ALLERDALE MINING MEMORIAL
Dec 2019 - The local paper, Times & Star printed a copy of my letter in yesterday's issue.
Today there are no deep coal mines left in Britain and the last generation of miners are now dying away. As a result, the disconnection with “King Coal” has grown to such an extent that many children from ex mining towns and villages today could not identify a piece of coal if shown it.
This disconnection will only increase because, although this industry has dominated the Workington area for over four hundred years, it is almost entirely forgotten in the town. It appears that, at least in terms of heritage, the soot and coal stains have been cleansed not only the homes, but from Workington’s history.
By 1800 there were no less than 37 pits around Workington. In 1837 disaster struck when an inrush of seawater caused the roof to collapse resulting in Lady Pit, Isabella Pit, and Union Pit, 27 miners and 28 horses drowned as sea water inundated the mine. The Curwen’s suffered heavy financial losses as a result of this incident and made renewed attempts to find fresh sources of coal by sinking Jane pit in 1843 followed by Annie Pit in 1864.
The expansion of the mines aided exports, prompting the Curwen’s to build Lonsdale Dock in 1865 to take ships up to 2000 tons. A major shipbuilding industry developed in the wake of the new dock, providing collier brigs for coal exports. In 1927, the dock was enlarged again, this time to take 10,000-ton ships, and re-named the Prince of Wales dock.
Within roughly two square miles from the location of the steelworks memorial positioned on Solway road lay the location of seven pits sites, these are: Charles, Anne, Jane, Buddle, Lady, Isabella and a more modern recent addition, Solway colliery, which closed in 1973. There were many more spread within the whole boundary of Allerdale and the surrounding area.
Whitehaven celebrates its mining heritage and culture with the Beacon, statues on the docks and plaques around the town, there was the mining museum at Haig, now closed. The only permanent structure in Workington that records the importance of mining to the town is the Cenotaph situated in Vulcan’s park. The Cenotaph was unveiled in June 1928; the east face depicts a miner and the west face steel rails, both industries that were vital to the prosperity and growth of the town.
Jane Pit being the best surviving example of the ornate castellated style of colliery architecture that was a feature of the early Cumbrian coal industry.
It surely stands testament to the building skills of the 19th century stonemasons, however it does not tell the story of working underground in these Victorian hell holes Prior to 1842 whole families were forced to work together to earn enough money for the family to live on, toiling underground in conditions that were truly horrific On 4 August 1842, a law was passed that stopped women and children under ten years from working underground in mines in Britain.
So in conclusion; Jane Pit is a scheduled ancient monument and adds to the mining heritage and culture and would be complemented by a separate mining memorial located in an appropriate central location in the town celebrating the workers and recognising their contribution to Workington.
WE OWE IT TO PAST GENERATIONS. WE OWE IT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.
Hi Fionn, You will remember, awhile ago, that I have been trying to get a mining memorial in place in Workington and you had asked that I keep you updated. Well the other night I attended a meeting to explore funding for turning the Jane Pit into a tourist attraction with paths and landscaping and various other plans like a museum.
The upshot is that the council wants volunteers to form a working group to take the idea forward and explore possible funding streams, Whitehaven had a thriving mining museum which is now closed, Jane pit is a scheduled monument and requires a lot of money spent on it to make it safe, that’s the councils problem; it should have been better maintained.
The idea was that this would also become a mining memorial, kill two birds with one stone!
I just want a memorial to all the miners, women and children who worked and died in our local pits. The history of Allerdale council up to the last local elections was labour run, you would think that a mining memorial would be a done deal, no!
Now we have an independent council.
Nearly 5 years has passed and I’m no further forward.
Tuesday 29th October 2019
I attended the above meeting to further a way forward for the future of the Jane Pit and a lasting memorial to the miners of Workington and surrounding areas.
I found the meeting very interesting and note the comments on the Jane Pit website regarding funding. My main interest would be a suitable memorial centrally placed in Workington to all the miners that lost their lives working in the local pits. At the meeting much was said about Jane Pit being the best surviving example of the ornate castellated style of colliery architecture that was a feature of the Cumbrian coal industry. This was a statement from one powerful landowner to another i.e., the Curwen’s and Lowther family’s.
One speaker mentioned a “gin circle”, probably speculation; records indicate that a steam winder was already in place in 1843 whilst the shaft was being sunk. The pit was never very productive much troubled by gas and water. It produced very little coal after 1862 and was later used in connection with the Annie Pit (1864) for pumping and ventilation until 1875. It closed because the then lessee went bust and turned the pumps off - no inrush of the sea (it’s completely under land), no 100 entombed miners (that seems to be a confusion with an exaggeration of the 1837 inrush at Lady, Isabella and Union pits, which was the sea and in which 27 died.
So ornate and castellated architecture is a statement of power and wealth and surely stands testament to the building skills of the 19th century stonemasons, however it does not tell the story of working underground in these Victorian hell holes Prior to 1842 whole families were forced to work together to earn enough money for the family to live on underground in conditions that were truly horrific On 4 August 1842, a law was passed that stopped women and children under ten years from working underground in mines in Britain.
The Victorians saw child labour as a normal part of working life. Most children started work underground when they were around eight years old, but some were as young as five. They would work the same hours as adults, sometimes longer, at jobs that paid far less.
I remember certain councillors from the past on at least 3 different occasions reporting in the local press that a mining monument would be placed in Workington even mentioning a location. Strangely, I never noticed any of them at Tuesday’s meeting.
Whitehaven celebrates its mining history and culture with the Beacon statues on the docks and plaques around the town, there was the mining museum at Haig, now closed. The only permanent structure in Workington that records the importance of mining to the town is the Cenotaph situated in Vulcan’s park. The Cenotaph was unveiled in June 1928 by Mrs. Catherine Henderson; the east face depicts a miner and the west face steel rails, both industries that were vital to the prosperity and growth of the town.
So in conclusion let the people of Workington have a mining memorial located in an appropriate location celebrating the workers and their contribution to the town.