Alderley Edge Mines

Useful Information

Location: Macclesfield Rd, Nether Alderley, Macclesfield SK10 4UB.
(53.2926093, -2.2124996)
Open: Tours once a month, online booking mandatory.
Fee: Open Day visits: Adults GBP 8, Children GBP 4, Seniors (65+) GBP 6, Family (1+2) GBP 14, Family (2+2) GBP 22.
Classification: MineCopper Mine MineLead Mine MineTungsten Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: J. Rowe, S. D. Burley (1997): Faulting and porosity modification in the Sherwood sandstone at Alderley Edge, Geol. Soc., Publn. No 124, 1997, pp 325-352.
D. B. Thompson (1970): The Area Around Manchester – Alderley Edge Geologists Association Guide (7): 39–51.
G. Warrington (1980): Alderley Edge Mining District Amateur Geologist: 4–13.
P A. Mohr (1964): On the Copper Mineralised Sandstones of Alderley Edge, England and Chercher, Ethiopia and the Problem of their Genesis: an essay on red bed copper deposits Geophysical Faculty of Science, Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa (Ser A, .): 4.
W.F. Jones (1961): The Copper Mines of Alderley Edge Privately Published (copy in Manchester Central Library).
Address: Derbyshire Caving Club, 27 Old Gloucester Street,London WC1N 3AX. E-mail:
National Trust, Macclesfield Rd, Nether Alderley, Macclesfield SK10 4UB, Tel: +44-1625-584412. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


4,000 BP mined during the Bronze Age.
1693 first written mention of mining in the area.
1878 excavations reveal Bronze Age remains including hammer stones and a wooden shovel.
1926 last mine closed and equipment sold.
1969 Derbyshire Caving Club obtains permission to re-open Wood Mine.
1980s designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
1993 wooden shovel discovered by Alan Garner and carbon-dated to around 1780 BC.
1993 designation extended to cover the whole of West Mine.
1995 discovery of the Pot Shaft Hoard, a 4th-century Roman coin hoard.
1995 to 2005 comprehensive study made by a project team lead by the Manchester Museum and the National Trust.
2001 five locations at Alderley Edge scheduled as monuments.


Alderley Edge is made of sandstones which formed 230 Ma ago during the Triassic, it is actually one of the classic locations for the study of Triassic sandstones in the UK. Numerous scientists have studied the area since the 19th century, and it is a popular field site for universities around the UK.

The top layer is the West Mine beds, hard aeolian sandstones. The Wood Mine beds below were formed under the influence of sweet water, they have conglomerates, water-deposited sandstones and marls. Below are the Engine Vein sandstones, again hard aeolian sandstones. The sandstone has little tectonic disturbance, but there was uplift creating a horst, and as a result, there are several fault zones in the rock. The layers are almost horizontal, but dipping to the west. As a result, the outcrop on the surface becomes older from west to east.

The ores are found in the faults, forming mineralized gangues, a result of solutions percolating through faults and porous rocks, depositing minerals. Lead minerals are in the gangues, and copper and lead are dispersed in the sandstone on one or both sides of the faults. Typically, the down-dip (south-western) side has more ores, if the rock is more porous ores are found further away from the fault. Cobalt is found in a north-south fault from Findlow Wood to Saddlebole. The deposit is not of hydrothermal origin though, there was no heat source like a magma intrusion, the minerals were deposited from cool solutions.

The main ores at this place are malachite, chalcopyrite, cuprite, wulfenite, cerussite, wad, mottramite, azurite, bornite, chalcocite, and galena. Actually, the site has 50 different minerals, according to As the site is protected by several laws, it is not allowed to collect any minerals.


The Alderley Edge Mines are said to be the oldest known metal-mining site in England which dates back to the Bronze Age. They were also mined during Roman times, and written records document mining from 1690. The mining actually ended in the late 19th century, attempts to re-open the mines in 1911, 1914, during the First World War, and after were unsuccessful. The last mine was closed in the 1920s, in 1926 the equipment was sold.

They are commonly dubbed copper mines, although the polymetallic ore has copper, lead, cobalt, and tungsten. The plural "mines" is well deserved, as there are actually dozens of mines near the village Alderley Edge in the forest which is owned by the National Trust. The mines are explored and managed by the Derbyshire Caving Club (DCC). They also offer guided tours into the mines. Trips are organized once a month, typically on a Tuesday evening, dates are published on their website, online booking is required. They have so-called Open Days or Open Weekends twice a year, where visitors can just show up and take the next tour. On those days the mines are partly lit with electric light, to make the tours easier. The tours show different mines and change regularly, the Engine Vein and Wood Mine are frequently visited.

The mine tours are more like cave trekking tours, the mines are not fully developed, only basic trails, staircases and ladders were installed, the floor is often dirty and there are low sections. Visitors are equipped with helmets with headlamp, old clothes, gum boots or trekking shoes are recommended. Visitors are discouraged from bringing backpacks or hammers, it's not allowed to collect minerals anyway.

There are numerous open cast mines, and while some are overgrown by vegetation, others are cleared and easily accessible. One of them is the Engine Vein Mine, which is located behind the Wizard Tea Rooms, a short walk through the woods. So if you have no underground tour, it's always possible to visit the open cast mines. The official parking lot is located at Macclesfield Rd (B5087) 800 m from the village. Here is also the Wizard Tea Rooms which is open Tue to Sun. In the next building is a mining museum, which is maintained by the DCC, but as far as we know, there are no regular open hours. We guess visitors can see the museum during guided tours.

The forest at Alderley Edge is owned and operated by the National Trust, and is quite popular, it is visited by a quarter million people every year. Only small numbers actually visit the mines. However, visiting the mines has been popular since the mid-19th-century, while the mines were operating, visitors were guided by a miner and quite safe. But the mines are known for numerous accidents and six fatalities after they were closed. In 1969 the mines were leased by the Derbyshire Caving Club who explored, mapped, excavated, and opened them to the public. Since then, the accidents have stopped, and they supported several major investigations and significant publications.

The legend of the wizard of Alderley Edge first appeared in print in the Manchester Mail of 1805, by a correspondent who obtained it from the narration of a servant of the Stanleys, whose proper name was Thomas Broadhurst, but who was better known as "Old Daddy." According to this veteran the tradition says that once upon a time a farmer from Mobberley, mounted on a milk-white horse, was crossing the Edge on his way to Macclesfield to sell the animal. He had reached a spot known as the Thieves' Hole, and, as he slowly rode along thinking of the profitable bargain which he hoped to make, was startled by the sudden appearance of an old man, tall and strangely clad in a deep flowing garment. The old man ordered him to stop, told him that he knew the errand upon which the rider was bent, and offered a sum of money for the horse. The farmer, however, refused the offer, not thinking it sufficient. "Go, then, to Macclesfield," said the old man, "but mark my words, you will not sell the horse. Should you find my words come true, meet me this evening, and I will buy your horse." The farmer laughed at such a prophecy, and went on his way. To his great surprise, and greater disappointment, nobody would buy, though all admired his beautiful horse. He was, therefore, compelled to return. On approaching the Edge he saw the old man again. Checking his horse's pace, he began to consider how far it might be prudent to deal with a perfect stranger in so lonely a place. However, while he was considering what to do, the old man commanded him, "Follow me!" Silently the old man led him by the Seven Firs, the Golden Stone, by Stormy Point, and Saddle Bole. Just as the farmer was beginning to think he had gone far enough he fancied that he heard a horse neighing underground. Again he heard it. Stretching forth his arm the old man touched a rock with a wand, and immediately the farmer saw a ponderous pair of iron gates, which, with a sound like thunder, flew open. The horse reared bolt upright, and the terrified farmer fell on his knees praying that his life might be spared. "Fear nothing," spoke the Wizard, "and behold a sight which no mortal eye has ever looked upon." They went into the cave. In a long succession of caverns the farmer saw a countless number of men and horses, the latter milk-white, and all fast asleep. In the innermost cavern heaps of treasure were piled up on the ground. From these glittering heaps the old man bade the farmer take the price he desired for his horse, and thus addressed him: "You see these men and horses; the number was not complete. Your horse was wanted to make it complete. Remember my words, there will come a day when these men and these horses, awakening from their enchanted slumber, will descend into the plain, decide the fate of a great battle, and save their country. This shall be when George the son of George shall reign. Go home in safety. Leave your horse with me. No harm will befall you; but henceforward no mortal eye will ever look upon the iron gates. Begone!" The farmer lost no time in obeying. He heard the iron gates close with the same fearful sounds with which they were opened, and made the best of his way to Mobberley.
excerpt from William E. A. Axon (1884): Cheshire Gleanings