Engine Vein opencast copper mine, 150m north of Warden's Cottage
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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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
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
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