Sheldon is a quiet upland village which for more than twenty years was ‘dry’ and devoid of a pubs when The Devonshire Inn closed, but then the Cock & Pullet thankfully opened its doors in 1995.
Sheldon is typical of a White Peak village which grew as a result of its position close to industrious lead mines. Standing at 1,000 feet above sea level, Sheldon mainly comprises of farmhouses and cottages dating from the 18th century when mining was at its height. However, a further boom resulted in Cornish miners migrating to Sheldon and increasing the population by twenty five per cent according to a census in 1861. One notable Sheldon family are the Brocklehursts. Matthew Brocklehurst was given an award for his part in the rescue operations at the time of the ‘murders’ (see later). Ephraim Brocklehurst was killed when he fell into Magpie Mine in 1869, his gravestone reading ’tis but a step ‘twixt life and death’, and yet three further Brocklehurst men worked at the mine on the outskirts of Sheldon and commanded responsible positions.
In the Domesday Book, Sheldon was referred to as Scheldhaun.
Sheldon has a curious tale in its history. In 1601 a duck was seen by a local resident to fly into a hollow tree and not to come out again. It gained the name from then on as the Duck Tree. Some three hundred years later when the tree was felled and sawn into planks, each plank contained the life-sized outline of a duck. The wood was reputedly used to make a mantelpiece for Greatbach Hall in Ashford.
Sheldon’s church is now dedicated to St Michael and All Angels but is said to replace an earlier All Saints church. Sheldon was at one time a chapelry of Bakewell, but the partly Norman chapel was demolished in 1865. The present building has an unusual rounded east wall and attractive roof timbers. Church records state that in 1753 a 14-year old boy and an 80-year old disabled widow were married in the parish of Sheldon
On the hillside below Sheldon and the River Wye lies a huge expanse of trees. Shacklow Woods are an amazing sight in autumn when the hillside is bathed in an amber glow.
Across the fields from Sheldon are the extensive remains and buildings of Magpie Mine which was last worked in 1958. The mine has a chequered history dating back some 300 years with recorded documentation from 1739. Successions of owners have invested vast sums of money and provided the best equipment over the years in the hope of finding rich veins of lead ore. However, apart from a short spell in the 19th century, Magpie Mine has never made large profits and is said to have been sold about 1801 for the sum of just one shilling! The buildings that remain belong to the 19th century and have been stabilised so that they can now be used as a Field Study Centre for the Peak District Mines Historical Society with visiting parties being arranged through the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath
The winding house and drum, together with the round Cornish chimney were built in 1869 but the steel headgear and corrugated iron winding house are much later. The shaft of Magpie Mine is 728 feet deep and a sough which was driven between 1873 ? 1881 drained water beneath Sheldon, under the woods and out into the River Wye in the valley below, the exit of which can still be seen.
The sough was 1 ¼ miles long and cost some £45,000 to construct and was the last major sough in Derbyshire . It does not follow a straight route as planned due to toadstone (very hard basalt rock) being found in vast quantities during its construction. The sough therefore twists and turns its way under the hillside. It was designed so that a boat or barge could be used to transport the ore out from the mine, but it was necessary for three lock gates to be built for the boat to travel upstream and to reach different veins. In 1962 the sough became blocked after a roof collapse in the then disused mine. Water backed up behind the blockage and in 1966 following heavy rain, the pressure created a blow-out which resulted in a large crater occurring close to the sough exit. The blockage was not cleared until 1974 and trapped water estimated at 3 million gallons was then released.
There is also an ore-crushing circle and the Managers House which was built in 1864 with a blacksmiths on one side and a weigh house on the other.
Magpie Mine is said to be cursed and haunted following the infamous ‘murders’ in 1833. Miners from the nearby Red Soil Mine and Magpie Miners broke through into the same workings in the 1820’s. After much fighting, bickering and disputing, matters came to a head when the Red Soil Miners set fire to straw 400 feet below ground. The Magpie Miners retaliated by burning straw, sulphur and oil resulting in a panic when three of the Red Soil Miners suffocated. Ten of the Magpie Miners were charged with wilful murder but after a 2-day trial at Derby Assizes were found not guilty.
Just after the war, a party of speleologists exploring the mine reported seeing a man with a candle who disappeared without trace, as well as capturing on film a second spectre apparently standing on nine feet of water!