Cumbria in the 21st century is a place we most associate with the Lake District. It’s rugged beauty brings millions of visitors every year, but as you head west through the county, you hit the little visited industrial coastline. There’s not that much there now except Sellafield and a few old industrial towns, but for decades the coal and steel industry had a major presence from Ulverston in the south to Whitehaven in the north, with major iron and steelworks at Barrow, Ulverston and Workington, along with coal and iron mines to. All are gone although there if you look hard enough you will find a few reminders of the counties industrial past.
Let’s start in Whitehaven. Sat atop a cliff on the outskirts of the town is the one remaining headgear of Haig Colliery, the only tangible evidence of Cumbria’s extinct coal mining industry.
The mine was opened in 1914 and named after Field Marshall Douglas Haig, who I guess was man of the moment at the time. The area had been home to quite a number of smaller collieries, but from what I can tell, there were maybe only 5 or 6 remaining by this point.
The Cumberland coalfield was notorious for the amount of firedamp (methane) and three explosions killed 79 men between 1922 and 1931. Despite the workings going over 4 miles out to sea, the mine was a dry mine.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Cumbrian mines were less productive than the national average, so it’s a surprise that Haig operated as late as 1984 (with closure in 1986), but given the colliery closure program of that era, it’s maybe no surprise that it closed when it did. By this time, Haig was the last deep coal mine in Cumbria.
Like most mines, there’s not much left, and it wasn’t the easiest task to get the photograph I had in mind. The view from the north (the actual view from that direction, not my other website!) wasn’t possible as there was a big hedge on a hill so that scuppered that plan. The view from the south meanwhile was quite open except for a telegraph pole, but I felt I was a bit too low down, and couldn’t quite get the composition I wanted. This was primarily due to the support legs going into the winding house which makes for an awkward crop in post processing.
Very functional headgear, don’t know the date but it’s listing on Historic England says 1917. There were two here at the time of closure in 1986, but only one has survived, as has the winding engine house.
So now there are 5 in the typology, and all quite different! But as I’ve said before, the purpose isn’t to group them into similar designs like the Becher’s did – there simply isn’t enough left to do that. Rather mine is to show how different he remaining ones are.