The atmospheric remains of Magpie Mine are one of the best places to visit in the Peak District. It was the last working lead mine in Derbyshire 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 situated 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 – that have all been capped for safety, or are blocked – 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 1 1/2 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 Days, or can be arranged at other times for groups of six or more visitors if booked in advance – please contact email@example.com or the Peak District Lead Mining Museum. We welcome educational visits to the site, and a free Teacher’s Pack is available for download here.
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. You can also see some very nice aerial views of the whole site (filmed with drones) here and here.
We are very proud of the work that we have done to preserve this wonderful and unique site for over 50 years, and we think it is 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.
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, as cattle and sheep are grazed both on the site itself, and in the surrounding fields. Cattle can become aggressive if they have calves and feel threatened. Please clear up any waste from your dog and take it home with you.
- if you are flying a drone, please ensure you follow the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority. The site is often visited by several species of birds of prey, so take particular care not to disturb them.
- Magpie Mine also 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, draw them or photograph them – but leave them for others to enjoy as well.