Ironstone mining was once quite widespread in Cumbria and helped feed the blast furnaces of the iron and steelworks of the county. Both the mines and the steelworks have now all gone, but up until the late 1960’s there were significant steelworks at Barrow, Workington and Millom. These all gradually stopped steel production and closed, with the last – Workington – reduced to using steel from elsewhere in the manufacture of railway lines until it closed in 2006. That site is now derelict wasteland and there is no trace of the others.
Likewise the ironstone mines, that have now all ended production. Production in the county peaked in the 19th century and wind led thereafter, with large-scale mining ending in south Cumbria in 1968 with the closure of Hodbarrow Mine in March 1968, and in west Cumbria sometime in the mid/late 1970s (online sources are unclear).
The West Cumbria mines included Florence Mine, which had a chequered history of closure and reopening.
Small-scale production for the manufacture of pigment continued until 2006 from shallow underground workings. However, closure was forced upon the mine in 2006 when the contract with Sellafield for providing water pumped from the mine ended, thus rendering the operation uneconomic.
Since then, one of the surface buildings has been taken over by the Florence Arts Centre, which is well worth a look, while the rest of the site is sadly derelict. The headgear is now listed for what it’s worth, ie. it makes it slightly harder to get permission to demolish, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.
It’s certainly worth a look and I had a good mooch around the yard which is largely overgrown and along with the rubbish and scrap, there appears to be various bits of mining related machinery. It’s all overgrown which makes it an interesting photographic subject.
The strong light again drove me down a different route to my usual processing style, one that has been quite refreshing for me. Whether I’ll continue with it when the weather turns more ‘northern’, I’ll have to wait and see.