The atmospheric remains of Magpie Mine are one of the best places to visit in the Peak District and one of the top industrial heritage sites in Derbyshire. It was the last working lead mine in the Derbyshire orefield and is probably the best surviving example anywhere in the UK of a 19th century lead mine. The mine has a fascinating history spanning more than 200 years of bonanzas and failures, of bitter disputes and fights resulting in the “murder” of three miners, and a Widows’ Curse that is said to remain to this day.
Magpie Mine is located near the village of Sheldon in the Peak District, about 5km west of Bakewell. Its Ordnance Survey Grid Ref is SK173682 and postcode DE45 1QU (please be aware that some sat-navs don’t work properly, and instead take you to Sheldon village to the north). You can also see it on Google Maps here.
The mine site is crossed by two public footpaths as well as being Open Access Land (see here for a map of Magpie Mine), allowing public access on foot at any time. The access track to the mine from the Bakewell to Flagg road is, however, a private road for use only by the local farmers and PDMHS members – please take care not to block the gateways if you park by the roadside.
WHAT TO SEE ON YOUR VISIT TO MAGPIE MINE
Every era of working has left its mark on the Magpie Mine site. There are numerous mineshafts – all now blocked, or capped for safety – so there is no longer access to any of the underground workings. The most impressive features are the ruined Cornish Engine House which dates from 1869, and the adjacent circular chimney (built in 1840 to serve an earlier engine, but then re-used).
A similar thing happened to the Square Chimney, which was originally built in 1840 to serve a winding engine, of which all trace has now disappeared. When the horizontal winding engine (easily identified by the winding drum on the outside of the engine house) was installed later in 1869, a flue was built to connect the existing chimney to it. The Square Chimney and flue had suffered from their exposure to the weather and were in urgent need of repair, so were renovated in 2016 with the help of a substantial grant from the National Lottery.
Just in front of the Cornish Engine House is the 728ft deep Main Shaft, marked by the steel headgear and cage dating from the mine’s last phase of operation in the 1950s. On a bright day it is possible to look through the grille on the Main Shaft and see the water 528ft below (the shaft is flooded for a further 150ft). The mine is drained by a sough (drainage tunnel) which emerges over a mile away on the south side of the River Wye (at Grid Ref SK180698) about 1½ miles west of Ashford-in-the-Water, just upriver from the Bobbin Mill and its bridge over the River Wye. It still discharges about 4-6 million gallons of water a day. The corrugated iron shed housed the winder and has the distinction of being one of only three corrugated iron buildings in the country to be accorded Scheduled Monument status.
North of the Cornish Engine House is the circular powder house (1840), whilst to the east a replica horse gin has been erected on the Redsoil Engine Shaft. Another gin circle can also be seen at the western extremity of the site, serving the original Shuttlebark Engine Shaft (1760).
The Agent’s House and adjacent Smithy were built in the 1840’s. They have been renovated, and are now used as the Field Centre of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Except on Heritage Open Days or by prior arrangement, neither of these buildings are open to the public, but Society members wishing to use them should contact the Cottage Warden. Guided tours are available on our Heritage Open Day, or can be arranged at other times for groups of six or more visitors if booked in advance – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the Peak District Lead Mining Museum. We welcome educational visits to the site, and a free downloadableTeacher’s Pack is available.
You can read more about the history of Magpie Mine here. The Society has also published a guide book (copies £1 each) which is on sale at the Peak District Lead Mining Museum in Matlock Bath, and also from the Agent’s House or Smithy when Society members are on site.
We are very proud of the work that we have done to preserve this important and unique industrial heritage site for over 50 years, making it one of the top attractions in the Peak District. But please remember that it is a former industrial site – as well as a Scheduled Monument with legal protection – so facilities are very limited. For example, apart from a small area at the centre of the site, the ground surface is uneven and unfortunately not suitable for wheelchair access or children under 5.
Visitors are asked to take care not to interfere with any aspect of this Scheduled Monument to ensure the site, with its historic artefacts and buildings, remains in good condition for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
For the enjoyment of yourselves and others who visit, please observe these guidelines:
- do not climb on any of the buildings or other structures. It is an offence to damage or deface any part of a Scheduled Monument. It is also an offence to use any form of metal detector or to dig anywhere on the site.
- please don’t drop stones (or anything else) down the shafts.
- there are some steep slopes on the spoil heaps, unprotected drops, and lots of uneven ground on the site – so please take care where you walk and keep young children under control.
- please keep dogs under control. Cattle and sheep are grazed both on the site itself, and in the surrounding fields. Cattle can become agitated by the presence of a dog especially if there are also calves. If the cattle do show signs of distress and are causing you concern it may be best to release your dog from the lead, it can run faster than the cattle and will lead them away from you. If your dog is one of the varieties which might become aggressive around livestock then exercising it in fields with cattle is foolhardy.
Please clear up any waste from your dog and take it home with you.
- We cannot prevent persons from flying drones but they are not welcome. There have been numerous examples of the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority being disregarded even by holders of the CAA PfCO license, disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of the site by others, flying far too close to the historic structures, scaring livestock and wildlife. Our intention is to provide a place for quiet enjoyment and an environment friendly to wildlife which includes several species of bird and rare plants, drones are incompatible with those aims.
If you’d like to see aerial views of the site there’s a video here which has been filmed from a drone and the operator has complied with the CAA guidance.
- Magpie Mine has protected status because of its fantastic range of wild flowers – including several nationally rare species. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to pick or dig up any wild flowers. So admire their beauty, photograph or draw them – but leave them for others to enjoy as well.