Magpie Mine has a recorded history at least from 1739 and is said locally to be over 300 years old.
The surface remains are extensive and were taken over by Peak District Mines Historical Society in 1962.
During the 1820s and 1830s there were serious disputes between the miners of Magpie and the nearby Maypitts over rights to work the Great Red Soil vein. At various times the miners broke through into each others workings and would light a fire underground and try to smoke the other out. In 1833 this had fatal consequences as three Red Soil miners were suffocated to death by a fire lit by the Magpie miners. Subsequently 24 Magpie miners were put on trial for their murder, several were freed immediately. Eventually all were acquitted because of the difficulty in identifying the individual culprits, and the provocative actions of the Maypitt miners themselves. It is said that the wives of the “murdered” men put a curse on the mine, and the effect of the disputes was to ruin the mine, which closed in 1835.
In 1839, John Taylor, the famous Cornish mining engineer was brought in to re-open the Magpie Mine, which now incorporated the Great Redsoil workings. He introduced a number of innovations, including steel borers, safety hats, safety fuse, and iron winding ropes. He also introduced a more regular pattern of shift working and payment for his workers, some of whom had come up from Cornwall with him. He deepened the Main Shaft to 208 metres, and also installed a 40-inch Cornish pumping engine. When this proved inadequate, he proposed to replace it with a 70-inch engine, but the proprietors could not agree. Some felt that a sough (a drainage tunnel) would be a better solution, and appeals to the Duke of Devonshire to adjudicate fell on deaf ears.
Various attempts were made over the next 30 years, but it was not until 1873 that construction of the sough started. It took eight years to drive from the River Wye near Ashford-in-the-Water to meet the Main Shaft, a distance of 2km.
Production of lead continued on and off into the 20th century. An optimistic report in 1913 promised reserves of four million tons, which attracted businessmen from Sheffield and Glasgow to join forces with Edgar Garlick, the owner. Their venture closed in 1919, and although Garlick re-opened the mine in 1923, he went into liquidation the following year. Nothing happened until after the Second World War, when Waihi Investment and Development Ltd attempted to work the mine using submersible electric pumps. A new winder – in reality a ship’s winch fitted with a diesel engine – and a steel headgear were installed. Despite this more sophisticated equipment, no large body of ore was found, and with the end of the Korean War and the fall in the price of imported lead, the mine closed for the last time in 1954.