7:00am Monday 26th November 2012
By Graeme Hetherington
A MINING enthusiast has built his very own 150ft ironstone mine replica in his back garden.
John Wiggins has spent years making the perfect 19th century model in the farmland at his home in Skelton Green, east Cleveland.
Despite being located just 15 feet underground, the mine deceptively feels as if it is hundreds of metres below the surface.
The 68-year-old thought up the idea after moving to the Cleveland area, a part of the country which was once home to more than 100 iron mines.
The painter said: "The mine is as close to a 100 per cent replica of a Cleveland Ironstone mine as you will find.
"I moved in here 15 years ago - the house is a barn conversion with a conventional garden but plenty of land.
"Having moved from out of the area, I started to become interested in local history and this part of the world is notorious for its mining background.
"I began talking to an unemployed local lad and we both shared an interest in medieval ruins.
"I visited a mine nearby in North Skelton, and it was an experience I will never forget.
"But it made me want to preserve Cleveland's identity so, as you do, I decided to dig up the garden."
He embedded two shafts into an embankment and installed a headstock tower - where men and ironstone would be lifted in an out of the mine.
He also fitted a headstock for the upcast shaft that allows the mine to be ventilated and allows a small amount of light into the ground below.
Underground, he dug up the land using a JCB and built subterranean mine workings - a narrow gauge where a railed tramway led to a tippler staith and tubs of ironstone from the mine were tipped into the carts below.
Left for Mr Wiggins to complete is a mine office, which will be built close to his house.
He said: "I have spent 13 years completing the mine but I want it to look authentic, like it's from the 1840s.
"I want it to look abandoned, as if miners have just up and left.
"I believe it's the only one of its type in the country."
He has used all reclaimed materials to build the mine, collecting them from local builders, scrapyards and local markets to make it as authentic as possible.
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