are up to 80 metres deep and there has already been one recorded fatality when an amateur explorer fell to his death in 1982.

“The group is currently in the process of securing permissions and raising funds in order to pay for materials to fence them off, and hope to begin work later in the year.”

Mr Proctor said of the new group and its achievements so far: “We’ve come a long way in three years.

“From the initial unofficial exploration undertaken by myself and John, the group has expanded to an organisation with a detailed website, an active Facebook page and a membership list of 77 official members.”

In addition to Sam’s comments, John stressed the dangers of exploring this hidden world beneath our feet.

“Whilst all mines are inherently dangerous places to explore, the Grassington mines present an even greater risk” warned John.

“These mines can be unstable and only accessible from above via their shafts which requires a high level of ropework skills in order to enter and exit safely.

“We certainly wouldn’t encourage others to explore the mines without the correct skills and experience.”

The group’s website explains its purpose and ambitions as well as enriching the reader’s knowledge of the district.

It reads: “Taking a walk through the high street and up to Grassington Moor and you will see remnants of a very different time in the town’s history.

“High up on the wind swept moor, the scenery is disrupted by huge spoil heaps and partially covered mine shafts sinking down into the black abyss.

“These features are all that’s left of the lead mining industry which was once the main source of employment for the area up until the 1880s.”

If you’d like to learn more about the organisation or the Grassington Moor lead mines, visit the group’s website at or search for the group on Facebook.