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Lindal Cote under Harrison AinslieThis article is published by kind permission of Peter Sandbach. It was first published in Cumbria Amenity Trust (CAT) Mining History Society newsletter No 76.
John T Rigg
John T Rigg was the mine inspector working for Wadham & Co, agents for the Duke of Buccleuch.
High living and the New Zealand venture of 1870 left the Brogden companies so short of cash that the Ulverston Mining Company was behind with the ground rent, but in 1881, the mines seemed to be working normally. High Crossgates No2 was very productive and the Derby pit (High Crossgates No3, then 60 years old) was still being worked. The Cornish engine at Eure Pits was running. James Pit was active, with two levels being driven into new ground. Old ground was being worked through at Lindal Cote No1 and 2, Pindar Ring, No50 and No5 pits. The North Pits, situated across the road from Lindal Cote farm, were not mentioned at this stage, although there were references to North Pit ore in the Gawith notebooks in 1856. New shafts were being sunk at Grieveson and Bercune. The works were run down until December 1883 when the Lindal Cote pumps were stopped and the ore heaps sent away. In February 1884, only the exploratory drives in James pit were working, and after a last inspection by Mr Brogden, these too were abandoned.
Harrison Ainslie bought the lease for £22,000 in 1885 and they began by opening up the High Crossgates No2 pit and No51 pit, though Mr Rigg reported that No51 pit was never good for anything. In March 1886, they were sinking High Crossgates No1 and 2 and had a new winding engine at Pindar Ring. Lindal Cote No5 was reopened in December 1887. Mr Rigg describes the activities here as “plundering about wherever they can find a particle of ore, but there is not much to be found”. Nevertheless, they had nine companies of men on tribute producing 30 - 40 tons a day. During the next year, Lindal Cote No6 pit was sunk, No5 deepened and Pindar Ring reopened. Lindal Cote North pit was mentioned for the first time. It did not last. In December 1890, Lindal Cote No2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Pindar Ring were standing on account of the water and being so very poor, though No15, No1 North and No3 North were still working. The Company tried to re-negotiate the lease, stating that they had never been able to work the mines at a profit and as a result of rising costs in 1889, they were now unworkable. Besides a reduction in rent and royalty, they sought to abandon all but High Crossgates No2 and to end the commitment to send all the ore by the Furness Railway. Some concessions must have been gained, because only High Crossgates was worked for the next few years.
At High Crossgates No2, Mr Rigg regularly complained that the mine was worked all upside down, as the workings were all on a slope, 70Yds below the pumping and winding level at 158Yds. The response was to sink another slope below the 238Yd level. John Rigg rarely expressed strong views. The twisting shaft and intermittent flooding must have been something beyond the usual risks, because, his report for May 1895 states that “The mine is still worked in a most slovenly and reckless manner and the chief part of the main roads in the slope are almost impassable”. A new shaft was started in January 1896 that was to become the Crossgates No5 pit, but in the meantime, the mine was worked in the same way, culminating in 1899 with a shaft to the 158Yd level followed by a slope 103Yds below the 158Yd level and a second slope 45Yds below that. The main pumps were only designed to work to 100Yds and the Tangye pumps in the slopes were inadequately supplied with steam through the unlagged 2 inch pipes. In his report for October 1900, Mr Rigg reported:
“High Crossgates mine is at present looking very poor indeed and there are no sign whatever for improvement at present. The No2 shaft is in a really shocking state, also the pumps are in a very bad condition, everything seems practically to pieces and in very bad repair, in fact I never saw a place in such a state in my experience.”
And in November:
“High Crossgates Mine is at present in a state of collapse and looks very poor indeed, the shaft is still in a wretched state which causes the pumps to be continually out of repair, and are almost past working, the slope has been over half full of water now for some months and there is no likelihood of it’s being got out during the present winter. The pumping engine is also in a shocking state of repair in fact everything about the place is about in pieces”.
The report for January 1901 was even worse, but somehow they found a bit of ore above the water level until February 1903, when they stopped the pumps, salvaged as much rail and flat sheet as they could and boarded up the engine house. The No5 shaft had been abandoned in 1901.
The Eure Pits were not entirely abandoned. From 1893 there was a team of tributers working “in the black hole behind the engine house”. That came to an end in December 1899 when their small shaft collapsed, taking their headgear with it down into the black hole. The quarry was not part of the works, it was leased to Coulton Walker Hunter.
After the stoppage in 1890, the workings at Lindal Cote were slowly brought back to life, beginning with Maskels pit (No5 North) in 1894, followed by No3 North and No15 pits. James pit No3, James pit No1, No1 North pit and Lindal Cote No4 were briefly reopened. Even Lindal Cote No5 was tried again as a gin pit. The pumps at Lindal Cote No1 and 2 were used to drain the mines, and as at High Crossgates, John Rigg complained in every report about the disorganised method of working. In December 1902, only the old ground in No15 pit was being worked, No3 North being flooded out again.
1904 saw the mines worked by a new company, though still in the name of Harrison Ainslie. Wadham & Co. were determined that the mines would be worked methodically and Mr Rigg was obliged to report weekly. Mr C E Ray, the new company’s mine manager quickly re-opened No3 North and No15 pits. No 15 pit came to an end in February 1907 when the shaft collapsed.
It came as a surprise to Mr Rigg when work started at Grieveson pit in 1905. The large Davey engine from Lowfield and the winding engines from High Crossgates No2 were brought over to the site, and the Pindar Ring pumping engine house was demolished to make way for the tramway. The shaft that the Ulverston Mining Company had left at 36Yds was sunk on three shifts until, in February 1907, it was down to 147Yds. The water was drained at the 106Yd level, through the No15 pit workings to the pumps at Lindal Cote No1 and 2.
In May 1909, the Lindal Cote pumps were stopped and mothballed. During the previous month the rail, flat sheet, column pipes and two Tangye pumps had been removed from Lindal Cote No3 North, and the Tangye pump from No15 pit. The royalty seemed to be permanently abandoned, but the following month saw Grieveson Pit brought back to life. Two capstans were built to lower two electric pumps (The Davey engine was never assembled). The electricity supply was connected to Maskels power station and an electricity powered air compressor was set up. The gantry carrying spoil over the road to the Pindar Ring area was begun in December. Lindal Cote No1 and 2 pumps were started again. If Mr Rigg expected the new rock drills to be employed on shaft sinking, he should have known Harrison Ainslie better by now. In April 1910 they were driving out from the 145Yd level in three directions, their main effort was to get back into the ground worked by Pindar Ring and No15 pits. The first ore was sent to the grinding mill at Lindal in June. As the Lindal Moor mines were run down, the company moved more men to the Grieveson pit. The pumping arrangement was improved to the point where they could stop the Lindal Cote No1 and 2 Cornish engines in 1912. The boilers were scrapped in February 1914 and the scrapmen moved in on the engines in August. About that time, Harrison Ainslie were reverting to their usual method of working. Mr Rigg reported that they had sunk a weasel 25Ft below the 145Yd level in good hard blast ore, 5Ft wide.
The mine closed on 5th September1914. Mr Rigg suggested that the reason for closure was that the Maskels power station was being run solely for the one electric pump, and in his last report offered a rare accolade: “As far as the working of the mine is concerned, there is no reason for complaint, and the ore has been worked out in a practical and workmanlike manner”.
CRO, Barrow, Buccleuch records