Report - Silica Bricks Ganister Mine, Sheffield, November 2017

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feeling drained?
Regular User
Aug 21, 2017
tl;dr - Found access to a mine in the woods, it was small and a bit flooded, but still good…


The History

Ganister (or Gannister) was mined for its use in the manufacture of silica bricks (often called 'refractories'; materials that maintain strength at high temperatures), used to line industrial furnaces. For a short period of time in the late 1800s - mid 1900s, Ganister mining was a significant industry in parts of Sheffield.

Located in woodland to the North of the city, this particular mine was likely to have been owned by the Silica Fire Brick company, who had a factory nearby in Oughtibridge. The mine was part of a large complex of mines located in the area, on the west facing slope of the Don Valley. The relative height of the mines in these woods allowed gravity to be used to help transport produce to the railway below.

(Source: Ray Battye’s book ‘The Forgotten Mines around Sheffield’ - bought after my first visit)

I also found these adverts online for Silica (dating from 1903 and 1940 respectively) :




and here:

And here's a photo of the employees of Silica c. 1950.



As the steel industry declined in the area, so too did the need for the materials involved in its production and the ganister and pot clay mining industries in Sheffield fell into quick decline. Info online suggests that this mine opened between 1859 and 1866 and closed somewhere between 1938 and 1945, so a few years between the above photo was taken.

The Explore

Visit 1

Over the past few years, my previous (admittedly half-hearted) attempts to locate any open mines in the woodland around Sheffield had come up with nothing. Officially, all mines were back filled long ago, through their 'abandonment management' processes, but I had hoped that movement over time (natural or otherwise) may have made at least one of these sites accessible. This time, armed with a bit of additional knowledge, I set out once again in search of an entrance, not knowing if anything was actually accessible.

I was almost at the point of giving up when I came across a promising sight in the side of a large bank of earth. (Beer cans scattered around the area were also a clue that there might be something worth pausing for here). Having spotted the bricks sticking up from the ground, gaining access involved scooping away leaves and a small amount of earth to make the gap wide enough to slide through. The accessible space consisted of two sections; the first relatively small entrance section, joined to a larger second section by a small crawl space. Part of this section was flooded, with water dripping in steadily at the far end. On the first visit I decided not to get my feet wet, choosing to return another time with my wellies...

Looking in to the first chamber...


Inside, looking out, wondering if this was such a sensible thing to be doing on my own...


The hole through to the second section is on the right…



Looking through... Note: flooded at the far end…


Looking back through the hole to the first section....


In the second chamber, the hole at the bottom goes nowhere. Possibly a shaft that has been filled from above.



To the left, working back towards the far wall, you can just make out how the vertical timber supports have almost completed rotted away, leaving a series of spikes poking from the water.


Visit 2

So, I returned, again solo, for another go. This time I was better equipped for water (or so I thought). I was also surprised to find my headtorch that I'd been searching for, just inside the entrance, where I had evidently dropped it on my previous visit. Unfortunately the water level was higher this time so my boots were instantly breached, but a bit of cold mine water never killed anyone (errr...). Turns out that I wasn’t going far anyway as I waded through the water, knee deep, to find that the rest of the mine has been bricked up (or maybe never went any further in the first place), just after the left turning at the end. So, this small map shows what is currently accessible in this section of the mine (blue = flooded bit, obv).


I took a few more photos from the other end of the water, turning the corner at the end…


Bricked up to the left of the pic…


In the corner, small stalactites forming in the wall…


You can see close-up a rotten timber support to the right of the photo. Clear water now cloudy due to disturbance from my big feet....


Heading back towards the first chamber…


And finally a few pics from a third and final visit, this time with @Esoteric Eric





So overall, clearly not a place that you're likely to get lost in, but a satisfying find and explore.​


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Jul 21, 2017
From the number of employees, it must have been fairly substantial in size, though flooding/collapses makes this very difficult to know now.
Likes: tarkovsky


feeling drained?
Regular User
Aug 21, 2017
From the number of employees, it must have been fairly substantial in size, though flooding/collapses makes this very difficult to know now.
I think the employees were from the factory, which looked pretty large from pics I’ve seen, as well as the mines. There were definitely multiple mines, but yes impossible to tell how much ground they cover.