Engine Vein opencast copper mine, 150m north of Warden's Cottage


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Engine Vein opencast copper mine, 150m north of Warden's Cottage
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
Nether Alderley
National Grid Reference:
SJ 86041 77483

Reasons for Designation

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 visible remains of copper workings at Engine Vein show evidence for mining dating from the Bronze Age to the recent past. This is well-preserved, well- documented and researched. These remains constitute an important source for our knowledge of early and later mining techniques, particularly the Bronze Age remains and the firm evidence of Roman mining. The site is situated on land belonging to the National Trust and is an educational resource giving insight into the exploitation of mineral resources in the area.


The monument includes the rock-cut mine workings, mine entrance, spoil heaps and capped mineshafts associated with the Engine Vein fault line, extending for about 150m north west to south east, to the north of Warden's Cottage on Alderley Edge. The vein contains deposits of copper, cobalt and at least 40 other minerals. This combination of minerals has justified its designation as a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The copper has been extracted at this location from the Bronze Age to the 19th century. The underlying sandstone is known as Engine Vein conglomerate. The eastern half of the site is a steep-sided canyon formed by successive periods of opencast cutting down into the fault line and thereby forming an opencut about 15m deep. The floor of the trench has been capped with concrete to make it safer for the public and so the present floor is about 8m from the surface. The cutting of this deep trench has bisected several shallow pits which were formed by miners using stone hammers to extract the copper nodules. This shallow open pit working dates from the Bronze Age and creates characteristic peck marks in the rock face which may be compared with examples from Europe and the Near East. In addition, many broken and discarded stone axe-hammers have been found at and near the site over the last 100 years. These are formed from hard river pebbles with a groove pecked around the centre to attach a handle. These are also comparable with examples from both Israel and Spain which are associated with Bronze Age workings. Evidence for Roman mining at ground level and below the surface has also been recorded at this site. A bisected shaft with an inclined access and rock-cut notches for a possible windlass mounting are visible on the northern side at SJ86077747. These represent Roman or possibly medieval mine workings. In the canyon side below the Bronze Age surface workings there are rock faces representing hand- picked extraction dating from mining operations from the medieval period through to the early 18th century and also traces of cobalt and copper extraction by the blasting which was happening from 1857. Other rock-cut features are now hidden from view by the concrete cap in the floor of the trench. There are three shaft heads sealed by locked covers within the area, one 35m to the west, and two immediately to the north of the central canyon. The central shaft head is known as `Pot Shaft' and has been shown by excavation to have Roman workings below ground. The western end of the opencut is partly infilled by eroded material from the pit sides and represents opencast mining by pitting and trenching over many years of the early history of the site. At the east end of the workings are two 30m by 20m spoil heaps, one on either side of the entrance way which debouches onto the track which passes the site 35m to the east. These tips are included in the scheduling in order to retain all evidence in the form of discarded tools and equipment as well as waste ores produced by mining at this location. On the lip of the south east end of the opencut is an excavated pit leading down into a mine entrance which has been sealed with a steel door. Above this entrance there are signs of pit workings made by stone hammers which date to the Bronze Age. Other hand-picked pitting and blasted surfaces above the entrance can be dated to 1957 when the Territorial Army attacked the mine with explosives, pickaxes, crow bars and spades. The steel door and the modern concrete surround for this mine entrance are excluded from the scheduling but the surrounding rock is included. All fence posts and rails or wires, the concrete shaft seal supports, the steel caps, and the bench on the bluff to the north of the site is are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Craddock, P, Bronze Age Metallurgy in Europe, (1986), 106
J Milln, National Trust Archaeologist, (2000)
Manchester Museum and National Trust Survey, (1998)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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