Great Laxey Mines

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Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2018

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The land around Glen Mooar is in the care of Manx National Heritage and there is a trail which takes visitors around the ruins of the lead mining industry. This is steep in places with a lot of steps and rough paths, but the information boards give a good idea of what the valley was like when the mines were working.

The Great Laxey Mine consisted of three shafts, the Engine Shaft (1820), The Welsh Shaft (1840)  and the Dumbell Shaft (late 1850s).  The first two are visited on the trail along with the remains of the compressor house.

Following the right bank of the stream, a well made path leads to the old adit, located near a waterfall. The lead ore was close to the surface here and in 1790 an adit was driven into the hillside for about 160 yards to reach the ore. Visitors can don a hard hat and venture into the shaft.

The path continues up the valley below the rod viaduct from the Lady Isabella wheel to where the pump rod drains the Engine Shaft.

A short distance further up the valley is the remains of the engine house for the Engine Shaft. Each shaft needed its own winding house to lift the mined ore to the surface.

This was powered by a waterwheel, with the water being carried down a long pipe from a cistern on the hillside above.

Later a water turbine replaced the waterwheel and a machine house was built above the engine house for it. The turbine was powerful enough to carry ore from both the Engine Shaft and the Welsh Shaft, sunk a few yards further upstream. Part of the winding gear can still be seen.

The remains of the Welsh Shaft is a bit further up the valley and part of the pipework and cut off valve supplying water for the man engine can be seen.

Men had to climb  up and down a series of wooden ladders at the beginning and end of their shift. At 1800 feet this could take well over an hour. The shaft slopes at an angle 12˚ from the vertical so it was impossible to replace the ladders with a winding cage. Instead, the mine owners invested in a water powered machine referred to as a ‘man engine’ A heavy wooden rod ran down the depth of the mine shaft moving on roller wheels fixed to the shaft walls Wooden standing platforms were attached to the rod allowing miners to step on and off at the different levels. This reduced the time needed to reach the work face or surface by half.

The trail continues up the valley to the remains of the Compressor House, although these had been damaged by a landslip in 2018, and I gave this a miss.

Crossing over the stream, the trail drops back down the valley past the cistern supplying water to the “Lady Isabella Wheel.”:

Allow plenty of time to do the trail as there is a lot of information to assimilate. There is no set route and paths branch off in different directions. It is quite steep and rough in places with a lot of steps, but if you are interested in industrial archaeology, it is a must.

There is more information and pictures “here.”:


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