John Wiggins Digs Backyard Mine as 'Memorial' to England's Mining History

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John Wiggins' backyard mine

An English homeowner has given new meaning to the phrase "it's all mine!" John Wiggins (pictured above) spent 13 years digging a mine below his backyard garden in the village of Skelton Green in northeastern England. He employed such precision and attention to detail that the replica mine looks like one you might find a mile below ground in the Appalachians -- but his is only 15 feet down.

Wiggins explained to the Darlington and Stockton Times newspaper in Weybridge, England, that his interest in ancient ruins combined with a love for local mining history in the larger English town of Cleveland motivated him in the painstaking project.

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Go Inside John Wiggins' Self-Made Underground Mine
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John Wiggins Digs Backyard Mine as 'Memorial' to England's Mining History

You might think you're a mile below the Earth's surface in a historic mine, but this is actually John Wiggin's self-made mine just 15 feet below his backyard garden. He's spent 13 years building the mine to look exactly like the old iron mines that used to dot his northeastern England village of Skelton Green.

Wiggins leads the way through his mine, which he built almost entirely from reclaimed materials. He said he wanted it to look authentic: "I want it to look abandoned, as if miners just up and left," he said.

The corridor of the mine is 150 feet long, and it has a tramway by which wheelbarrows would carry materials in and out of the mine.

Wiggins said he thought up the idea for his mine after becoming fascinated by the local mining history of the area. At one time, there were 100 ironstone mines there. Wiggins called his mine a "memorial" to the mine workers.

It may look dark inside, but Wiggins' mine does get a little light. The whole thing is ventilated to allow some outside light to shine in, and to keep floodwater from collecting and submerging the mine.

Another view of Wiggins' mine as he leads the way through.

Wiggins emerges from an exit leading from the mine back out onto his property.

He has built a mine office and two headstocks above ground. The headstocks are the points by which mine workers and materials would be lifted into and out of the mine.

Another view of the mine office and headstock.

Wiggins poses in front of the mine office.

The tramway that Wiggins built is shown leading into the underground mine. He has a makeshift wheelbarrow that can be pulled along the tramway.

Wiggins poses in front of one of the headstocks he built above ground.

A shaft helps act as part of a ventilation system that allows fresh air and light to circulate through the mine.

Wiggins poses in front of one of the headstocks he built above ground.

Wiggins poses in front of one of the headstocks he built above ground.

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"I moved in here 15 years ago," said the 68-year-old painter. "I started to become interested in local history, and this part of the world is notorious for its mining background."

The area was home to 100 iron mines in the 1800s, but by the 1960s most of them were shut down.

"I visited a mine nearby in North Skelton," Wiggins continued, "and it was an experience I'll never forget. But it made me want to preserve Cleveland's identity, so, as you do, I decided to dig up the garden."

He used a backhoe to dig out the 150-foot-long corridor of his model mine. Inside is a railway that he built for a makeshift tram to carry ironstone. Using reclaimed materials from local builders and markets, he built the walls of the mine and two headstocks that serve as the shafts where workers and ironstone would be lifted out of the mine. The whole thing is ventilated to prevent water from flooding the mine and allow fresh air and a little light inside.

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John Wiggins Digs Backyard Mine as 'Memorial' to England's Mining History

We've brought you weird, quirky and even animated homes before -- and this weekend is no different. Since it's a long holiday weekend, we thought we'd have a little fun and round up our favorites among the world's strangest homes that we've featured on AOL Real Estate. The way we figure it, if you've knocked back enough beers in the hot summer sun, these totally weird homes might look completely normal to you. Click through the gallery and see what we mean!

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Muscular staircases reach up to a second floor covered by a paneled ceiling.

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The accommodations are much more plush inside than it might seem from the outside.

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Sweet ceiling, eh?

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The last part of the project that Wiggins has left to complete is a mine office.

"I want it to look authentic, like it's from the 1840s," Wiggins said. "I want it to look abandoned, as if miners just up and left. ... Everything is an exact version of what was in the smaller old mines. I've consulted experts, used my own knowledge of ironstone mines and read a lot of old books to get everything accurate."

According to the British tabloid, The Sun, it cost Wiggins "thousands of pounds" to create the mine.

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He called his underground masterpiece a "memorial ... to the ironstone miners of Cleveland" and said that he wasn't aware of anything else like it in the area. He added that he is willing to offer free tours of his mine to those interested in learning more about the town's mining history.

While Wiggins built a model of a historic treasure on his property, a real age-old find was discovered in a home in the nearby English town of Plymouth earlier this year. In August, homeowner Colin Steer discovered a 33-foot-deep well under his living room floor that dates to the 16th century.

See also:
DIY Coolness: A Hot Tub in the Living Room?
DIY Pool: Building Their Own Backyard Oasis
Kitchen Renovation: Surprising His Wife With a Weekend Remodel

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