Collecting artefacts from the Alderley Edge mines goes back to the nineteenth century when stone hammers and, famously, the shovel were taken either to local homes or town museums. Many hammers ended up in Manchester thanks to Charles Roeder's work. The Club started to save artefacts from the mines as soon as it began work on them in the early 1970s. However, at that time, the standards of care were lower than today and neither the Club nor the National Trust were particularly interested in keeping objects from the mines in a place where they could readily be viewed. (The picture shows the wooden shovel recorded in the nineteenth century by J.D. Sainter.)
In the 1990s, members became interested in having somewhere to display the Club's activities on the surface and the opportunity was taken of borrowing a lean-to garage at the back of the Wizard Tea-rooms. With a bit of work, doors were hung and a floor was put in to provide a reasonable space for some displays. Cabinets were obtained from various sources including Manchester Museum and were supplemented with old tables and cupboards. This worked well for a time and the main keepers of the museum were Tom and Todge (see left) helped by Granville and others.
At the end of the 1990s, the National Trust decided to upgrade their display and information area and took the opportunity at the same time to refurbish the Club museum and link it through an old doorway that had been bricked up. It was at this time that the temporary floor was removed and we realised that Tom's Shaft (still filled with soil) lay within the museum. The old cabinets and tables were removed and some replaced together with a new counter and cupboards (B&Q's finest) which provided a useful display and storage area. Pictures were re-hung, including some which were professionally mounted for the AELP exhibition in Manchester and the whole museum presented a fresh appearance. (The photograph right shows Elaine standing by Tom's Shaft.)
The next stage of it's life included the complete excavation of Tom's Shaft so that visitors can now see directly into one of the mines. This has proved a strong attraction but a minor problem as the warm air from the mine in the winter leaves a lot of condensation in the building. It also presented another problem in that the architect for the refurbishment, not knowing about the mine, put the door very close to the shaft. This was cunningly corrected one weekday when three members removed the wall, complete with door and turned it round 180 degrees. Other improvements followed including lowering the work surface.
More recently, new frames have been obtained and smart posters have been printed displaying features of the main mines at the Edge. We have also added a computer which displays pictures or the Club website. With support from Syngenta, we were able to have all the glass in the cabinets professionally laminated making it safer and more resistant against accidental breakage. All items in the museum have also been photographed and logged (see the finds page on the Club members' area of this website). On the left, the picture shows Phill holding a replica stone hammer.
Manning the museum is a voluntary service by the Club and we currently have various willing members who will be there on a Sunday. Visitors to the museum are able to get information about the mines and how to arrange visits as well as seeing the minerals and tools of the old miners.
When possible, the museum attendant can take visitors for a short walk from the museum into Church Quarry to look at the mine tunnel there.
Above: left - Phill outside the mine tunnel in Church Quarry, centre - one of the display cabinets, right - Elaine in West Mine.