History of Lindal & Marton

A village community at the heart of Furness


Parish Council


Heritage Part 2 Contents

Articles on this page cover the following topics:

The original series of articles by Roy Mason can be found in Heritage Part 1.

[Go to Heritage Part 1]

TIP: Please click on each photo to see a larger version.

Technical Visits

Aspects February 2005

Is it not strange how when looking for one thing you come across something different but very relevant to another subject you are interested in? The other day I was doing my homework prior to the visit of the President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to South Cumbria, and was reading up about previous presidential visitations when out popped two references to Lindal.

On Tuesday 3rd August 1880, the Mayor of Barrow, Edward Wadham Esq. (well known in this area as the Duke of Buccleuch’s land agent) received the President, Mr. Edward A. Cowper, and members of the Institution at a reception in the Town Hall to mark the start of their Summer Meeting and then entertained them to luncheon in the Market Hall. On the following Thursday one of the excursions was a visit to the blast furnaces of the North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company’s works at Ulverston. There the party was entertained to lunch by the directors including Mr. Wadham, Mr. Aymer Ainslie and Mr. E. G. Tosh. On the return journey the party stopped at Lindal Station and visited the Lindal Moor Iron Mines of Harrison, Ainslie, & Co. Mr. Edmund Ray, the Mine Manager, advised that these mines had been worked for many generations and their present output rate was 250,000 tons of ore per annum. The party then went by train to Foxfield junction where they met up with the other two excursions. A special train took the members to Coniston where they dined in the grounds of the Waterhead Hotel before taking a trip down the lake in the steam yacht Gondola. It was remarkable that even after 21 years service the steamer had retained its original boiler.

The Institution must have been impressed with the hospitality they received in 1880, for 21 years later they were back again for their Summer Meeting, this time during William H. Maw’s term as President. Again there was a civic reception followed by the reading of a number of technical papers in the town hall before an audience of 249 members and 63 visitors. As previously, excursions were arranged to places of interest for the engineers. Amongst those site visits was one to Lindal to inspect the then recently erected pumping engines at the Lowfield and Becune pits. Mr. Frank S. Ainslie, Mr. Edmund Ray and Mr. Fell showed the party the very substantial steam engines built by Hathorn, Davey & Co. of Leeds. The Lowfield engine was the larger of the two and had a high-pressure cylinder of 45 inches diameter with an 80-inch low-pressure cylinder. The engine was connected to the pump with a 22-inch square steel spear rod 1150 feet long, carried on cast iron rollers down the inclined shaft. The pump had a 30½ inch diameter plunger with a stroke of 10 feet, it was capable of delivering 2000 gallons/min of water against a head of 735 feet. The balancing feature, which equalised the work done on the power and return strokes, was of particular interest to the Victorian engineers and noted in the transactions of the Institution. It was reported that after refreshment the visitors were driven back to the Furness Abbey Hotel.

St Peter's Church Reredos

Aspects May 2005

Flanking the reredos, or altar screen, in St. Peter’s Church are two carvings of saints from a bygone age, a reminder of the days before the formation of the Anglican Communion in 1533. The carvings appear to be of a different wood to that used for the rest of the reredos, which also suggests they are not contemporary with the screen. This could indicate that they had been salvaged from another church and recycled to be incorporated in the Lindal screen; or were they a gift? Unfortunately no records seem to have survived to resolve the mystery.

The reredos itself was probably commissioned in 1916 when the proceeds of the Easter Offering were set aside in a special fund which by the end of the financial year had risen to £10 10s 10d, the following fiscal year accounts show that a further £1 1s 8d was added. It may well have been the idea of the Rev. L H Marner-Smythe, who was the vicar of St. Peters from 1916 to 1927, to incorporate two stalwarts of the Celtic Church in the altar screen, although both became acolytes of the Church of Rome. Certainly in 1916 Marner-Smythe broke with the tradition of accepting the Easter Offering as a welcome addition to the vicar’s stipend.

Both these saints were missionaries in their day converting people to Christianity and both have miracles ascribed to them. So who were these saints? On the left hand side of the screen we have St. Cuthbert and on the right St. Kertigern. Cuthbert was born near Melrose, on the border with Scotland, in 635 and at the age of 16 whilst out looking after his sheep he had an amazing vision. This vision coincided with the death of St. Aidan, the prior of Lindisfarne and was the inspiration for Cuthbert to train as a monk in Melrose Abbey. Some fifty years later the aspiring monk became the Bishop of Lindisfarne.

St. Kertigern was born a century before Cuthbert and of much more aristocratic parents, his father was King Owein of North Rheged and his mother Princess Thaney of Gododdin. He was brought up in Culross under the guidance of St. Serf and it was natural that he should follow his mentor into holy orders. After being ordained Kertigern, who was nicknamed Mungo, preached in the Glasgow area and lived a somewhat eccentric lifestyle. When persecuted by King Morken he sought asylum in Wales settling firstly in St. David’s before moving to St. Asaph, in what is now Denbighshire. Kertigern made seven pilgrimages to Rome and when Morken died and his successor converted to Christianity Kertigern returned to Glasgow to become Bishop of Strathclyde. He died in 614 and was buried in the foundations of Glasgow Cathedral.


Aspects June 2005

Around Lindal and Marton the spoil heaps of the iron ore mines have still not been completely recovered by nature, although it is many years since the last ore was dug out. They serve as a reminder of the hardships and dangers endured underground at the end of the nineteenth century. What was it really like mining in those days? To answer this question we are fortunate that a technical paper was written for the 1880 Summer meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers by Mr. J L Shaw of Dalton. In that paper he describes how the early mines recovered ore in shallow workings by the Gin Pit method. A shaft would be sunk through the top layer of ‘pinnel’ directly into the ore body where a ‘level’ could be driven out horizontally, timber shoring seeking to support the ‘driftway’. The vertical shaft, no more than 4½ feet square, would continue to be sunk a further six feet to provide a sump for collecting water that seeped into the workings. At the end of the levels ‘rises’ would be cut upwards through the ore until the sand, clay and gravel pinnel was encountered. Then the miners would work back towards the vertical shaft. As they won the ore from the ground it would be trailed back to the rises and hence fall into hoppers that would be drawn manually along the level to the vertical shaft. A horse gin was often used to power the winch that raised the hopper to the surface. It was inevitable that at some stage instability would occur in the head works of the shaft with the ground collapsing. Hopefully the signs would occur early enough to allow the men to vacate the mine and surrounding area before it subsided, though the inscriptions on the gravestones in the local cemeteries are mute testimony to the accidents that did occur in these mines.

The Gin Pit method was inefficient and left much of the ore body untouched, so a method of sinking the vertical shaft through the adjacent limestone bedrock ensured that investment in surface equipment would not be compromised by the underground workings. Thus boilers and steam driven winding engines and water pumps were installed well clear of any likely subsidence. From the shaft a heavily timbered Main Road or Driftway would be cut through the limestone and on through to the limit of the ore body. Then crosscuts would be worked to leave pillars of ore 24 to 30 feet square. As with the Gin Pits, rises were used to access the ore above the Driftway level. The theory was that as outer limits of the ore were worked out so the ore left in the pillars could be recovered. As the ore pillars were removed so the weight of the burden above the Driftway crushed the timbers and collapse of the ground above followed.

At Crossgates and in Marton open workings were employed on some shallow deposits once the superficial cover had been removed.

The miners usually worked on a two shift, eight-hour system though when demand for ore was at its peak three shift 24 hour working was employed. One man was expected to dig at least one and perhaps up to three tons of ore per day and the total mine output could vary from 100 tons to 1000 tons per day.

St Peter's Church Altarpiece

Aspects July/August 2005

When you come into St. Peter’s Church, it is now open on Wednesdays from 9am to 4pm as well as for the Sunday service commencing at 9.30, your eye is attracted to the wonderful stained glass east window. Below and in contrast to this beautiful and colourful window, which during daytime can only be appreciated from inside the church, a simple carved wooden reredos provides a backdrop behind the high altar. In the centre of the reredos is a small wooden altarpiece ornately painted with an impression of Christ and his disciples. The artist has only furnished his initials, A M, and date of 1916, however he does acknowledge that his inspiration was a fresco done in the fifteenth century by a Dominican friar, Fra Angelico.

The 1441 original of the ‘Transfiguration of Christ’ can be found in the Museo di San Marco in Florence painted on the wall of Cell 6 in the former monastery. The Lindal picture is not an exact copy since only three supporting figures are depicted whereas on the original there were seven. Fra Angelico, whose real name was Guido di Pietro, was a prolific Florentine painter and manuscript illustrator. John Ruskin said of him ‘not an artist properly so-called but an inspired saint’; today Angelico’s work is highly valued. Indeed in his own lifetime his work was much sought after and he travelled widely from his beloved Fiesole, a village in the Appenine Mountains above the city of Florence, where he was the Prior. His work adorns the walls of the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V in the Vatican and he influenced much of the religious painting of the Perugia school.

The Church of England celebrates the transfiguration of our Lord on the 6th August. However it is part of the heritage of the village that the congregation of St. Peter’s extends a welcome to all. So why not come and have a quiet contemplation in the church, admire the stained glass windows, particularly the East one resplendent in the morning on a bright sunny day. Then gaze upon the golden icon in the centre of the carved wooden screen and wonder at the serenity captured by that holy monk and so ably reproduced by the artist known only as A M. Maybe you too will discover that inner peace that the holy Fra Angelico sought to illustrate.

Child Labour

Aspects December 2005

With the commercial extravaganza of Christmas fast approaching its zenith, it is appropriate to remember that not long ago children had to ‘earn their keep’. Charles Dickens endeavoured to publicise the plight of workers and their families in his novels about Victorian England. It was also true that poverty was rife among many of the families that came to settle in Lindal and Marton looking for work in the burgeoning mining industry. Those who were fortunate enough to be employed had no security of tenure and certainly none of the welfare benefits enjoyed today.

In 1842 one of the early social reformers, Anthony Austin, wrote a report highlighting the plight of children employed in the Coniston copper mines. The children worked during the hours of daylight in winter, or from 7 am to 6 pm in summer, for a reward as low as 2 shillings a week for a six or seven year old. The older children were better paid and might take home 8 shillings a week. Illiteracy was rife with only 11% able to write, though most could read

The work these unfortunate children had to do was arduous; the wet rock was brought straight from the mine to an open shed where some of the children used hammers to break up the rock. The smaller boys and girls washed the clay from the ore which was then further sorted on a table before being crushed. The crushed ore was sieved in a tub of water, sometimes called tubbing or jigging, arduous, cold and dirty work. Mr. Austin noted that that no work was done in severe frosty weather (probably because the wet ore would freeze solid), neither did the proprietor inflict corporal punishment on the children.

In our present enlightened times such treatment of children would be considered inhuman, but in 1842 life was considerably harsher. Anthony Austin must have been a courageous man to have penned an account that helped lead to the social reform we enjoy today. Perhaps we could all reflect this coming Yuletide on how far we have moved on from those times. Maybe give a thought to those children who are less fortunate in this world and have to endure conditions not much better than those of the mineworkers of 1842.

Mascalles Power Station

Aspects February 2006

The power station was inaugurated, amid great pomp, at a ceremony by Lord Muncaster in the presence of the directors of the reconstituted Harrison Ainslie Mining Company as reported in the NW Daily Mail of the 10th October 1907. A £50,000 contract had been placed with The Electricity Company, London to design and build a power station to supply electricity to pumps to be installed in the Bercune, Diamond and Lowfield pits.

The recession in the iron ore extraction industry had seen the closure of many of the mines higher up on Lindal Moor. This resulted in the steam pumps at the three pits being overwhelmed and so reluctantly ore extraction had ceased, Harrison Ainslie went into liquidation and the pits flooded. A new company was formed; they retained the name of the former company, and came up with the proposal to de-water the workings using modern technology. 250 HP (187 kW) pumps would be used in the Diamond and Bercune pits capable of an output of 1000 gals/min (3785 l/min) whilst the Lowfield pumps were rated at 750 HP (560 kW) and delivered 2000 gals/min (7570 l/min). To service these pumps a power station had be built (there was no National Grid supply in those days) and it was outfitted with 3 AEG turbo-alternators of 1000 HP (746 kW) each operating at 3,300 volts. Babcock and Wilcox water-tube boilers, fitted with electrically driven mechanical chain grate stokers, supplied steam at 200 lb/in2 600 °F. These boilers were a radical and advanced departure from the traditional Cornish fire-tube boilers used by the mining companies. The chimney was 11 ft. square and 100 ft. tall, whilst the boiler house was approximately 40 ft high and the turbine hall was probably 50 ft high.

The alternating current (AC) output of the power station was indeed state of the art at a time when gas mantles were mostly used for illumination in many homes. Those premises that did use electricity would probably have had a direct current (DC) supply which could be as low as 200v or as high as 250v. This could well have been a reason for rejecting the offer made in 1912 by Harrison Ainslie to use the surplus power to light the streets of Dalton, Lindal, Swarthmoor and Ulverston.

The power station equipment was sold in 1919 and the buildings demolished. It has been suggested that the bricks were recycled to build houses. The site, where the power station stood, was used for a time as a chicken farm. It is now a caravan storage area and a dwelling though remnants of its previous use are still apparent.

See also:


Aspects April 2006

Railway sidings, crushing mill & gas works chimneyWhat has recycling got to do with heritage, you may wonder? Well it may be one of the buzzwords in fashion today but really it has been something that has been carried out throughout the ages. Recycling is really a case of finding a practical use for discarded materials. With the demise of the mining industry in this area a lot of useful material became available. Sometimes whole redundant buildings could be usefully employed in another role; the Lindal Moor Mine Offices were easily converted to dwellings, as were those at Lowfield. Other industrial buildings took on a new lease of life when occupied by another owner; the old engine sheds are still recognisable but now are used to house a vehicle repairer. In the case of the sawmills only the outside wall remains, a modern steel structure being erected alongside to contain the West Cumberland Farmers warehouse.

Where a building or structure became derelict or just would not lend itself to conversion, such as the many tall chimneys that serviced the boilers that every mine had to power winding engine and pumps, were however still a rich source of material once demolished. Quite a few houses built during the Great Depression of the 1930's utilised bricks from such sources. Urswick Recreation Hall was built in 1929 with bricks recycled from the demolished Harrison Ainslie Power Station, as did several of the bungalows that were built in the early 1930's at Mascalles. Of course bricks were not the only material to be salvaged, a length of mineral tramway rail was recovered during a restoration of a cottage in Marton where it had been reinforcing a garage door lintel. It is understood that more examples of light rails being incorporated as strength members can be found in local buildings. Probably a significant quantity of timber was also salvaged and found other uses but now would be difficult to identify.

In more recent times many a stone barn has become a highly desirable residence and there are a number of examples of such conversions in both Lindal and Marton. But converting barns was also practised during the nineteenth century with the population explosion of the villages. The old tithe barn at Melton Brow became home to many a family of miners with at least six separate dwellings, which have now been reduced to four cottages and acquired the name Melton Terrace.

The photo of the railway sidings and the following text were provided by Richard Johnston. "The gas works that you referred to were at the west end of the railway sidings between the crushing mill and the Furness wagon repair shops. To the east of the wagon shops was the farmhouse known as 'Kirkstead'? The attached photo shows the view to the east with the crushing mill on the left and the gas works chimney on the right."