The dark history of un­der­ground mur­der

Macclesfield Express - - EAST CHESHIRE RAMBLERS -

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 ram­ uk.

‘The mine has seen fights, flood­ing and mur­der’

●● The ram­blers ar­rive at Mag­pie Mine

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