DESPITE the natural look of its beaches, lakes and mountains, Cumbria has seen centuries of miners and quarry workers looking for raw materials for industry.

How this mineral wealth was exploited was explored in a conference called Out of the Ground, organised by the Cumbria Industrial History Society.

Chairman Geoff Brambles, at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith said: “Cumbria is extraordinarily rich in a wide range of geological resources, some of which are world famous.”

The county has seen commercial working of everything from copper near Coniston, iron ore at Hodbarrow and Furness, slate at Kirkby, granite at Shap and limestone products at Stainton, Askam and Millom.

Jeremy Rowan-Robinson described the history of Tilberthwaite Copper Mine.

He said copper was worked on either side of the Muckle Beck on the flank of Whetherlam from the Elizabethan era.

Stone remains of Tilberthwaite's pits and ore processing buildings have recently been surveyed in a project funded by the heritage Lottery.

The period from 1824 saw the most regular mining at Tilberthwaite and a new crushing mill, powered by a 32ft water wheel, was in use by 1867.

The water wheel was sold for scrap in 1897 and raised just £3.

Getting the ore off the fells was made much easier by the opening of a railway link from Coniston to Foxfield in 1859.

Copper imports from Chile by 1875 saw a collapse in prices.

The Lakeland and North Cumbrian fells were once the scene of mining for the lead ore galena - and its smelting into metal at places like Dufton, Nenthead and Cross Fell.

Graham Brooks said the processes gave off noxious fumes which were equally bad for workers and the health of surrounding farmland.

Lead smelters were prized workers but many were dead by the age of 35.

Mr Brooks said: "Although you were paid well, you didn't live very long."

Ian Hartland gave a talk on the development of the mechanical excavator from 1835.

Early machines were powered by steam and developed in the United States but British firms soon have similar machines which were in demand for the development of Victorian harbours, quarries and railway lines.

A total of 48 were specially built to help dig the Manchester Ship Canal.

Crawler tracks - of the kind used on First World War tanks - made the excavators much more mobile than moving them along a length of railway track.

Emma Armstrong and Jean Scott-Smith described the history and revival of quarrying at Shap for granite.

Commercial quarrying got underway from 1864 and by 1905 the Shap site employed 250 workers.

Big blocks were used for the reservoir at Thirlmere and granite chippings were in demand for the driveways of stately homes.

The site closed in 2006 but was revived by the Armstrong family firm from Horwich.