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Snailbeach Mine

The unfenced site is owned by Shropshire Council and managed on a day to day basis by Shropshire Mines Trust. In its heyday it was one of the biggest and richest lead mines in the country.

The mineralised vein, which is at a very steep angle of 70 to 80 degrees, runs roughly from the Village Hall up the valley to the top of the hill and lead ore, galena, was the main mineral mined. At depth zinc ore, sphalerite was found and a small amount of this was extracted. In the last days of the mine some barites was also mined. See more detail under Geology.
With the vein being at a steep angle it was easy to mine but as the workings got deeper shafts were sunk and levels were driven along the vein at roughly 40 Yard intervals. The miners worked up the vein so the ore was brought down to the level, loaded on to trucks and pushed to a shaft where it was lifted up for processing. Originally there was a smelter at Pontesford and this was replaced by a smelter built some ½ mile North of Snailbeach.
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We are almost certain that the Romans were extracting galena since a Roman pig of lead was found nearby and that mining was taking place almost continuously and until mining ceased in 1955. During the Industrial Revolution demand for lead increased and with the advent of steam engines working the mine became more efficient. In the 1850s, when the mine was in full production, there were some 500 men employed in this mine. In 1877 the narrow gauge Snailbeach District Railway was constructed from the main line at Pontesbury to Snailbeach so as to facilitate the transport of coal needed for the steam engines and to take the ore away for processing. Towards the end of the 18th century most of the lead mines in the orefield closed down, due mainly due to cheap imports, and Snailbeach mine soldiered on until 1911 when they stopped pumping causing the mine to flood. After that a small number of men mined Barytes from the unflooded areas until 1955.
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From 1955 the mid 1980s the mine was largely left derelict with the buildings unused and gradually falling down. Shafts were open and shallow workings were liable to collapse and the highly contaminated, unvegetated White Tip left to blow around the village and surrounding land. The then Shropshire County Council, in the mid 1990s, embarked, with grants, on a reclamation process to make the site safe and to consolidate the buildings, which English Heritage classed as being the best of their type in UK and well worth preserving as part of our industrial heritage. English Heritage therefore declared the mine as a Scheduled Monument in 1997. Consequently it was decided, at minimal cost, to manage as a visitor attraction. One of the mine buildings was reroofed and fitted out as a Visitor Centre in 1998. See under History for more detail.
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You are free to visit, wander round, explore the buildings and other features and imagine what the mine was like when it was in full production. See Visiting Snailbeach Mine.

If you want the full story buy our publication Snailbeach Lead Mine Shropshire. Our Education Pack also contains a wealth of information but is primarily aimed at schools that wish to study the mine in the classroom or on a site visit.
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