The village of Nenthead was once one of the main lead mining sites in the North Pennines and here Quaker influence established facilities for schooling, reading, housing and bathing. Nenthead is one of the many villages to have had a huge influence on the North Pennines landscape.
Garigill village lies on the edge of the River South Tyne. In the centre of the village is a green, pub, post office and village store that has changed little since the 1950s.
Alston Moor was occupied by the Romans who worked opencast lead mines here. Whitley Castle was not only a garrison fort on the Maiden Way from Kirkby Thore (near Appleby) to Carvoran (on Hadrian's Wall), but also guarded the mineral deposits of the area. Early settlers on Alston Moor scratched a living by raising a few sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens and growing hardy crops.
Over time, parts of the barren moorland were converted into productive farmland. However, farming alone wasn't enough to survive on and many householders supplemented their income through mining. Life on these upland hills was unremittingly hard, leading to poverty and a high infant mortality rate. Alston Moor is honeycombed with old mine workings.
Valley's were repeatedly dammed and hushed, creating an overdeepened notch on the fellside - one of the best known being Dowgang Hush, near Nenthead.The difficulties of access created close-knit communities bonded by the common interests of mining, farming and religion. There are numerous Methodist, Quaker and Congregational chapels dotted all over Alston Moor.
In 1753 a Quaker-owned London Lead Company took over the mining rights and began to expand production. In 1828, the company designed and built Nenthead, the first purpose built industrial village in England. These small field enclosures remain as distinctive features of the area. Nenthead became the main centre of lead mining in the North Pennines.
In 1852, the Alston branch of the Carlisle to Newcastle railway opened and prospered for around 120 years. The local road the A689 was recently listed by the Automobile Association as one of the ten best drives in the world.
In the mid-19th century, the population of Alston Moor was five times what it is now. However, in the 1880s, many miners found a new life in North America. The legacy of mining life on Alston Moor can be seen at Nenthead Mine Heritage Centre.