The Ballinafunshogue mine, also refered to as Ballinafinchogue, Ballynafinshogue, may have opened as early as 1797, though other sources suggest a slightly later date of about 1800.
At that time, it was the only operational mine in Co. Wicklow. Whichever is correct, both dates suggest that the mine opened, or was operating during the period of the 1798 rebellion. This is, in itself, quite remarkable, as Glenmalure was one of the last places in which the rebellion was eventually suppressed. Various other records document intermittent production between 1811 and 1900.
A plan by Thomas Weaver, dated 1812, shows the substantial extent of underground workings which had been developed by that date. This included various “shafts”, “adits” as well as various levels inside the mine, to a depth of about 510 feet (153m). By 1853, Smyth noted that the principal lead ore, the “vein” or “lode”, had been proven over a total length of more than 3,000 feet (900m). Weaver was a prominent developer of the mines in Wickow. He was involved with the Associated Irish Mine Company in Avoca and was one of the first persons to develop the Glendasan lead mines.
Nothing is, so far, known about the people who worked in the mines, or where they lived, and very little about either the mine owners or management – a lack of knowledge all too common for many historic mines in Ireland. Reports from 1845 record that about 30 men were working at the mine in the early 1840s. It is reasonable to surmise that some at least of these people resided with their families in the immediate district, as the site of a school is shown immediately adjacent to the mine on an early Ordnance Survey map.
Henry Hodgson, who also owned other mines in Glenmalure and elsewhere in Co. Wicklow (including Avoca), is recorded as the mine owner between 1861 and 1873. A Mr. H. Robinson is recorded as the mine manager at Ballyfunshoge in 1867 and 1868. Robinson was also a director of the Associated Irish Mine Company in Avoca.
Remains of 19th Century mine exploration activities are visible at various points along the length of the trail. The most conspicuous are off-white coloured spoil heaps composed principally of fine quartz and rock debris. Infilled and overgrown shafts are also visible but none should be entered for safety reasons.