THERE are few obvious traces left of the iron industry which once drove the economy of mining and furnace communities along the Furness and West Cumberland coast.

The story behind the discovery of iron ore and its use in ironworks and foundries is being told in the spring conference of the Cumbria Industrial History Society.

Our pictures from The Mail archive show aspects of the iron industry, including an underground expedition by youngsters from Roose - a Furness village built in the Victorian era to house iron miners.

The conference, called Iron Making in Cumbria, is being held on Saturday, April 25 at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith.

Peter King will look at managing wood supplies for the charcoal fuel used in the iron industry of the 18th century while Richard Sanderson will describe the past, present and future for the remains of the Backbarrow ironworks in South Cumbria.

Archaeologist Dan Elsworth will give a description of foundries which once worked in Ulverston and John Lawson will talk about the rise and fall of the iron and steel industry along the Cumbrian coast.

Communities such as Millom, Haverigg, Askam, Dalton, Lindal, Roose and Marton were established or transformed in scale by iron mines in the Victorian era.

As the huge scale of the iron reserves became obvious, it led to the building of ironworks around the coast - stretching from Carnforth to Workington in the old counties of Lancashire and Cumberland.

In May 1994 youngsters from Roose School made the trip from Furness to Florence Mine, near Egremont, to make an underground tour of what was then the last deep iron mine in Europe.

Its two pits were dug by owners Millom Ironworks and were worked until 1968 and then from 1980  on a much smaller scale by the Egremont Mining Company.

Roose youngsters went down to a depth of 180ft on an incline walkway but the mine once used its pit cage to take miners down to iron ore workings - which by the 1990s were deep under water.