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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Massive influx of men attracted to mine jobs

THE first hints that what became Millom could be sitting on a fortune in iron ore did not come until the mid-1850s at a time when almost everyone living in the area was Cumberland born and bred.

Not much had changed by the 1861 census but 10 years later the rapidly growing new town had 79 immigrants from Wales, 221 from Devon, 379 from Cornwall and 392 from Ireland.

Where the new people came from, and their living and working conditions, was the subject of a talk by Bill Myers called All Roads Lead to Millom at a conference in Broughton Victory Hall by the Cumbria Industrial History Society.

The census figures show a distinct split in where the newcomers went to work.

The Devon and Cornwall men were experienced deep rock miners – used to extracting tin, copper, lead and silver.

They went to work at the Hodbarrow Mining Company, alongside men from Cumberland and Lancashire.

The new iron furnaces were a very different proposition.

Almost none of the Devon and Cornwall men got jobs there and in 1881 it seems that Millom Ironworks had just one
employee who was born in the town.

A remarkable 54.5 per cent of those workers for whom records can be found on Ancestry came from Ireland.

Many of the new streets and mine company estates in Millom must have seemed like a home from home for the miners and their families from Devon and Cornwall.

At Steel Green in 1881, almost 30 per cent of the tenants had been born in Cornwall.

They included mine agent Solomon Russell, 58, from St Hilary, probably the first Cornishman to move to Millom in around 1865.

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