Walks in the Peak District: Magpie Mine and the curse of the "murdered" miners

The remains of the almost 300 year old Magpie Mine, just a short 5km from the market town of Bakewell, is one of the best historical sites to visit in the Peak District and is classed as one of the top industrial heritage sites in Derbyshire. Mining has always been an important industry in the Peak District and the earliest recorded workings here date back to 1740 and was one of several which worked on the same underground vein. The mine caused some difficulty for the miners from the beginning as it was prone to filling with water but after a new pump was introduced in 1824, the production of lead reached 800 tonnes. Magpie Mine was the last working lead mine in Derbyshire and its remains are some of the best preserved in the UK. The buildings are so well preserved partially due to Lottery funding and the site is a fascinating place to visit. Although you are likely to experience a peaceful couple of hours visit at Magpie Mine, the site is said to be haunted and cursed by the ghosts of miners who were allegedly murdered in an underground accident, so always keep an eye out for anything unusual happening around you…

Magpie Mine Peak District heritage site

At a Glance

Difficulty: easy - generally flat walking over well maintained paths although some uneven ground within the site. 

Est Time: The walk in from the roadside parking will take no longer than five minutes and you can spend as little or as long as you want here. I recommend a couple of hours to really take in the history, see all the buildings and enjoy a spot of lunch or a drink while you’re there too.

Starting location: Free roadside parking on Grin Low.

Dog friendly: Yes just beware of cows in the field leading to the mine.

Facilities; none. 

Key features: beautifully preserved mining buildings rich in history and a peaceful setting. 

Where is Magpie Mine?

Magpie Mine can be found near the village of Sheldon and around 5km from the beautiful little market town of Bakewell. Luckily, the mine is situated on open access land which allows public access on foot at any time.  

Location of Magpie Mine in the Peak District

Parking and access to Magpie Mine 

There are several public footpaths that cross through the mine and you can easily tie this in with longer walks in the area however, if you just want to visit the mine then there is free roadside parking on a road called Grin Low literally at the end of a path that leads straight to the mine. To access the mine, you head through the gate and along the track straight towards the mine buildings. Be aware; this field was FULL of those things people call grass puppies(aka cows) and if you’re a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to cows like me then this might be the most unenjoyable section of the whole walk! Honestly, my heart rate must have reached its max just while I was figuring out a way to get through the field without them wanting to hunt me down. 

Anyway, here’s a pin drop to the parking area close to Magpie Mine.

Parking location for Magpie Mine

What you’ll see when visiting Magpie Mine

As you wander around the site, you really get a sense of the scale of this old mine; with multiple deep shafts which appear to plummet into black nothingness below (but which are also now blocked or capped for safety), a ruined engine house, the chimney, horse gin and the Agent’s House. Take the time to explore the buildings and reflect on the intense work that miners would have experienced day in, day out. 

Old buildings at Magpie Mine in the Peak District

Replica horse gin

This impressive horse gin would have been used as an engine but one powered by horses! A horse would have been attached to the rotating wheel and when it walked around it would pull lead ore up the shaft to the surface for the miners to collect at the top. 

horse gin at Magpie Mine Peak District Derbyshire walks

The square chimney and winding drum

Originally built in 1840 the remains of a winding drum remain outside. The winding system was often used in deep mines to control a cable to bring things to the surface of the mine. You can see the remains of the cable next to the engine house at Magpie Mine.

Winding drum at Magpie Mine

As you walk around the site, more buildings appear and one of my favourite parts is a 221m main shaft which is marked by this steel headgear and cage dating back to the 1950s.

Preserved buildings at Magpie Mine Peak District

Take a look through the grille here which covers the main shaft below and you might be able to see the water over 150m below you. This main shaft is flooded at the lower part but drains through a drainage tunnel over a mile away near the River Wye. You can even stand in the old cage which would have been used as a lift to descend down to the mining tunnels below. 

Peak District walks Magpie Mine

Be sure to head away from the site to get a beautiful view of the surrounding Derbyshire countryside - reflecting on the hardships that miners faced here is in stark contrast to the peaceful site you can experience there today. When we visited over Spring the wildflowers were in full bloom so we relaxed here for a bit with our lunch - just us and a couple of other mine enthusiasts wandering around. If you're heading here in the Spring time, the temperature can drop a little especially when you stop and in the wind it can be a bit chilly so be sure to wrap up warm in the Escape oversized fleece; perfect to keep the chill off you. 

Derbyshire countryside Peak District walk Magpie Mine

Arguments, murders and curses 

Historical sites are nothing without a bit of drama and curse and Magpie Mine is no different. Over many years, disputes with neighbouring mines using the same vein often broke out and miners would light fires underground to smoke each other out and halt their production. In 1833 though, disaster struck. After provocation from miners at the nearby Maypitt Mine, some of the Magpie miners lit a fire resulting in the death of three miners from the Maypitt Mine due to suffocation from the fumes. This led to 24 Magpie miners being put on trial for their murders however many were immediately freed due to the challenges involved in identifying the culprits. The wives of these murdered miners were said to have put a curse on the mine which closed two years later in 1835 but the ghosts of the murdered miners still haunt the site to this day. When visiting this site, it’s hard to believe that is was a place of deadly disputes especially with the colourful wildflowers in bloom and the quiet and peaceful feeling that enshrouds the site.

Magpie Mine preserved heritage site

Top Tips

  • Visit here in early Spring when the wildflowers literally create a carpet of colour around the site
  • Even though the mine shafts are blocked or capped, take care around these and don’t be tempted to mess with the metal coverings. A fall down one of these could be fatal. 
  • Magpie Mine has protected status due to its wildflowers and it is an offence to pick any of them
  • Access to the site is free but the cost of maintaining the site is high and any donations to the nearby museum or the purchase of a guide book is appreciated
  • Guided tours are sometimes offered on Heritage Open Days and group tours of six or more can be arranged by contacting magpiebookings@pdmhs.com 

Chimney at Magpie Mine

For additional UK outdoor adventures, wild swimming, hiking routes and more, check my other blog posts here on MY URBAN TRAIL and follow me @Wild_0utdoors on Instagram.

Happy adventuring! 

Izzy

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