New book about copper mines is released

At a special celebration at Chatsworth, the Duke of Devonshire has welcomed the publication of a new book charting the development of the historic copper mines at Ecton.

‘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 mines’ secrets deep under Ecton Hill, Staffordshire.

Copper and lead were mined at Ecton for over 3,500 years until work stopped in 1891. It is now regarded as one of the most important historic mining sites in Britain.

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.

The 12th Duke of Devonshire 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 (p&p £5.60) from the Peak District Mining Museum, Matlock Bath, or phone 01629 583834.

Ecton is in the Manifold Valley, in the Staffordshire part of the Peak District National Park. Ecton Hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the mine itself is an underground SSSI for its important geology.