Magpie Mine, Sheldon
Historic Site in Bakewell
Located near the village of Sheldon in Derbyshire, England, within the parish of Ashford in the Water, Magpie Mine stands as an exceptionally preserved disused lead mine. It forms part of a walled enclosure comprising five lead mines, namely Magpie Mine, Dirty Red Soil, Great Red Soil, Maypit, and Horsesteps, which collectively hold the status of a protected Scheduled Monument.
The history of lead mining in Mid-Derbyshire traces back to Roman times, and operations at this particular site have been documented since at least the 17th century. In 1682, the Shuttlebark vein of lead ore was officially inaugurated, while Magpie Mine itself has historical records dating back to 1740. After more than two centuries of operation, Magpie Mine ceased production in 1958, marking the end of lead mining in Derbyshire. Today, the site is under the management of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, which has diligently undertaken extensive restoration work.
Throughout its history, the mine experienced intermittent closures due to floods, disputes, and fluctuations in the price of lead. In 1833, a bitter conflict arose, leading to the suffocation of three miners from the neighboring Maypitt Mine by smoke deliberately ignited by miners from Magpie Mine. A subsequent murder trial resulted in the acquittal of all 24 suspects, as their actions were deemed provoked, and the true perpetrator remained unclear.
In 1839, the renowned mining engineer John Taylor assumed control of the mine, overseeing the construction of a complex of new limestone structures and implementing innovative equipment. Notable additions included the square chimney (recently renovated in 2016) and the circular chimney, both completed in 1840. The agent’s house, smithy, winding house (now demolished), circular gunpowder house, and engine reservoir were also erected during the 1840s. The Cornish engine house replaced a previous structure in 1869, housing the winding engine with its still-existing winding drum. The main shaft, sunk in 1823, plunges over 200 meters into the ground. An underground channel, known as the sough, was constructed between 1873 and 1881 to drain floodwater from the mines, stretching approximately 2 kilometers until it reached its outlet into the River Wye to the north. This remarkable feat allowed for the transportation of several million liters of water per day. Financial difficulties led to the mine’s closure in 1883, though it briefly operated in sporadic intervals between 1913 and 1923. It was reopened once more in 1950 but ultimately shuttered for good in 1958. The headgear above the main shaft, constructed with steelwork, and the corrugated iron winding house date back to the 1950s. For safety reasons, all underground mine shafts are now closed.
A reproduction horse gin has been established at the Red Soil mine shaft, replicating the original horse-powered winding mechanism that was used to raise lead ore to the surface.
Visitor access to the site is available via footpaths from Sheldon (approximately 500 meters to the north) and from surrounding lanes to the west, south, and east.
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