Mining in Cumbria

by Chris Jenkin

At the June meeting of the Orton and Tebay Local History Society, 40 people enjoyed an instructive and highly entertaining presentation on “Mining in Cumbria” by Ian Tyler.

The speaker has written several books on the subject, some of which have been awarded the “Cumbria Book of the Year” prize, and is extremely knowledgeable on both the history and the technology and techniques of local mining.

Cumbria is extremely rich in minerals of many kinds, and they have been mined for many centuries from the Romans onwards. Queen Elizabeth the first invited expert German miners across to England, to teach their skills to the local miners, who learned fast.

The speaker passed around the audience a variety of metals and the ores from which they are derived. The different weights, colours and textures were fascinating; one lump of metal the size of a fist astonished everyone by its great weight, and there were many guesses as to what it was – it was in fact tungsten, which no one knew how to use for many years, but is now a vital part of the highest grades of steel. Iron, of course, is essential for most aspects of modern life. One of the first uses of copper was in coinage, but of course has many uses in the electrical and plumbing industries among others. The ore from which it is derived has often been mistaken for gold – as illustrated in the Arthur Ransome book, “Pigeon Post”.

The speaker was warmly thanked by the Vice Chairman, Philip Rigby, and enthusiastically applauded by the audience. This meeting was the first one that the Society has held in Orton Methodist Chapel, which will be the venue in alternate months in future.