The Foxdale group consists mainly of five mines in a cluster and are part of the Foxdale shear, a highly mineralised zone running East-West from Elerslie mine in Crosby to the Antimony mine at Niarbyl on the west coast. In all, a total of thirteen mines are related to this area.
Mining commenced in 1723 when five shallow pits had been worked out by 1740 on the back of the main Foxdale road. The deepest of these was 17 fathoms and the shallowest was 7 fathoms. These small shafts may have been known as bell pits and would have been worked by a small hand winch or ‘jack roller’.
In 1828, the Foxdale Mining Company, was formed after three business men from the Chester district had carried out tests along the vein and a lease was granted to cover a large area in Foxdale.
The main group of mines ‘Old Flappy’s’ , ‘Upper Old Foxdale’, ‘Lower Old Foxdale’ ‘Maghie’ and ‘Louisa’ were in fact worked on four lodes, the main east-west and a cross-vein running north-south. Upper, Lower and Flappys were joined and operated as one mine but by 1829, lower Foxdale ceased operations. In 1849, a new shaft, ‘Beckwiths’ (not to be confused with Beckwiths mine) was sunk on the Old Flappy site and was joined with the old engine shaft. By 1902 Beckwiths had reached a depth of 320 fathoms. The mine employed 250 men underground and 180 on the surface. Three and a half thousand tons of lead ore were raised annually between 1882 and 1904 but production sloped off until closure of the mines in 1911. The only visible remains of the mine today is the partly preserved engine house of Bawdens shaft near to the main road.
Louisa mine, also known as Faraghers, Johnsons or Hodgsons mine is less than quarter of a mile to the east of the old Foxdale mine and was chiefly worked by two shafts. A vein containing good ore was found in October 1830 which prompted the sinking of a small shaft to sixteen fathoms. A pumping engine was installed on a second shaft (Kellys) in 1832 and a third shaft (Harrisons) was used a the ventilation shaft. The mine closed in 1835 but was reopened in 1845 and in 1849 the mine was renamed 'Hodgsons' Mine. The site was revamped and the engine shaft was re named Louisa shaft. There are six shafts on the Louisa sett with the most westerly shaft 'Potts' being more associated with the old Foxdale mine although it was only connected via the 127 fathom level. The mine reached a depth of 200 fathoms before closure.
The central Foxdale mine is situated further east and was first worked in the early 1820’s successfully by Michael Knott until taken over by the Isle of Man Mining Company in 1828. The mine was known as ‘Far Gin’ and had seven shafts some of which were closed when the mine was renamed New Foxdale. The Engine shaft had reached a depth of 60 fathoms by 1835 and trials were made eastwards from the 20 and 30 fathom levels but work on these levels ceased after a year.
In 1871 a new lease was granted and the mine was renamed the Central Foxdale mine, sometimes know as the east mine and the three main shafts were renamed ‘Amy’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Taylors’. Elizabeth was the deepest at 145 fathoms and was the engine shaft. The mine had a workforce 70 men underground and 45 at surface in 1882 and the annual production of ore was between three and four hundred tons.
There are no noticeable remains today other than the spoil heaps around Taylors shaft. The Cornish style engine house at Elizabeth was destroyed by the territorial army in the war years but the rising main from the pumps can still be seen at the shaft top.
Cornelly mine can be found one mile to the north of the Central Foxdale mine and although it is related to the Foxdale group the mine was worked on a lode ‘offset’ to the main lode but still on an east-west direction. The Mine was first worked by the Isle of Man Mining Company in 1837 under the name of ‘Jones’s Mine’ and developed until 1849 when the mine closed. Work resumed in 1878 and the mine was renamed ‘Townshend’s Mine’.
The sinking of the first shaft (Mountain) commenced in 1837 but soon encountered problems with water at a depth seven fathoms. A small pump was installed in 1840 but a year later it was decided to install a larger engine for pumping which was purchased from Cornwall.
A new Engine shaft was sunk in 1843 and was 60 fathoms deep by 1846 with levels driven at 10, 20, 40 and 50 fathoms.
The mine was abandoned in 1849 having reached a depth of 95 fathoms but re-opened twenty seven years later in 1878.
The surface workings were extensively modified with the installation of new machinery and the mine was deepened to 140 fathoms but some of the new lower levels were not so productive. The mine was finally abandoned in 1886.
The mine produced about 400 tons of ore annually and one report makes reference to locating zinc blend in ‘balls’ of six inches diameter.
Cornelly boasts some of the best preserved remains of all sites outside of Laxey and most of the buildings including the engine house have been consolidated by the Isle of Man Government. There is an on going debate to the character of the engine house and the Engine that would have been in operation in the latter years. Some claim that it was perhaps an inverted ‘bull’ type due to the shaft being ‘inset’ to the building but this will probably never be clarified.
Dixons mine is located to the west of Foxdale, higher into the hills and was worked on the main lode. The earliest reference to working is William Jones’s report of 1835 when the vein was discovered.
Work was suspended shortly after 1835 when again, water became a problem and so a day level was driven to intersect the shaft at 20 fathoms.
After a further period of suspension, work resumed with the shaft being sunk to a depth of 47 fathoms at a cost of £2,300 with workings at 17, 32 and 47 fathoms.
A new shaft (East) was dug 280 yards further east and connected with the day level but the mine was so unproductive that little else was done.
Cross’s mine was worked earlier as the Cronk Vane mine but in 1832 the Isle of Man Mining Company re-opened the workings with a view of picking up on the Beckwiths vein. A new shaft (Engine) was sunk to 20 fathoms before water became a problem and prompted the installation of pumps which were coupled to the sixteen inch engine used to power the crushing mill.
By 1838, the shaft had reached 50 fathoms and a replacement larger engine brought in from Faragher’s Mine in Foxdale for pumping and crushing and the earlier engine became the winder to work on the horse gin shaft 80 yards to the east. Gin shaft was at 65 fathoms by 1842 and a level had been driven east at 50 fathoms. The mine was stripped in 1843 and re-opened in 1866 when it was then worked with Beckwiths mine half a mile to the west until it’s final closure in 1881.