A SYMBOLIC funeral procession was held in Millom 50 years ago today to mark the last day of production at the town's ironworks after more than a century.

There had been hopes that an experiment in spray steel making would give the site a long-term future and save around 550 jobs but the British Steel Board, backed by the government, turned down a £1m investment bid by owners Cranleigh.

Deputations to London and a petition signed by 5,500 people failed to prevent the inevitable closure decision.

A coffin was carried through the streets on Friday, September 13, in 1968 and the march ended with speeches in the Market Square.

The first iron was produced from two furnaces at Millom in September 1867.

Millom MP Joe Symonds made a personal plea to Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1968: "To save Millom from becoming a derelict town.”

Arthur Eaton, secretary to the Cumberland Development Council, told an August 1968 mass meeting in Millom School’s Alexandra Hall that the closure would push unemployment in Millom to 21.6 per cent and the government would have to pay out £364,000 each year in unemployment benefit.

The solidified contents of the Number One Furnace at Millom – which had only come into use in the early 1960s — resisted all attempts at destruction.

The iron core remains almost as a modern artwork to the memory of a century of iron production.