Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bobbin Mills

The Mike Davies-Shiel Collection includes over 1200 items on the bobbin-making industry. Mike took photos of anything and everything that would help in his research – maps, original documents, newspaper adverts, old photographs etc.. Here is a small selection of photos from the many he took on site in the 1960s and later of the remains of a once thriving industry.

Click on this link to a map of where the wood turning mills were located.
Click on this link to see a drawing of one of them – Stock Force in Ambleside.
Click here to find out more about woodland industries, including bobbin-making.

Flax

These photos are from the MDS Collection, many of them taken by Mike Davies-Shiel in the 1960s and later.
Click here to read more about growing and processing flax by hand, and here to find out more about the production of linen and other materials from the fibres.
Follow this link for a general map showing flax and hemp production in the Central Lakes, and another showing local evidence for flax at High Newton in the south of the county.

Muncaster Mill

There is documentary evidence of there being a mill at Muncaster going back to 1455, fed from a weir on the river Mite over a mile up the river. Rather than have a “top pond” the water is stored in the long leat which feeds a simple overshot water wheel powering 3 sets of stones, although in recent times only the left set of stones was used for flour.

The derelect mill was purchased in the 1970s by Lake District Estates – the parent company of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – to be restored as a track side attraction. The millers (who leased it) then supplied organic stoneground flour (assorted wholemeal, white, brown, semolina and bran) and provided tours of the mill. It also featured in the Thomas the Tank Engine book (see illustration below).

Thanks go to Dave Priestley, son of Ernie the last miller (pictured below), for the notes and the photos. They were taken in the late 1990s at low resolution and relatively small image size.

Backbarrow Ironworks

The surviving structures of Backbarrow Ironworks in South Lakeland have been described by Historic England as “the best illustration nationally of iron-smelting technology development from the early C18 to the C20”. The site has featured on the Heritage at Risk register for many years, and there have been a number of previous attempts to “save” it without success. Until now that is.

Under the supervision of Historic England work is underway to conserve the remains of the scheduled ancient monument – which include the furnace stack, hot air stoves and blowing engine – alongside work to develop the rest of the site for housing. Potentially dangerous sections have been fenced so, for example, no-one can wander inside the furnace stack.

The Backbarrow Ironworks Heritage Trust has been established to take over responsibility for the ironworks once development of the whole site is complete in 2020. Until then there is no public access to it. These photos have been taken by members of the Trust.

Cockermouth Mills

All these photos were taken by Mike Davies-Shiel between 1969 and 1971, except that of the Tweed Mill being demolished c.1916.

To find out more about these mills and others in Cockermouth look out for The Watermills of Cockermouth leaflet, the Cockermouth Mill Trail, and the two booklets on Industry in the series Cockermouth in Pictures by Bernard Bradbury.

Workington Port

Most of the photos show the Prince of Wales Dock under construction in the 1920s.
Click here to find out more about Workington and other ports in Cumbria.

Warwick Bridge Corn Mill

The North of England Civic Trust have managed a project to conserve and repair the building and bring it back to life as a working mill. These photos were taken in July 2016 before the work began in earnest, except for emergency repairs to the drying kiln.

Click here to visit their website.
Click here to find out more about the mill.

West Coast Iron and Steel

Follow the links to find out more about the Iron and Steel Industry in Cumbria or to see more photos of the Derwent Works at Workington.

Derwent Iron & Steel Works

The Derwent Haematite Iron Co. cast pig iron in Workington for the first time in 1874, but was soon joined by the Dronfield Ironworks who re-located their steel making plant from near Sheffield. The combined plant was re-named Charles Cammell & Co. – Derwent Iron and Steel Works until 1903 when a merger of the parent company with Laird Brothers resulted in Cammell Laird and Co.,,

Most of these photos date from the early 1900s, except for the aerial views which date from the 1930s, and the drawing which is dated 1882.

Click here to find out more about the iron and steel industry in Cumbria.

Backbarrow Blue

Click here to find out more about the Blue Mill at Backbarrow.