The dark history of underground murder
THIS fascinating account of dark and deadly deeds underground was researched and written by following a walk she led recently for East Cheshire Ramblers – which passed through the pretty White Peak villages of Taddington, Sheldon, Monyash (pronounced Munyash) and Flagg.
The main objective of the walk was to visit the Magpie Mine just outside Sheldon, which is probably the best visible example in the UK of a nineteenth century lead mine.
During a history spanning more than 200 years the mine has seen commercial booms and failures, flooding, fights – and even murder.
Disputes frequently broke out, especially during the 1820s and 1830s between the miners of Magpie, Maypitts and Red Soil mines which were all working the same vein of lead.
At various times they broke into each other’s workings, which would result in one of their competitors lighting a fire underground in an attempt to smoke them out.
Tragically in 1833 three Maypitt miners were suffocated to death by just such a fire and 24 Magpie miners were subsequently put on trial for their murder.
Eventually, all the Magpie men were released because of the provocative actions of the Maypitt miners themselves and the difficulty in identifying individual culprits.
It was said afterwards that the widows of the three murdered miners put a curse on the mine and it never really prospered afterwards.
Several attempts were made to revive it but in 1958 the constant battles with flooding and falling lead prices forced the mine’s closure.
Today the buildings which are still visible on the surface are enough to be able to construct a picture of what a 19th century lead mine would have looked like and is a very quiet, peaceful spot, belying its savage past.
For more fascinating walks, see East Cheshire Ramblers summer programme at ramblerseastcheshire.org. uk.
‘The mine has seen fights, flooding and murder’
●● The ramblers arrive at Magpie Mine