Ecton copper mine was the source of the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s fortune. It was the deepest mine in the world at that time.
Ecton Copper Ore Deposits
The latter half of the eighteenth century was the heyday of this famous Peak District mine. A vast deposit of high grade copper ore was discovered on the Duke’s land. The ore yielded as much as 60% copper which is a very high grade indeed, therefore making the owner very rich! Many copper ores that are mined today yield only 2 – 3%. This mining boom period lasted for 30 years between 1760 and 1790 and was the source of money used to build Buxton’s Crescent and Stable Block (the latter was later to become the Devonshire Royal Hospital).
The Copper Ore Body
In some places this copper ore body of Ecton mine was fifty metres wide. Deeper in the mine, the copper ore was increasingly replaced by zinc ores. Dr. Joseph Watson described the shape of the ore body was as a saddle deposit. This is the name that miners gave to locations where ore bodies had been folded by anticline/syncline formations.
Samples of the copper and zinc ores from Ecton mine are held at Chatsworth house in the Peak District and at the British museum in London. The grotto at Chatsworth is lined with chalcopyrites and calcite from the mine.
Peak District Copper Mineralisation
Ecton mine is unusual in the Peak District as it is the only location with significant copper mineralisation. Some lead and zinc ore has also been extracted from this mine, however, it is best known as a copper mine. The mine is the deepest in the Peak District and probably the deepest in the world at the time. Ecton miners burrowed down at least 1800 feet by 1788).
A reason for this record is the nature of the deposits as vertical ‘pipes’. Contemporary writers visiting the mine were obviously impressed by the beauty of the ores – yellow, gold, topaz, violet and azure all being mentioned. The ores responsible for this multifarious appearance were (mainly) chalcopyrites with oxides and carbonates. The gangue was mainly yellow calcite with fluorite and iron minerals.
The Early Days of Ecton Mine
The mine was worked in the 17th century, possibly earlier but never fully exploited. In 1723 a group of speculators re-opened Ecton mine but unfortunately ran out of money before the rich ore body was discovered. In 1763 and 1764 the output was over 1000 tons per year, although this was reduced by the end of the decade.
Modern Day Ecton Mine
Some of the surface features of Ecton copper mine survive today. Walk the paths overlooking the Manifold valley and you will see them. Firstly, there are still many shafts, both vertical and adit. Adit entrances to mines enter from the hillside, removing the need for winding gear and cages to make the descent.
Important: Take great care if you are visiting the region as there are open shafts on the hillside.
The engine house is visible high on the hillside but is now an agricultural building. The main mine buildings can be found close to the river Manifold. Below the mine workings you can see the striking copper roof of the building that belonged to the mine manager.
Follow this link for photographs taken at the surface of Ecton Mine (opens in a new window).
Britain Supplies the World
Ecton mine was one of several that contributed to Britain’s position as the number one supplier of copper in the 18th century. The main copper deposits in the UK were in Cornwall with significant deposits on Anglesey.
Disclaimer – (probably not needed but here goes anyway!) We can accept no responsibility for your well being if you visit any of the geological or mining sites mentioned on this web site, they are included only as information. You should ensure that the necessary permissions are sought when entering private property and also take appropriate action to ensure your personal safety.
Reference book …
Peak District Mining and Quarrying – at last, a local history book that is easy to read and holds your interest for more than a few minutes at a time! Fascinating, well illustrated, non-technical and with a social angle throughout.