THE mining and smelting of iron ore made a tremendous impact on Furness and the effect it had on the Victorian families who arrived to provide the workforce was told in a major exhibition.

Villagers and history experts contributed to the displays of photographs and exhibits on Askam and Ireleth which went on show 19 years ago.

The Mail, on Tuesday, January 30 in 2001, noted: "Historians from all over Cumbria gathered on Saturday for Askam and Ireleth History Group's first exhibition.

"There was a lot to see at the Methodist Hall for residents and enthusiasts from as far afield as Appleby and Penrith.

"They were able to see information, photographs and antiques with links to the area's rich past.

"Organiser Bob Sloane, of Duddon Road, Askam, fell in love with the area when he retired there 12 years ago.

"Mr Sloane said several hundred people attended between 10am and 4pm and many dressed in old costumes, giving the exhibition a carnival atmosphere."

He said: "There were several people dressed in Victorian clothes - plus fours and a frock coat - it was quite an event.

"Initially the exhibits were provided by members of the society but this expanded to include items from other people.

"We had photos of the old ironworks and there were many interesting tales and pictures that came out during the day.

"There was an interesting photo of a local figure, Matha Baxter, that many older people remembered.

"He claimed he saw a ghost who told him he should not work any more. And he never did.

"He used to accost local people in the street and ask them for scones."

The exhibition described how a community of terraces developed on the old Ireleth Marsh after major discoveries of iron ore had been made in Furness.

Askam was turning the ore into iron in its first furnace by the summer of 1867 and had four furnaces in operation by 1873.

In 1873 employment in the Askam district mines and ironworks was around 850.

Items at the exhibition included swill baskets made in the village and donkey stones which people once  used to keep their doorsteps clean.

There was also a pole used by the Askam lamplighter - and a box of old gas mantles.