Abstract from the Mining Heritage Trust Of Ireland Journal No 12, 2012, pp. 5-52
This article highlights the considerable archaeological and heritage value of the dressing floors of the former Luganure silver-lead mines worked by the Mining Company of Ireland (1824-1890) situated in the parallel valleys of Glendalough and Glendasan and separated by Camaderry Mountain. It also discusses a small early twentieth century treatment plant in Glendalough. During the nineteenth century the Luganure mines were Ireland’s most important lead mining centre, leaving behind an exceptionally well-preserved relict rural-industrial landscape, particularly with regard to the dressing floors which are the focus of this paper. These are the most complete lead ore processing sites in Ireland and are comparable in importance to many contemporaneous lead dressing floors in uplands regions of neighbouring Britain.
The archaeology takes on added significance in the case of these sites, as the documentary record is slight at best due to the absence of most of the Mining Company of Ireland’s records, leaving the historian with pared down half yearly reports of shareholders’ meetings which do not contain much technical detail and often lump all the sites together as the Luganure Mines. Although the mines lay close to the Seven Churches (Glendalough), a tourist trap that was well photographed in the Victorian period, no nineteenth century photographs of the nearby mines have yet been discovered that might aid an understanding of surviving features. Perhaps they were unaesthetically pleasing to many Victorians, such as the walker descending the dale-head past the mines, who thought that they ‘rather spoiled it’ (BW 1879); contemporary maps contain sparse detail and no archaeological excavations have ever been conducted. This paper interprets the remarkable assemblage of features at these dressing floors based on documentary sources, aerial photographs, historic mapping, detailed surveying and field study and attempts to set their archaeology within a comparative context with similar contemporaneous sites in Britain. Finally, it makes a plea for an increased salience and improved listing regimen in Ireland for important post-1700 industrial landscapes that are of considerable heritage value. Journal of the Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland, 12, 2012, 5-52.
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