HOW the end of a town's iron industry was recorded by its greatest writer came under the spotlight in a study day held at Millom.

The Norman Nicholson Society held its summer event at Millom Methodist Church which looked at the impact - almost 50 years ago - of the closure of Millom Ironworks and the loss of more than 550 jobs.

An illustrated talk and guided walk by local historian Bill Myers was followed by an opportunity to study some of Norman Nicholson's writings about the iron industry.

The poet - whose work is closely associated with life in Millom - was born in 1914 and lived in St George's Terrace.

His paternal grandparents had settled in the new town in the 1860s as part of an influx of people from places like Devon, Cornwall and Ireland, seeking work in the iron industry.

Mr Myers said: "He would have read about Millom's unsuccessful two-year struggle to attract a £1m to develop a pioneering new production method called spray steel.

"It was proved to work but the Iron and Steel Board and Harold Wilson's government blocked the investment.

"Millom delegations to London and a petition signed by 5,500 townsfolk could not win a change in policy and the closure of Millom Ironworks was fixed by owners Cranleigh for Friday, September 13 in 1968."

The implications of the closure were widespread, with an estimated 10 per cent of the town's population leaving to seek work at places such as Coventry and Nottingham.

People withdrew their savings from Millom Co-operative Society and when this appeared on a Nationwide TV show it led to a general panic.

At Lincoln Co-operative Society, members saw what had happened in Millom and promptly withdrew £100,000 from their savings.

An extract from Norman Nicholson’s poem On the Dismantling of Millom Ironworks, features on an interpretation board next to the giant, solidified plug from the last working Millom furnace.

He wrote: “Here my father’s father,

Foreman of the back furnace, unsluiced the metal lava,

To slop in fiery gutters across the foundry floor

And boil round the workman’s boots; here five generations

Toasted the bread they earned at a thousand degrees Fahrenheit,

And the town thrived on its iron diet.”

The guided walk passed some of the surviving ironworks buildings which have found new uses, including Slacks in a former locomotive shed which makes polypropylene brush filament and the Metal Ring Company which makes closures to keep the lids on storage drums and has been in Millom since 1969, previously as Drum Closures.

Millom Ironworks started as a speculative venture in 1865 by the Cumberland Iron Mining and Smelting Company.

The first pig iron would have emerged in 1867.

Much of the site became part of the Millom Ironworks Local Nature Reserve since 2002 and is home to bee orchids, skylarks, yellow-wort and natterjack toads.

You can find out more about the work of the Norman Nicholson Society on its website at