Why is Ecton so important and historic?
From Bronze Age times, the copper and lead deposits on Ecton Hill were worked for over 3500 years, ceasing in 1891. During this time fortunes were made and lost. In the 18th century the Duke of Devonshire made a profit of over £300,000, said to have financed the building of the magnificent crescent in Buxton. Total ore production is estimated at over 100,000 tonnes, mainly of copper ore.
In its heyday in the late 18thC, Ecton was in the forefront of developments in mining technology, and both chemistry and geology themselves developed rapidly as a result of these advances in technology. Among the achievements at that time were the sinking of the deepest mine shaft in Britain, the reputed first use of explosives in British mines, the building of an early Boulton and Watt steam engine, and the efficient use of water power for mine pumping
The whole area is a site of special scientific Interest (SSSI), and the Ecton mine itself is an underground SSSI. The rock exposures at nearby Ape’s Tor provide outstanding opportunities for the study of geological structures, which can then be seen again underground in Salt’s Level. Quite apart from the geology and the mining history, Ecton is important also for its living heritage, in particular its botanical riches. In early summer, rare orchids flower in profusion on the hillside.