Nestled among the trees, just off the Coast to Coast cycleway, at Cleator Moor in West Cumbria is a stone cairn. The cairn marks the spot where an old Iron-Ore mine has been capped. But, which one?
The Crossfield Iron Ore Company was formed around 1860 by Captain James Robertson Walker of Gilgarran, John Munro Mackenzie, of Tobermory, and hugh Munro Mackenzie, of Distington. The company sank a total of 17 pits at Crossfield.
At the mines of the Crossfield Iron Ore Company, the iron ore was found in the mountain limestone, in faults or dislocations, running north and south, almost in harmony with the geomagnetic North. The distribution of the ore deposits is very irregular, and their existence is only determined by borings, which had to be made almost at random.
The iron ore of Cumbria is exclusively of that kind which is known mineralogically as red hematite; it is chemically an anhydrous peroxide of iron (ferric oxide), containing about 70 per cent, of iron. The red hematites in the county are by far the richest raised in the United Kingdom.
The ores raised at Cleator Moor were rich in metallic iron and valuable for the manufacture of steel. They were described as:
Compact red hematite; easily scratched by a file; lustre, earthy; colour, purplish grey; streak, bright red; fracture, uneven; containing cavities lined with crystals of specular iron, and containing, in some cases, quartz.Mr A. Dick
The ore was in great demand. Following extraction, it was exported around the United Kingdom on new railways. The ore contributed to the rapid growth of a number of towns in West Cumbria.
- The railway came to Cleator Moor in the mid 1850’s, with the creation of the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway Company. With the creation of the company, the output and shipment of ore increased.
From one shaft at Cleator Moor
They mined for coal and iron ore.
This harvest below ground could show
Black and red currants on one tree.
In furnaces they burnt the coal,
The ore was smelted into steel,
And railway lines from end to end
Corseted the bulging land.
Pylons sprouted on the fells,
Stakes were driven in like nails,
And the ploughed fields of Devonshire
Were sliced with the steel of Cleator Moor.
The land waxed fat and greedy too,
It would not share the fruits it grew,
And coal and ore, as sloe and plum,
Lay black and red for jamming time.
The pylons rusted on the fells,
The gutters leaked beside the walls,
And women searched the ebb-tide tracks
For knobs of coal or broken sticks.
But now the pits are wick with men,
Digging like dogs dig for a bone:
For food and life we dig the earth –
In Cleator Moor they dig for death.
Every wagon of cold steel
Is fire to drive a turbine wheel;
Every knuckle of soft ore
A bullet in a soldier’s ear.
The miner at the rockface stands,Norman Nicholson
With his segged and bleeding hands
Heaps on his head the fiery coal,
And feels the iron in his soul.