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Copper mines on Ecton Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Wetton, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 53.1209 / 53°7'15"N

Longitude: -1.8539 / 1°51'13"W

OS Eastings: 409875.980971

OS Northings: 358201.414586

OS Grid: SK098582

Mapcode National: GBR 362.6EB

Mapcode Global: WHCDJ.HTFB

Entry Name: Copper mines on Ecton Hill

Scheduled Date: 8 March 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021175

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28883

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Wetton

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Wetton St Margaret

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the known surviving extent of the standing and buried
remains of Deep Shaft, Dutchman Mine and the Ecton dressing floors. These were
an integral part of the copper and lead mines on Ecton Hill, which, in turn,
were the last of the north Staffordshire mines to close. Ecton Hill is bounded
on the west by the River Manifold and on the east by a wide shallow valley
containing two streams. The remains lie within four separate areas of
protection. The rest of the site is not yet fully understood and therefore not
included in the scheduling.

There are about 70 mine workings scattered over the hill, including 40-50
vertical shafts, some over 90m deep, others shallow or grassed over. The
chief Ecton mines were: Deep Shaft, Clayton, Dutchman, Bag Mine, Chadwick and
Waterbank. In addition there were the associated sites of the Ecton Hill
smelting works and dressing floors on the west side of the hill. Of these the
dressing floors, Deep Shaft and Dutchman Mine have been included in the

Deep Shaft sits on the centre of the northern part of Ecton Hill in the first
area of protection, with Dutchmans level about 150m to the south, and the
dressing floor down the hillside about 150m to the west of Dutchmans. The
remains of spoil tips can be seen to the west of Dutchmans, and downslope of
the dressing floor.

The position of the main ore body, the Ecton Pipe, is marked on the hilltop by
the former engine house which was later used as a barn. It is here that the
main engine shaft, or Deep Shaft, goes down nearly to the base of the mine.
When it was realised that horse gins could no longer cope with the large
quantity of material being raised from what was then the deepest mine in
Britain, a steam powered Boulton and Watt winding engine was housed in the
engine house in 1788. Inside the building there is a slot for the beam in the
centre of the wall, and access for the pipe from the boiler can be seen.
Original timber lintels are present in the building, and the wheel pit
survives, though its northern end is partially infilled. After a number of
repairs to the engine it was finally scrapped in 1855. Both kibbles (buckets),
the balance weight as well as the water pump rods, were originally located in
the Deep Shaft but, following an accident when the balance weight dropped down
the shaft, a separate shaft was constructed for the balance. This shaft is
still visible today with a large built up mound to bring it level with the
winding gear, and is now capped by a substantial stone `beehive'. Adjacent to
the engine house are the ruins of its chimney standing about 3m high and lined
with brick and masonry. The engine shaft is located immediately to the north
west of the building. Spoil immediately outside the engine house is thought to
mark the site of the winding drum of the engine, and it is believed that the
base of the drum survives under the mound.

Dutchman's Level in the second area of protection includes an adit entrance
and the remains of three buildings covering an area of about 80 sq m. At the
north east corner of this mine site are the ruins of a two-bay building which
cuts into the hillside, thought to be a smithy and carpenter's shop. Only the
foundations of the southern bay survive, although the other bay is more
complete. Immediately to the south of this building is the adit entrance,
which has been carved out of natural bedrock. Several timber lintels survive
at the entrance. A later entrance with a locked gate has been added inside the
original entrance for security reasons. At the southern end of this site are
the ruins of what are considered to be the engine house and a stone mounting
block with what is thought to be a wheel pit adjacent to it. At its highest
point the standing remains of the engine house are about 2.5m high.
Immediately to the north of this is a levelled area which is believed to be
the site of a dressing floor, and beyond this a large area of spoil.

Lying within the third and fourth areas of protection are the Deep Ecton and
Clayton Portals as well as Ecton's upper dressing floors dating from the 19th
century. They cover a large oblong area on the west side of Ecton Hill. The
19th century dressing floors replaced those of the 1760s at the foot of the
hill between the river and road. A number of features associated with the
processing of ore survive including two rotary buddles, an ore shoot and the
site of the jig tubs. When the ore had been washed and crushed, it was sieved
in the jiggers so that the heavy ore settled onto or through the jiggers,
leaving the waste to be skimmed off. The round buddles, which are 3m in
diameter and 0.3m deep, were purchased in 1885 by the Ecton Co Ltd. They had
rotating brushes which agitated the sand-size products of earlier crushing and
stamping mills, so that the finely ground ore settled in the water filled
tanks. One of the buddles and the ore shoot have been partially excavated,
leaving timber exposed. The site of the jig tubs are located to the east of
the buddles, and also present is the line of the water course which provided
water for processing. The line of the tramway from Salts Level to the area of
the buddles and jig tubs can be traced from old plans as can the site of the
engine house. The line of the double track incline from the engine house can
be determined, although nothing is left of the supports of the incline itself.
Adjacent to the engine house was a single storey workshed which has now been
removed to nearby West Side Mill where it is still in use.

A number of original mining features can still be seen today lying further
down the western side of the hill towards Ecton. The area below Dutchman
where a path leads to the Castle Folly, includes a building which dates to
the 1930s and has in its private grounds the blocked entrance to Salt's Level
from where ore was trammed onto the dressing floor, at a time when the Boulton
& Watt engine was in use. Descending from here one passes the former office,
salesroom and home of the manager, all now private residences. These features
are not included in the scheduling.

The first mention of minerals at Ecton is in 1376, and by 1575 the land was
owned by the Cavandish family (later Earls and then Dukes of Devonshire) and
the Burgoyne family who held lands at Ecton in the 16th century. Large scale
mining started in the 17th century, when Ecton became one of the very few
British copper mines. It achieved greater fame by becoming the first British
mine to use gunpowder for mining purposes. In 1660 at the end of the Civil
War, the mines were reopened by the 3rd Earl of Devonshire, and were worked
continuously for the next five years. Traditionally these early operations
took place at the Dutchman Mine. From 1723 to 1760 the 3rd and 4th Dukes of
Devonshire leased out the mine to various ventures, and it was during this
time that Apes Tor Sough was completed to intersect the Ecton pipe. This
remained the only level access for 15 years, but the steep hillside here close
to the river gave little room for buildings, dressing floors and smelting
furnaces, so a new drainage level, Deep Level, was constructed. The years
between 1760 and 1818 were the start of a period of great expansion and
prosperity for the mines. Drainage was a slight problem at Ecton, but was
solved by the installation of a pumping engine operated by a balance beam. By
1786 ore production was at its peak, with over 4,000 tons being raised in that
year alone. By the time the steam engine was installed in 1788, production had
passed its peak with output falling sharply.

In autumn 1804 a new level, later known as Salts Level, was driven to
intersect Deep Shaft so that ore could be trammed out to new dressing floors.
It is not known why the new dressing floors were constructed at this time when
the main body of copper ore was almost exhausted. The Duke of Devonshire
finally ceased operating Ecton Mine at the end of 1825, although mining at
Ecton continued under management of a private company. Further mining took
place at Ecton on a fairly sporadic basis.

In 1883 The Ecton Co Ltd undertook some work on the buildings at Ecton,
including converting the South Smelt House to smiths and carpenters' shops and
a changing room. In the following year extraction of ore from Clayton and
Waterbank Mines necessitated the purchase of dressing plant, a complete
Cornish crushing mill, jigger and two buddles with attachments were purchased.
Erection of the plant commenced in March 1885 with the building of a trestled
incline, carrying a twin railed track, from Clayton entrance, over the Dukes
Gravel Pit to the engine house so that the ore could be loaded into wagons in
the stopes, taken up the shaft, up the incline and onto the dressing floors
without being loaded and unloaded several times.

The Ecton Company terminated its lease on 1st Jan 1891. Ecton was the last of
the north Staffordshire copper and lead mines to close, unable to compete with
the developing orefields overseas.

All wire fences and sleepers are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Copper was extracted in Britain intermittently from the Early Bronze Age
(about 2000 BC) until the early 20th century, after when the industry was
confined to by-product production and small scale reworkings of mines and
dumps. There is very limited evidence for copper mining before the 15th and
16th centuries, and most known sites are of later date, principally of the
industry's 18th and 19th century peak after it had been revitalised by
developments in smelting technology. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as
perhaps it had also been in prehistory, British production was important on a
European scale.
Nucleated copper mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by
copper mining. They consist of a range of features grouped around the adits
and/or shafts of a mine. The simplest examples contain merely a shaft or adit
with associated spoil tip, but more complex and, in general, later examples
may include remains of engine houses for pumping and/or winding from shafts,
housing, lodging shops and offices and power transmission features such as
wheel pits and leats. The majority of nucleated copper mines are of 18th to
20th century date, earlier mining being normally by rakes, opencuts and open
levels, and including scattered ore dressing features.
An essential part of a copper mining site is the ore works, where the mixture
of ore and waste rock extracted from the ground was separated (dressed) to
form a smeltable concentrate. The range of processes can be summarised as:
picking out clean lumps of ore and waste; hammering (breaking down lumps to a
smaller size by manual hammering or by mechanical crushing); jigging
(separation of gravel-sized material by shaking on a sieve in a tub of water;
and buddling (separation of finer material by washing away the lighter waste
in a current of water). Field remains of ore works include crushing devices,
separating structures and tanks and tips of distinctive waste from the various
processes, together with associated water supplies. Simple ore dressing
devices had been developed by the 16th century, but the large majority date
from the 18th to 20th centuries, when technology evolved rapidly.
During English Heritage's national evaluation of the copper industry, 130
sites were assessed. This is a highly select sample of the numbers of sites
that historically existed in England; although there are no national
estimates, for the south west alone an estimate has been made of over 10,000
sites. It is considered that protection by scheduling is appropriate for less
than 50, with alternative means of protection or management being considered
more appropriate for the other nationally important sites.

The Ecton mines of Deep Shaft and Dutchman survive well, retaining most of the
features and layout which were present at their closure in the mid 19th
century, unencumbered by later redevelopment or dumping. The dressing floor is
similarly undisturbed. There are a number of important survivals, in
particular, the Boulton and Watt engine house at Deep Shaft and the fragile
wooden buddles and ore shaft at the dressing floor. The presence of the
elements of mining and processing can be traced in the survival of mines and
dressing floor, including the route of the water supply used in processing of
the ore.

Ecton is almost unique locally in being a rich copper mine on the western
edge of the Peak District, an area usually associated with lead mines. The
Ecton mines made a significant contribution to the national production of
minerals, being innovators, or at least early users, of several new techniques
later to become widespread throughout the industry. Most notably they
pioneered the use of explosives in mining for the first time in Britain, and
the use of a balance-beam hydraulic pumping engine for drainage, which was
probably the largest of its type ever built. The mines also used underground
boats soon after they were first used at the Worsley Collieries near
Manchester, and were one of the earliest users of James Watt's rotative
steam engines for raising ore from the base of the mine shaft.

The good survival of the mines on the hill top and the dressing floor on the
hillside provide a highly visible and tangible reminder of the scale of the
19th century mining boom and its influence to the present day on settlement
patterns, accounting for the substantial expansion, and in some cases the
foundation, of most of the hamlets and villages in the surrounding area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 59-60
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 19-21
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 28-30
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 30
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 17
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 42
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 36
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 80
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 55
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 6
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 16
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 58
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 35
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 18
Roby, A, Porter, L, The Copper and Lead Mines of Ecton Hill Staffordshire, (1972), 7
Whitehead, W K, The Ecton Steam Engine 1788 Heritage Book, (2001), i-11

Source: Historic England

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