Fern and Roman Caves

Useful Information

Location: Matlock Bath, Derbysbire.
On the summit of High Tor.
(53.125910317940570, -1.557004362940947)
Open: closed.
Fee: closed.
Classification: MineLead Mine
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Roman Cave: L=210 m, W=2-5 m, VR=20 m.
Fern Cave: L=240 m, W=1-3 m, VR=22 m.
Guided tours: L=200 m, D=15 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: John Barnatt, Terry Worthington (2006): A Detailed Archaeological Assessment of Fern and Roman Caves, High Tor Rake and Hard Rake, High Tor, Matlock Bath, PDNPA, unpublished. pdf
Address: Matlock and High Tor Recreation Grounds Co. Ltd., High Tor Office, The Dale, Matlock, Derbyshire, Tel: +44-1629-582344.
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.


1540 mining started.
~1860 opened as a show mine.
1900 end of mining.
2006 archaeological survey.


The Fern and Roman Caves are two open cast lead mines, locally called opencut stope, on the High Tor hill. The whole area is a park with trails which also lead to the mines. The mines actually look like straight, narrow gorges, which are typically 1 to 2 m wide and up to 20 m deep. Since the 1860s the mines were equipped with trails and shown to visitors as "show caves". In the late 20th century they were part of the Height of Abraham amusement park and there were guided tours. Despite being mines, they were listed as show caves. Many years ago they were closed to the public, and though the official explanation are security issues, we guess they were simply not profitable. While they are officially closed and there are no guided tours, it seems they are actually freely accessible. There is no gate for Roman Cave, and the gate to Fern Cave seems to be broken. A visit is rather easy, there are still the trails, just be careful. Good walking shoes, a lamp and a helmet are recommended.

Mining of the lead mines started about 600 years ago. Despite the name the lead was not mined during Roman times. The Roman and Fern Caves were mined mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Actually the two are connected but mined two different leads, which run almost perpendicular. The mining started with fire setting, but there are also scars from gunpowder blasting at the end. The mines also have some nice minerals, mostly calcite crystals originating from the surrounding limestone. The vein itself is almost completely removed.