Last attempt to mine for Furness iron ore riches in Lindal

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11 September 2017 6:16PM

ALMOST 70 years ago the last serious attempt to mine for iron ore in Furness was showing early promise but faced plenty of difficulties.

Experts thought it was a waste of time as decades of exploration between the outskirts of Barrow and Ulverston had dug out anything of commercial value.

This view was not shared by Whitehaven mining engineer Mr J. G. Wilkinson and Swarthmoor wagon owner Fred G. Nott were prepared to start digging in the belief that 100,000 tons of high-grade ore could be brought to the surface from a square mile of land at Lindal.

The Mail in June 1948 had the full story and claimed that the mining operations could be carried out without the need to pump water from the underground workings - the main reason why mining in Furness had become too expensive.

It noted: "From Margaret Mine, Henning Wood, Lindal - named after Mr Wilkinson's wife - 1,500 tons of iron ore with an average yield of 55 per cent pure iron have been raised since 1944.

"Mr Wilkinson, who owns the mine said: 'I feel there is something for development,' and Mr Nott agrees.

"Mr Nott points out that the ore body is now being worked above water level and that all the ore can be mined above that level, thus obviating pumping operations and reducing the initial costs of the project.

"Mr Wilkinson, a Whitehaven Town Council member for 21 years, had his attention first drawn to the Lindal district a quarter of a century ago when he visited the mines there at the invitation of a friend, the late Mr E. Tosh, one-time general manager of the North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company.

"The mines were closed down not long afterwards and Mr Wilkinson had no interest in them until shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939, reminded of the mining potential there, he re-visited Lindal.

"He was unable to locate the mines he had seen years before but an old miner, with an intimate knowledge of the locality, was able to describe in detail the various projects which had won ore and Mr Wilkinson decided to seek authority to prospect in the vicinity.

"After negotiations in 1944, a licence was obtained to search or survey for ore on the Duke of Buccleuch's Broughton Estates, and within one week ore had been found in a new seam.

"Work went on for 12 months but difficulties of disposal of the ore forced the closing of the mine.

"The ore which they were lifting was of a sticky type - which the blastfurnace people at Barrow refused as unsuitable.

"This forced the closing of Margaret Mine but aware of the fact that the ore was excellently suited to the needs of the paint industry, Mr Wilkinson made every endeavour to have it disposed of to that industry but the Ministry of Industry directed it to the blast furnaces, where it was refused.

"Whilst Mr Wilkinson was in touch with the Ministry of Mines (Home Ore Department) he was told by an official that there ought not to be ore in that land, especially if proper study had been made of geological maps!"

Last year, however, the mine was re-opened and the shaft was sunk another 23ft in solid ore.

"All the work has been done by hand and there is no machinery there, although the mine has been promised an early supply of electricity, which would mean that electrically-driven compressors could be used.

"Mr Wilkinson's license area spreads over one square mile of land from Lindal to Marton and he considers that there is probably 100,000 tons of this special ore there, with considerable additional quantities of lower grade ore.

"He reckons that the North Lonsdale Company - which mined this area until 1924 - would have found this by going down another five feet.

"When the mine was reopened difficulty again arose about disposal of the ore and now it is taken by lorry to the blast furnaces as Backbarrow."

He was still hopeful of the red-stained Lindal ore going to the paint industry and had approached

Whitehaven MP Frank Anderson for support.

Fred Nott was foreman on the Lindal mining site and was helped by Jack Clark, of Lindal.

They were driving an incline - avoiding the use of a pit cage in a vertical shaft - to reach an ore seam which varied from five to 12 feet in width and possibly 200ft in length.

The article noted: "Heavy rains caused damage to the shaft at No. 1 Level and it is expected that another four of five week's work will be required before the men reach the underground leads with the new shaft.

"Referring to another shaft,known as No. 2 Level, Mr Nott said that should be opened up again for development as it was showing good results when it was closed.

"The total output of the Lindal mines from 1918 to 1924, when they were closed, amounted to about 33,000 tons.

"Number of miners employed there varied between 30 and 40."

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