THE impact of German miners on places such as Keswick and Coniston was explored in a talk by local historian Alan Crosby. 

He was speaking at an event held at Lancaster University by the Regional Heritage Centre. 

The search for lead and copper in the Lake District went back to pre-history and the technological advances of the Bronze Age relied on the smelting of copper and tin. 

Lead - for domestic and industrial pipes and smelting - was an attraction for the Romans. 

He said: "Lead is very easy to work as a metal." 

The German miners arrived from the 1560s onwards at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth I and worked at Caldbeck, Goldscope at Keswick and at Coniston. 

The historian and author William Gershom Collingwood made a study of German-sounding surnames to record the lasting impact of these miners on Lake District communities. 

He said: "Little was known about who these people were and where they came from in Germany." 

He traced many of them to Augsberg in Bavaria. Goldscope, in the Newlands Valley, was derived from the German for "God's Gift". 

The first record of the German miners in the Lakes is 1564 and by 1566 they had arrived at Caldbeck. 

Many came from the Harz Mountains and the borders of Bavaria and Saxony. Also represented were miners from Innsbruck, Saltzberg and the Tyrol. 

They were led by Bavarian Daniel Hochstetter under a 1568 charter creating the Society of Mines Royal.

He said: "Hochstetter becomes effectively the crown's chief miner in the Lake District." 

German miners had skills beyond those available in Britain and two more generations of the Hochstetter family kept the mines going until 1648. 

The end came in the latter stages of the English Civil War and is said to be partly due to the Coniston mines being sacked by Parliamentary troops. 

The miners looked for exposed veins of metal ore and followed them into the rock. 

He said: "The mines are located on very, very steep hillsides." Some of the German names recorded at Silver Gill and Roughton Gill in 1569 included Wolf Binder, Martin Kep, Jobst Stoltz and Martin Obersteiner. Copper and lead had more uses in the late 16th century as the alloys brass and pewter became popular for tableware. 

He said: "It is the first great consumer age." Wigan became the centre of the metal working trade in Lancashire - using raw materials from the Lake District. 

An inventory of the property of Preston mayor Henry Catterall, who died in 1610, included a "brasse panne of Keswicke mettall."