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Islay, Robolls Hill

Building (Period Unassigned), Lead Mine(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Islay, Robolls Hill

Classification Building (Period Unassigned), Lead Mine(S) (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Freeport

Canmore ID 37692

Site Number NR36NE 21

NGR NR 388 671

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Killarow And Kilmeny
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR36NE 21 388 671.

See also NR36NE 37. For (mining) village of Ballygrant (NR 395 662),

see NR36NE 47.

(NR 3881 6714 and NR 3891 6713) Shaft (NAT) (disused) (twice).

OS 1:10,000 map, 1981.

Butt notes that the lead mines at Freeport on Islay date from the 17th century. He also notes that miners, working the adjoining lead mines, lived at Ballygrant (NR 395 662). (The name "Freeport" is not published on OS 6" but in the vicinity of Ballygrant. "Old Shafts" and "Old Lead Mines" are shown at NR 371 663 and NR 388 671 others are described on NR46NW 19).

J Butt 1967.

There are drift-mine entrances at NR 3883 6713 and NR 3714 6639, the latter overlaid with dumped rubbish. They are approached through banked-up cuttings.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (JM) 8 June 1978.

Traces of former lead-workings on Islay are distributed over a wide area which extends from Balulive in the N to Loch Bharradail in the S, and they are associated with groups of Dalradian limestone.

Many of the old workings may be of medieval origin, and in 1549 Donald Monro referred to the occurrence of 'mekle leid ovir (much lead ore) in Moychaolis'. An abortive attempt was made to realise some of the value of the lead deposits in 1619, and from about 1680 onwards the workings were intermittently exploited by a succession of lessees, most notably during the third quarter of the 18th century and again after 1862. Mining operations ceased in about 1880 and much of the plant and machinery was sold after the termination of the final lease in 1904. Detailed reports compiled in 1770 gave a comparatively favourable account of the physical condition and potential capacity of the mines, the expense of working them and the quality of the lead itself. The reports provide some indication of the amount and value of the lead extracted, but the only available annual set of figures on output relate to the last active phase at Mulreesh (NR46NW 7) between 1862 and 1880; during that nineteen-year period a total of 1,919 tons of ore produced 1,426 tons of lead and 18,424 ounces of silver.

Monro 1884; RCAHMS 1984a

The field remains and historical evidence that are noted by the OS and RCAHMS cannot be unequivocally equated with the historically-attested mining at 'Freeport'. The drift-mine entrances at NR 3883 6713 and NR 3714 6639 fall within the areas of the Robolls Hill (NR36NE 21) and Ballimartin (NR36NE 34) mines respectively.

Information from NMRS (RJCM) 31 August 1994.

The remains of Robolls Mine are situated on the W flank of Robolls Hill, overlooking the islet of Eilean Mhuireill in Loch Finlaggan. The remains comprise a drift mine, at least one shaft, an extensive area of linear opencast extraction, spoil dumps, subsidence pits, and one associated building, possibly a smithy.

The entrance to the drift mine is indicated by a long trench, cut into the hillside, with a lip of spoil to either side (NR 3883 6714). The rock-cut roof of the mine is still visible, but the entrance is now full of water. The spoil removed from the mine was dumped at the NW end of the trench, but has been levelled to provide a turning point for the modern track.

To the SE, above the modern track, there are a series of linear opencast quarries where the veins of lead have been exposed on the surface. Some appear to be no more than trial trenches, but others form much deeper linear scars, and, midway along one, there is what appears to be a shaft (NR 3894 6716). The mining remains all lie within a field-system of dykes enclosing plots of rig-and-furrow cultivation, and, although some of the workings appear to cut across the cultivation remains, at least one of the dykes crosses over an extraction trench and is clearly of a later date (See NR36NE 70).

Lying some 30m above the modern track, on the line of a cross-dyke to the W of the opencast workings, there are the remains of a two-compartment rectangular building measuring 8.7m from NW to SE by 3m transversely within ruinous stone walls. This building overlies the cross-dyke, from which much of its building stone has probably been derived.

Of the workings, only the drift mine is depicted on the 1st ed of the OS 6-inch map, where it is identified as a lead mine. The building is annotated as a smithy on the first edition of the OS 6-inch map (Island of Islay, Argyllshire, Sheet cxcviii, 1882).

Visited by RCAHMS (ARW/SPH) 8 September 1993.

R M Callender and J Macaulay 1984.


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