Thursday, 2 October 2008

Pillar Mine

During a recent trip to Alderley Edge, we visited a number of ancient sites. One that sticks in my mind is Pillar Mine. This was a Neolithic Copper Mine, some 4000 years old, which was worked until the 1800's. Its name comes from a stone pillar that was left to support the frail entrance arch. The collapse of the Triassic Sandstone and the Pillar in historical times has left the entrance stronger, but more exposed.The Mine Addit went down inside the cave at an incline, opening into a large chamber and on into the mine workings. As the entrance has silted up, the cave just gets narrower until it ends now in a very shallow tunnel.
In recent years, people have built fires in the entrance to the mine, giving the cave a sooty coating and a strong smell of wood smoke and carbon particles. It is very evocative of the thought of how caves would have been in prehistoric times, when Hunter-Gatherer groups would have used them as seasonal shelters (it you ignore the modern graffiti and the melted plastic).
The floor in the mine is recent silt that has filled up the entrance. A 3 foot high arch marks the start of the tunnel excavations. This arch would have been around 7 foot high if the silt was removed. The remains of the exposed mine do not go much further than this point.
Even in Roman times, Cheshire was producing quite a lot of copper. In the 19th century, a tramway ran out of the mine to tip spoil over the edge. The spoil heaps have built up over time and both Neolithic and Bronze Age tools have been found. There were also shafts within the mine to access deeper veins of mineral.

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