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Snailbeach Mine

by PCW ~, 22 November 2012

Article and pictures by Piers Hallihan ~ Earlier in November 9 SWCC members braved the wilds of Shropshire to explore the Snailbeach Lead mines. Dating back to Roman times, the mines were worked in one way or another until the 1950’s with peak production being in the late 19th and very early 20th Centuries. The mines reach down over 556 yards from the main shaft in the centre of the village (as a scale drawing in the visitor centre shows, that’s almost 2 Eiffel towers) but since the main pumps were turned off in 1911, everything below the 110 yard level is flooded, with most of the “interesting” stuff being found at the 40 yard level.

Confusingly, the Levels are measured from the height of the main shaft in the centre of the village with modern access being via a Level some distance away and 120 feet higher up meaning that to access the 40 yard level, you actually have to descend something more like 80 Yards. Thanks to our hosts from the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club who’d been up and rigged most of the mine ready for us during the week, there wasn’t too much hanging around and the fact that they’d rigged it as a round trip meant we could split up and have two people descending at a time to meet up underground.

Restored winding gear in the village
After a few hours admiring the old tools and equipment left behind by the last workmen to leave and a few Indiana Jones moments on the interesting fixed aids – crossing a rusty railway girder wedged over a 200 foot drop does wonders for the concentration - we had lunch in what was probably one of the miners underground workshops before making our way back to the pitches to re-ascend and make our way to the pub for a most excellent evening of local Real Ale and great food. The Whinberry Crumble made from locally picked fruit being everyone’s choice for dessert..
They said it would be dry! Nearly out!
The Bridge of Death

The team: Piers, Tim R, Claire, Lizzy, Richard, Matt, Tim L, Chris

On the Sunday morning, the 6 that had stayed overnight scraped the ice of the cars to join two more who had travelled up especially for the surface tour which turned out to be a lot more than we’d bargained for. The fine weather and enthusiasm of the group meant that the quick look around the recently restored buildings on the main mine site turned into a leisurely 3 mile walk taking in a whole range of local history and some spectacular views over Shropshire and Mid Wales. Of course, after all of this, it would have been rude not to join our hosts back in the pub for a late lunch before heading back home. Naturally the conversation came around to other mines in the area worth a visit so the next trip is already being planned – Watch this space.

T'owd man's tools
View from the top of the walk

Trip comments:

"It was an excellent trip; the above ground element was one of the most interesting I have seen and far more extensive than I imagined it would be. The guys from the SCMC put in a lot of time on our behalf so please convey our thanks to them as well for all their efforts” – Chris Grimmet

“Really great trip, easy srt, it's amazing how much of the mine is flooded, all that history lost, but what you can see gives you an idea of the scale of it” – Lizzy (Das Neves) Wire