Magpie Mine is reputed to be haunted by three men who died in sulphurous fires, which were deliberately set underground by opposing miners. With a history of murder, suffocation and fighting miners in its past, it’s hard to believe it was the scene of disputes. Today, especially in early spring where there are some of the best displays of lead tolerant wildflowers carpeting the area, the mine is now a very quiet and peaceful spot, but it hasn’t always been so.
The earliest recorded workings of the mine dates back to 1740 and the mine was one of several ventures working different veins in the same area. From the offset, the miners had difficulty in keeping the workings free from water, but it was helped considerably in 1824 by a pumping engine, which was erected on the main shaft, which led to the production of 800 tons of lead been mined in 1827, a record which remained unbroken until 1871.
The disputes began with neighbouring mines over who had the right to work each vein and the miners from Magpie Mine and Maypitt Mine were both working the Great Red Soil Vein and would light fires underground to smoke out their opponents. The arguments raged over several years both under the ground but also in the court room and in 1833 three Maypitt Mine workers were suffocated by the fumes and 24 Magpie Miners were put on trial for their murder.
Several were freed immediately and eventually all were acquitted because of the difficulty in identifying who the culprit could be, but also taking into account the provocative actions of the Maypitt Miners themselves. It is said that the wives of the murdered men put a curse on the mine and the disputes ruined the mine, which closed in 1835.
In 1839 a famous Cornish mining engineer, John Taylor, was brought in to reopen the mine, which now incorporated the Great Red Soil Workings. He introduced some great innovations, including safety hats, safety fuses, iron winding ropes and steel borers to make it much more safe and he also introduced a more regular pattern shift working and payment for his workers, some of whom he had brought from Cornwall with him.
He deepened the main shaft to 208 metres and installed a 40 inch Cornish pumping engine, which proved inadequate over time. He proposed to add another 70 inch engine in but the proprietors didn’t agree and they felt a sough, a drainage tunnel, would be a better solution an appeal to the Duke of Devonshire to adjudicate, but it fell on deaf ears. Various attempts were made to agree over the next 30 years but it wasn’t until 1873 that the construction and the sough started, taking eight years to drive the River Wye near Ashford in the Water, to meet the main shaft which was a distance of 2 km away.
Nowadays, the most obvious features are the Cornish engine house, which was sadly ruined, dating back from 1869 and the adjacent circular chimney, which was built in 1840 to serve an earlier engine. The square chimney, which was built in 1840 to serve a winding engine has had a recent Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £74,000 and this has allowed the Peak District Mines Historical Society to employ contractors to carry out repairs that will ensure the chimney will remain standing for many years to come .The main shaft in front of the Cornish engine house is marked by the steel headgear and cage, dating back from the 1950s, and the corrugated iron shed housed the winding, is only one of three corrugated iron buildings in the country to be accorded Scheduled Monument Status.
How To Get To Magpie Mine;
The mine is 5 km west of Bakewell at grid reference : SK173682.
The access is a private road and cars must be left by the roadside. There are several public footpath which cross the site with access on foot from Sheldon village, Kirkdale and Hard Rake.
There are no restrictions on opening times.