Back to the Bronze Age
Ecton Hill’s geology of distorted limestone rock gave rise to it being the source of high-grade copper ore, unusual for the Peak District, which is historically known mainly as a source of lead ore.
Thanks to recent archaeological research we now know that copper was mined here as far back as the bronze age, it is one of only two confirmed Bronze Age copper mines in England; the other is at Alderley Edge.
The National Trust purchased the site from the estate of Geoff Cox, a mining engineer who bought the site and the old mine in the 1960s, having recognised its importance for mining history and geology.
The mine was most active during the 18th century when, under the ownership of the Dukes of Devonshire, great investment was made in new mining technology to exploit the extensive rich copper deposits within the hill. It became one of the richest copper mines in the world at the time.
As the mine became deeper, the Duke engaged Messrs Boulton and Watt to build a steam engine at the top of the shaft to lift the ore from the depths below.
This was completed in 1788 and the Engine House still stands and is thought to be the oldest mine-winding engine house in the world. 2019 marks the bicentenery of the year of death of James Watt. A major exhibition showcasing his work is on display at the library of Birmingham and a programme of events are happening throughout 2019. More details can be found at www.jameswatt2019.org
The engine house is a scheduled monument and is on English Heritage’s list of buildings “At Risk”. With the support of Natural England, we succeeded in getting funding for repair work.
The first phase of this was undertaken in 2012, with roof repairs, structural work and site improvements being undertaken. Phase two revealed more of the original interior of the building.
The mine itself is owned by the Ecton Mine Educational Trust, an independent charitable body that we work closely with to promote the use of the mine and the hill for educational purposes.
Now repaired, the Engine House has become part of a tour of features that tell the story of this important site.
A team of friendly volunteers offer a programme of day tours through the summer months each year, which include going into the mine and onto the hill to look inside the engine house. These tours are extremely popular so require advance booking. To find out about future day tours please call us on 01335 350503 or click here.