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Magpie Mine

Magpie Mine

Probably the best preserved mining remains are at Magpie Mine, a short distance south of Sheldon in the Derbyshire Peak District. You can see the site from a distance with the remains of the ruined Engine House standing high above the surrounding fields.

Magpie Mine had a long history, ending with the erection of a steam pumping engine to deal with the problems of water at depth. The engine had a cylinder diameter of 70 inches (1.75 m diameter). This worked at first with 850 tons of ore being raised in 1871 but the success was short lived: the engine was unable to cope with the increasing quantity of water found as the mine was driven deeper. A sough or drainage level was therefore constructed from the south bank of the River Wye. This was a huge undertaking, commenced in 1873 it was not completed until 1881 at a cost variously reported as between 14,000 and 35,000.

This drained the mine to a depth of about 170m below the shaft collar and also acted as a pump way for water pumped up from greater depths. All this was carried out at a time of falling lead prices and although the main shaft was eventually sunk to a depth of about 220 m the enterprise went into liquidation in 1883. The sough trail can be visited by following the footpath from Kirk Dale along the south bank of the River Wye for about half a mile.

Magpie Mine has a recorded history from 1739, but dates back much further and is said locally to be over 300 years old. Protracted troubles broke out in the 1820s and 1830s between the miners of Magpie, Maypitts and Red Soil mines. The dispute revolved around a vein of lead, and at various times the miners broke through into each others workings. Often when this occurred one side would light a fire underground and try to smoke the other out. Tragically, in 1833, three Red Soil miners were suffocated to death by a fire lit by the Magpie miners.

Following a year in prison and a lengthy court case at Derby Assizes, five Magpie miners were acquitted of the charge of murder owing to conflicting evidence and the lack of intent. The three widows of the Red Soil miners reputedly put a curse on the mine and supposedly a ghost was seen there in 1946.

In 1842, there were two deaths at the Magpie Mine and during the next 50 years the mine was dogged by problems caused by flooding and fire. In 1880, the company operating the mine even changed its name to the Magpie Mining Company, probably in the hope of ridding itself of the curse.

After a period of inactivity several attempts were made to revive the mine, the last in the1950s. However, in 1958, the constant battle with flooding and falling prices forced the closure of the mine. It is now scheduled as an ancient monument, and is the most complete example of a lead mine remaining in the Peak District.

View Aerial Photo

By Road: take the Monyash road out of Bakewell and after about 3 km turn right on a minor road to Chelmorton. The mine buildings can be seen on the right after about 2km.


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