[From Lamplugh, Geology of IoM, 1903]


In proportion to its area the metalliferous wealth of the Isle of Man has been great. Two of its mines have stood, for a long series of years, in the first rank in the British Islands for productiveness, respectively, of silver-lead and of zinc. 'These metals have constituted its principal riches, but copper-pyrites and hematite-iron has also been raised in marketable quantity. Of ores of nickel and antimony only minute quantities have been found, while of gold the reported occurrences are not well established (p. 549).

As veins yielding traces of the useful metals are frequently exposed in the cliff: sections, it is not surprising to find that they attracted attention at an early date, and are mentioned in the ancient records of the Island.

The great lode of Bradda Head (see p. 530), with its glance of white vein-quartz cutting vertically through the cliffs of dark. slate, stands up so conspicuously when viewed either from land or sea that it must have received notice as soon as this part of the Island became known to men acquainted with the use and mode of occurrence of its metals.

Hence, so far back as history goes we hear of this lode; and the miners of later days have found workings of unknown date in which the ore had been extracted by the use' of 'featherwedges,' a method abandoned upon the introduction of gunpowder.1 These old workings have been vaguely assigned to "the Romans"; but though the Island was known to that nation the absence of Roman antiquities renders it improbable that any attempt was made by these invaders to colonise it. .

We are informed by Mr. A. W. Moore, the historian of the Island, that in the course of his researches 2 he finds the first mention of the Manx Mines in 1246. The island was at that time still under the dominance of Norway; and its King, Harald II, granted a charter by which the monks of Furness Abbey obtained the right to work the mines.3 The previous existence of the mines is thus distinctly implied.

Cumming notes that " it is stated in Chaloner's ' Caledonia ' (vol. iii., p. 372) that John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, obtained from Edward I. a license to dig for lead in the Calf of Man to cover eight towers of his Castle of Cruggleton in Galloway. In the course of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the noble family of Stanley appear to have sought for copper in the same neighbourhood; traces of their labours remain. The ore discovered, though not abundant, was rich in quality producing six pennyweights of copper per ounce of ore." 4

From Mr. Moore's researches we learn that in 1406 "mines of lead and iron" were included in the grant of the Island to Sir John Stanley by Henry IV.; and in 1422 it was ordered that the lord's mine should be managed by his " Lieutenant, Receiver, and Comptroller,"5 who had to see that the miners did their duty. In the middle of the 17th century, Chaloner mentions that Capt. E. Christian found the Ore of Lead at " Mine-hough" [Mine-howe ?] or Bradda Head to contain much silver.6 After the Restoration, mining was prosecuted more systematically, and from that time both lead and cooper seem to have been diligently sought, the lord letting his rights in the mines on condition of receiving one-fifth of the produce. In 1668 a lease of all the mines in the Island, with leave " to erect a smelting mill, or more than one, for the smelting of the oar-mynes and minerals," was granted to two merchants, one of London, and one of Liverpool.7

In the following year Charles, the 8th Earl of Derby, at that time Lord of Man, " being by good reasons persuaded yt there is plenty of coales" in the Island, ordered the Governor to institute a search for it.8 In 1699 the lord's fifth of the lead and copper ore amounted to 32 tons 13 cwt. About this time also the hematite iron-ore of Maughold received attention, Mr. Moore finding it on record that in the year 1700 there was shipped from the mine at " Daunane" (Drynane, see p. 126) 2271 tons of this ore.9

Governor Sacheverell, in his " Account " of the Island published in 1702, writes:—"I am informed, since I left the Island, they have discovered very good mines of Lead, Copper, and Iron, and great probability of Coal."10

The strenuous efforts made about this time to encourage mining are illustrated by the following notice, published in 1714 (for copy of which we are indebted to Mr. Moore).

'Forasmuch as our honble Lord hath been pleased for the discovery and finding out mines within this Island to send over an order . . . . that any person who shall find out any veines of Lead or Copper . . . . such as shall be thought fitt for working by the Steward or overseer of the said workes . . . . shall not only have paid down to them fourty shillings as a reward, but shall have the preference of working the said nines . : . . and three pounds a ton for every ton they shall gets delivering unto the Steward a fifth part of what care they shall raise after the same is cleansed and made merchantable, provided they begin and prosecute the said work within three months."11

A few years later, Bishop Wilson wrote as follows:—" Mines of coal there are none, though several attempts have been made to find them; but of lead, copper, and iron there are several, and some of them have been wrought to good advantage, particularly the lead; of which ore many hundred tons have of late been smelted and exported. As for the copper and iron ores, they are certainly better than at present they are thought to be, having been often tried and approved of by men skilled in these matters: however either through the ignorance of the undertakers, or by the unfaithfulness of the workmen, or some other cause, no great matter has as yet been made of them."12

From this statement it appears that the metals were raised in the same relative proportions at that time as at present, excepting that the zinc-blende associated with the lead-ores, formerly of little or no value, is now a product of considerable worth. The repeated attempts since made to work the veins of copper and iron have met with no lasting commercial. success, and it seems to have been demonstrated that those ores do not occur in sufficient quantity for profitably winning under current conditions of price.

In the above accounts the only localities actually mentioned are Bradda Head, The Calf, and Maughold, all places where the metalliferous veins are visible in the cliffs, though it is probable that trials had also begun on the richer deposits of the interior. Dr. Berger in his description of the mines in 1814 has the following note:—" Mr. Fitz-Simmons, who is preparing to publish an extensive work on the ancient History of the Isle of Man, states that mention is made of the mines of the Isle in the time of Sir Stanley 1st and 2nd." (Footnote—"The first Sir Stanley appointed King of Man, was by grant from King Henry 4th in the year 1407.") " Those at Bradda, he believes, were first wrought; whether those at Foxdale were then opened may be doubted; those at Laxey were opened and wrought by a mining company of Cumberland, about the commencement of the last century

" Mr. W. Geneste informs me further that he lately found in some books (titled 'Charge of the Revenue') in the Duke's office in Douglass (called the Seneschal's office) that the last Earl of Derby had the mines wrought, paying the workmen at the rate of £3 Manx per ton for the ore (lead) raised. In 1709, he paid the miners for about 70 tons; from 1709 to 1713, about 30 tons yearly. A new smelting house was built in 1711. The workings of the mines was totally suspended about 3 years ago.''13

Among the papers preserved in the Office of Woods and Forests in London relating to the mines of the Island are several relating to a grant, made in 1679 by King Charles II. to Charles, Earl of Derby, of a Lease of " all Mines Royal of gold or silver, or holding cold and silver to such a proportion as according to the Laws of the Realm of England doth make the same a Mine Royal." This lease had expired by the failure of the Heirs male of the grantee on the death of James, Earl of Derby in 1735, but was revived on the petition of John, Duke of Athol in 1780 upon a declaration made by P. J. Heywood, a former Deemster of the island:—" that he is enabled to declare of his own knowledge and from what he hath heard, that there are not any mines of Gold or Silver in the said Island; that the only mines which now are or ever were wrought in the said Isle, as he hath heard and believes, are Mines of Lead and Copper. Except that he hath heard some Mines of Iron have been worked formerly and that he hath been informed by persons experienced in the knowledge of mines that there is a proportion of silver in the Lead-mines now working, but so small as by no means to answer the expence of assaying and separating."14

Feltham, in 1798, describes the mining work then in progress at Laxey and Foxdale, but found the Bradda mines closed.15

Woods, in his account of the Island published in 1811,16 gives some interesting data respecting the mines then existing. These were at Laxey, Foxdale, and ' Breda' Head; and he mentions also deserted shafts of lead-mines with rubbish-heaps between Port Erin and Kirk Arbory, no doubt referring to those since reworked as the Ballacorkish or Rushen mines (see p. 532). He speaks of Bradda as a copper mine, but did not visit it. Foxdale he found deserted and drowned (see p. 500). Laxey was being worked by two levels from the banks of the river and yielded silver-lead, blonde copper (see p. 519). He mentions that a small quantity of compact brown ironstone occurred immediately under the brecca (Carboniferous Basement Beds) in the Silverburn near the mill below Athol Bridge. The old level at that place to which reference was made on p.197 was perhaps in connection with this ore.

Quayle also published details respecting some of the workings in 1812.17

Macculloch, in his work published in 1819, discusses the metalliferous veins of the Island at some length.18 He notes that the mines were all abandoned, with no prospect of renewal —a statement which in view of the later highly successful results obtained from Foxdale and Laxey may afford some prospective encouragement to the hopeful adventurer on old workings in the Island. He speaks of Laxey, Brada Head and Foxdale as the three principal veins, but found that work had been carried on also at Ballacorkish and Glensash (Glenchass see p. 536) near Port St. Mary; and some other small north and south veins near Port Erin were pointed out to him by old miners, (probably at Bay Fine and Calf Sound, see p. 532).

The following are the "Mines and Minerals" catalogued in the " Schedule of the Property " conveyed by the Duke of Athol to the Crown in 1827-8 (MS. in Office of Woods and Forests):—


New Foxdale.
Old Foxdale.
Flappy Vein.
Balla Corkish Vein.
Glen Chass Vein.
Bradda Head Vein
Laxey Vein.


Bradda Head.


Maughold Head.






Port le Mary.


Pool Vasle [vash].


South Barrule.


Gob e Valley.
Spanish Head.


Among other papers relating to this transfer preserved in the Woods and Forests Office in London are copies of the leases under which the mines were worked, and plans showing the extent of the development of the more important mines up to that time. These plans will be referred to when the mines are separately described.

The third and fourth decades of the 19th century marked a. great revival and development of the Manx mining industry After that time its steady progress may to some extent be traced in the Mining Statistics published in an early memoir of the (geological Survey and in the Records of the School of Mines (see pp. 495-8).

Cummings gave a full account of the condition of the mines as he found them in 1845-1848.19 He notes that the Foxdale mining ground, extending eastward across the northern side of South Barrule from Glen Rushen, had hitherto proved the most productive on the Island; and thinks that the proximity of the granite had very beneficially affected its mineral riches. The company then working this group of mines generally employed about 350 men and boys, and the average raising of silver-lead ore for the previous ten years had been about 2,400 tons per annum. Laxey also, he states, was being worked by a new company employing 300 men and raising 60 tons of lead, 200 tons of blonde mixed with lead, and 5 tons of copper ore per month; the deepest working being 130 fathoms below the adit level. The other mines which he mentions are the Ellerslie on the Bishop's Barony near Crosby (see p. 516), which was being worked without success; a Copper Mining Company in Maughold parish, also unsuccessful; and the iron mines in the same parish, in which about 70 men were employed and ore raised to the extent of about 500 tons per month.

During the ensuing twenty or thirty years the great prosperity of the Foxdale and Laxey companies led the investing public to take shares readily in Manx mining enterprises, and stimulated the search for metals in every part of the Island. Numerous new companies were formed, and mines established on the slenderest prospects, with of course almost uniform ill-success. In some cases no ore whatever was obtained; oftener the vein yielded a little lead, zinc, or copper, in quantity too small to be marketed; while in a few instances sufficient ore was found to be worth selling, but less than paid the working expenses. The wrecks of these mines, with their ruined buildings and plant, are strewn here and there over the whole area occupied by the Manx Slates. It is impossible at the present time to obtain in the Island definite information regarding many of these; but fortunately, through the courtesy of the Commissioners for the Woods and Forests, we have been allowed access to the reports made annually between the years 1857 and 1888 by the eminent mining authority, Sir W. W. Smyth, who, in his official capacity as Chief Mineral Inspector for that department, examined most of the workings at the period of their activity, and reported fully. We are also indebted to Mr. W. H. Rowe of Douglas, for placing at our disposal his collection of plans and details of old mines. From these and other sources duly acknowledged in the context the descriptive accounts of these ventures given in the succeeding pages have been prepared.


1 Cumming "Isle of Man" p. 306; also Berger Trans Geol Soc, vol ii p.51

2 Since this chapter was written, Mr. Moore has included an account of the progress of Manx mining in his " History of the Isle of Man " (2 vols. 8vo., London, 1900). Vol. ii., pp. 960-971.

3 " Cott. MSS., Manx Soc., vol. vii., pp. 79-81."

4 "Isle of Man," p. 307.

5 " Statutes," vol. i., p. 19.

6 See reprint by Manx Soc., vol. x., p. 8.

7 " Loose sheets in Seneschal's Office " [A. W. Moore].

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid

10 Manx Soc. Reprint, p. 17.

11 " 'Lib. Scacc.'" [A. W. Moore]

12 Bp. Wilson's " History, etc.," in Camden's `' Britannia," 177~, p. 392, Manx Soc. Reprints, vol. xviii,, pp. 94-5,

13 Trans. Geol. Soc., vol. ii., p. 51.

14 In a Report of the Surveyor-General to the Royal Commission

15 " Tour through the Isle of Man," pp. 213, 243.

16 " Account of the Isle of Man," pp. 10-20.

17 "General View of the Agriculture of the Isle of Man," pp. 9-10.

18 " Western Isles," vol. ii., pp. 574-577.

19 "Isle of Man," Appendix K pp 306-311


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