History of Lindal & Marton

A village community at the heart of Furness


Parish Council

Pithead Model

The larger iron ore pits around Furness were equipped with substantial pithead buildings, tall chimneys, large stationary steam engines, and winding gear. The engines drove water pumps at the foot of the pit shaft via giant reciprocating rods, and powered winches for the raising and lowering of cages suspended on steel cables for carrying men, tools, and ore tubs into and out of the pit.

The pit headgear consisted of a pulley-frame made of pitch pine timber. The uprights, normally four in number, formed the basis of the frame. A further two legs or backstays were arranged diagonally to help resist the strain on the pulleys from the load in the shaft, and various cross-braces gave the structure rigidity. Steel cables ran from a winding drum in the engine house, via the sheeve wheels (winding wheels) at the top of the headframe, to the top of the lift cages inside the shaft. Cages were usually made of wrought iron or steel. There could be up to four cages in a single shaft, each with one, two, or three decks. Each deck floor was laid with rails to allow empty and loaded ore tubs to enter and leave the cage at opposite sides. The tubs were secured by a mechanical locking device whilst the cage was in motion.

The pithead model shown below was built by the late Thomas Quirk of Ulverston Road, based on his experience in the 1930s as an apprentice fitter & turner at the Roanhead iron ore pits. The model was created in the attic of his house from pitch pine and stainless steel, and was then dismantled and reconstructed in order to put it on public display. It was initially set up at Barrow's Dock Museum, but was then moved to St Peter's Church, Lindal, where it can be seen now. The model shows the timberwork, cages, signalling, ore tubs, and other features in great detail. The engine house was not part of the original model, but was built later by Richard (Dick) Quirk, Thomas Quirk's nephew, in the style of those which can still be seen at the sites of the Diamond and Lowfield pits. The model also has two incomplete underground levels.

For more information on the history of the model, please see the article published in Aspects May 2006.

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