Other industrial history sites:
High Peak Trail
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. Buy now via Amazon.co.uk for a big discount off the shop price.
Mining has always been an important industry in the Peak District. Lead and the blue form of fluorspar (Blue John) have been mined since the times of the Romans. Some mines are simply the spoil heaps around the edges of the early bell pits, whilst more recent mines have left behind actual buildings. Perhaps one of the best preserved is the Magpie mine, near Sheldon (close to Ashford in the Water in the heart of the White Peak). The mine was definitely working in the 1790's and was possibly opened 20 to 30 years earlier. The engine house, ore crushing circle and drainage sough are some of the significant remains. In addition, it is alleged that the mine is haunted by the ghost of a miner who was killed in an underground accident. Visits can be arranged via the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath.
The mine has had a chequered history, from producing a record weight of lead to a series of sometimes violent disputes with the nearby Maypitt mine. The two mines worked the same vein and often the miners would light fires to 'smoke out' their rivals. A number of Maypitt miners were killed but the Magpie miners were acquitted because it proved too difficult to prove that the smoking had been deliberate rather than a valid mining technique. In addition, it was sugested that the Maypitt supervisors, who sealed the shafts (after evacuation) during the incident, were probably more responsible for the deaths. Had the shafts been left open, the fumes may have cleared more effectively.
Click on the image opposite for the full size pictures of Magpie Mine.
After this, the mine closed for a short period in the 1830's but was reopened when a Cornish mine engineer was brought in. In order to drain the mine, a large pump was installed and when this failed, a larger one was suggested. This advice was ignored and a sough (drainage channel) was constructed. Special boats were constructed to carry the ore out of the mine and along the sough. In order to move these boats, a series of ‘flash gates’ were built in the sough. When closed, the water built up behind the gates. The gates were then opened and a flash flood in the sough propelled the boat forward.
The mine continued to be worked sporadically into the 20th century, finally closing down in the 1950's I believe.
In the 1960's, a huge volume of water suddenly erupted from the sough. It turned out that the sough had become blocked. Water had built up behind the blockage and eventually had pushed the whole lot, plus part of the hillside, out.