Buxton legacy of Peak copper mine

A new book has delved deep into the history and development of one of Britain’s most important mining sites, which left a legacy of important buildings in Buxton.

Monday, 18th November 2013, 1:00 pm
The 1788 Boulton and Watt steam winding engine house at Ecton, which brought copper ore out of the mine up a shaft nearly 1000ft deep, then the deepest shaft in Britain. The photograph dates about 1918-20 shows the building before its roof was lowered to one side in about 1930 after a serious crack developed in the gable. The building still stands and its the oldest surviving winding engine house at a mine in the world.

‘Delving Ever Deeper: The Ecton Mines Through Time’ has been written by the Peak District National Park Authority’s senior survey archaeologist, John Barnatt, who used his skills to discover the secrets of the historic copper mines deep under Ecton Hill in Staffordshire’s Manifold Valley.

Copper and lead were mined at Ecton for over 3,500 years until work stopped in 1891. Between 1760 and 1790, the fourth and fifth Dukes of Devonshire, invested in the most advanced mining technology of the time, including underground blasting with gunpowder.

Ecton mine earned the Dukes a considerable fortune, and the fifth Duke invested to build the Crescent at Buxton and the circular stables which later became the Devonshire Dome.

Sign up to our daily Buxton Advertiser Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking at a special celebration at Chatsworth, the 12th Duke of Devonshire Peregrine Cavendish said: “Ecton mines played an important role in my family’s history, involved great technological advancements and helped shape the landscape we see today at Ecton and left a legacy of important buildings in Buxton.

“It is fascinating to read this detailed study of the mine workings, it will be a treasure trove of information for anyone with a passion for Britain’s mining heritage.

“The book is the result of a quite remarkable feat of archaeological survey work. John Barnatt and everyone involved are to be congratulated for their perseverance in a challenging underground environment.”

The book was commissioned by English Heritage and the National Park Authority to provide the first comprehensive archaeological study of the Scheduled Monument and help landowners conserve the mines.

Former chair of English Heritage, renowned industrial archaeologist Sir Neil Cossons, said: “The Ecton mines project was far more than a ‘standard’ archaeological excavation and survey exercise. It has succeeded in pushing the boundaries of how industrial sites are assessed, in particular for including the underground features as well as those at the surface.

“The book not only provides essential information for people in managing Ecton mines for conservation and education, it makes an important national contribution to our understanding of ancient and historic mine workings, why they look as they do, what different elements were used for, and how and when they were created.”

The book also contains contributions from Simon Timberlake and the Early Mines Research Group on the Bronze Age workings, William K. Whitehead on the Ecton engine house and Rhodri Thomas on the ecology of Ecton Hill.

‘Delving Ever Deeper’ is designed and published by the Peak District National Park Authority (ISBN: 978-0-901428-26-4), available at £21 (postage and packaging £5.60) from the Peak District Mining Museum, Matlock Bath, or by calling 01629 583834.