Volunteers behind a celebration of centuries of lead mining history were able to drink to the success of the venture with a newly-created beer brewed especially for the project.
The first pint of Ore’some Ale was pulled at the Rose and Crown pub in Slaley in Northumberland.
The beer is the latest brainwave from the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project, a two-year undertaking researching and celebrating the lives and times of lead smelters and carriers from the 1600s to the 1800s.
It is hoped the beer will be on sale along the route taken by the lead ore from the mines of the North Pennines to Tyneside.
The ale has been created by Hexhamshire Brewery, which is based at Dipton Mill, where lead smelters once lived.
The project, led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley parish councils, has the active support of the landowner Allendale Estates. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the support of other sponsors.
Gill Whatmough, a member of the project steering group, said: “We have already held a successful food event, our Heritage Cook Off, have a play and walks in the pipeline as well as our archaeology, research, school and other projects.
“We thought brewing a special beer and having it on sale at pubs all along the old lead route would be a good way of getting people, who might not normally take much interest in local industrial history, thinking and talking about those days and the past connections between the North Pennines and the Tyne. “
Geoff Brooker, innkeeper at the Dipton Mill Inn and micro brewer of the Hexhamshire Brewery, has worked to perfect a beer that is a tribute to the hard work of the smelters who sweated away at the Dukesfield smelt mill near Slaley and the carriers who trudged across the moors with their ponies carrying lead ore and “pigs” of lead.
It is a dark beer, reflecting the gritty earthy character of the work of the smelters and carriers.
The beer will be available in pubs from Nenthead to Blaydon, supported by special beer mats showing a map of the lead route.
There will be samples of the beer at an open evening on October 10 at Whitley Chapel parish hall where there will be presentations and updates about recent finds and work of the project. The event is free and doors open at 7pm.
A competition to name the beer was held which attracted around 100 entries from all over the country.
The Hexhamshire Brewery and the Rose and Crown at Slaley both have associations with the lead industry.
Records being researched as part of the “Reading the Past” thread of the Dukesfield project show that the Dipton Mill Inn was the home of several lead ore smelters including George Forster, upwards of 30 years in the employment of Col. Beaumont, at Dukesfield Smelt Mill “and for that time never lost an hour’s work by sickness or neglect” according to the Newcastle Courant in 1822.
Another Dipton Mill resident in 1851 was lead ore smelter John Forster. In 1871 he is described as “innkeeper, carrier & landowner” while William Forster, probably John’s brother lived there in 1861 and was described as innkeeper and lead ore miner.
The Rose and Crown, a listed building dating to 1675, was purchased by the local community in August last year and is now owned and operated by Slaley Community Assets Limited, a co-operative with 164 members.
For further information about the project, walks, the tasting event and to find out which pubs will be selling the beer, visit http://dukesfield.org.uk , https:// www.facebook.com/DukesfieldSmeltersAndCarriers