Mapping the Dark Summer 2009 – installation of works at the Garden Station, Langley, Northumberland
The project began with a moth trapping and then an installation of related works in the station waiting rooms, now a gallery and cafe, and gardens, which run along what had been the track. Langley Station was on a branch line between Hexham and Allendale which served to transport lead ore to and from mines and smelting works, ultimately down to Newcastle.
I was talking to Mike who runs the Garden Station about lead mining as the station was built to service the Langley Lead Smelting Works nearby. The lead ore would have come down from the Alston mines by pack horse and then by rail. He said that the ducks who used to swim on the pond in the wood near to the remains of the old works had all died and he had brought in a scientist from Environmental Health to investigate. They found that the area was heavily contaminated with lead ore and that the patch of soil that had served as the station’s allotment contained over three times the permissible lead levels. Consequently he doesn’t grow his own veg!
He also told me that the lead company got fed up with paying compensation to farmers for dead livestock and built a mile long flue from the smelters, up the hill to a tall chimney to carry away the poisonous smoke. They found that lead and silver residue would collect on the walls of the flue and, always with an eye on a profit, employed local children to crawl up the tunnel to scape it off. Children were cheaper than cows!
Stublick Chimney – the flue on the hillside above the station which carried the toxic fumes away from lead smelting furnaces.