A look around … Ulverston Canal and South Ulverston

Notes on its industrial history by Alan Postlethwaite
Click on the link to see a map of canalside industries in 1865 by Philip Grosse
(Page created 09/03/12. Last updated 05/12/19)

Canal Head


Charnley’s Wood Yard had railway siding along western towpath
Petty & Postlethwaite’s Shipyard. In 1815 eight plots of land bought for £155. Formerly Ashburner’s Shipyard.
McKay’s Shipyard, afterwards Brocklebank’s Shipyard – timber importers, later in The Ellers
John Rhodes (shipbuilder). Built only one vessel – “Annie McLester” – which stuck while being launched in 1865
Salmon, Barnes & Co, Canal Head Foundry (also A Attwood & Co.). Later John Stones Ltd., Shutter Manufacturers, Dragley Beck Works
John Benson, Sailmaker. Workshop above Canal Offices. Fire 1856.
Cattle Auction Mart now covers the area.
Ulverston Gasworks Siding – from 1902 on site later occupied by abattoir

Six Arches Railway Bridge

LOW YARD / MIDDLE BASIN (near the Six Arches Bridge, built 1854)

Middle Basin provided in 1857 due to limitation created by new (railway) bridge. Railway siding on west towpath from 1870-1882 from spur off main line west of bridge.
John & William White’s Shipbuilding Yard, previously occupied by Hart & Ashburner. Patent slip. Following closure of White’s Yard the area accommodated grandstands for the annual Swimming Gala.
Anchor Smithy in wood near Cow Park Corner
Warehouse used by Carrs of Silloth and later Henry Topham of Ulverston
Market Garden of Butterfield Family after 1940
Low Furness Ironworks (James Davis’ Iron and Brass Foundry). Owned by James Davis, relocated in 1850 to the canal side from Orgrave and Powka Beck. Puddling furnace producing wrought iron, never steel. A report of 1863 comments that “Two ironworks on its banks are closed”.

Middle Basin

Samuel Pollitt’s Paper Mill (formerly Furness Paper Works and Ulverston Paper Works) occupied the ironworks buildings, established c.1870, and employed 300. Railway connection.Serious fire in 1895. Armstrong Siddeley occupied buildings from 1940 to 1944 for aircraft engine servicing, and also had test-bed plant at Bardsea (now Kingfisher etc.). In 1945 premises taken over by firm of C G Wade which later became The Powder Metal Co Ltd producing metal furniture, pencil cases and naval shell casings. Relocated to Aldershot in 1955. Premises later occupied by knitting factory. Site now used by Travis Perkins, G W Waite, Acrastyle, etc.


Rolling Bridge


Furness Railway Bardsea Branch received Parliamentary approval in June 1876 and August 1881, opening 1882. Boring for bridge foundations began February 1878. Gradwell’s tender accepted November 1878. Railway formation complete and bridge deck in situ September 1880. Hydraulically powered bridge withdrew into recess on west side of Canal, leaving navigable channel in centre. Bridge protected by wooden fenders. Work completed June 1881. Used for siding to Ironworks, September 1881. Opened for passenger traffic June 1883. Rail traffic to Glaxo ceased in 1994, track lifted in 2000. Bridge now fixed and carries Glaxo emergency water main from Newland Beck, and a public pedestrian walkway. The bridge and nearby accumulator house were both granted listed building status in 2012.

Galloways (of Manchester) Foundry, later the Old Bone Mill, cast components for the Leven Viaduct.


Remains of Jetty


Schollick’s Shipyard, formerly at Greenodd. Yard put up for sale in 1855 and taken over by former foreman John Wilson and son in 1870. Last vessel built here was “Heart of Oak” in 1912
Limekiln in garden wall
Track from Wood End Quarry and remains of loading pier
Mooring rings in limestone shore


Malt Kiln


North Lonsdale Crossing was point on the Bardsea Branch where traffic was directed to the Ironworks, to and from Ainslie Pier, to the Priory (along new embankment), to Gasgow Quarry, the Chemical Works, Brickworks, and Wire Works
North Lonsdale Iron & Steel Co.. Incorporated October 1863. Always known as the Ironworks and never produced steel. First two (of four) furnaces blown in May 1876. William Gradwell and James Bush bought half of the Conishead Estate including the Brickworks and opened Gasgow Quarry, contracting to supply limestone to the Ironworks. Standard gauge tramway built to link the sites. 1870-82 rail access was by spur at Six Arches along the west bank of the Canal. 1882 line from Plumpton Junction via Rolling Bridge opened. 1932 Ironworks merged with Millom & Askam Iron Works. No production at Ulverston from 1932 to 1936. One furnace in production 1937-38. Ironworks closed 1938 following accident and explosion. Refining continued at the works foundry until 1949. Ironworks site sold 1947 for building of the pharmaceutical factory of Glaxo. Slag “mossers” as wall caps on dwarf wall of Glaxo boundary.
The Glaxo operation has built an international reputation for the manufacture of penicillin, Streptomycin and Zantac. (Separate article coming soon)


Carter Pool


Traditional residence of the Oversands Guide.
Site of saltworks of Conishead Priory
Carter Pool once navigable to smaller vessels as far as Outcast
Shipbuilders Ephraim Swainson and Messrs Hart & Ashburner here in pre-Canal days. Several armed vessels built for the West Indies trade.
John Cannon’s Anchor Smithy near Saltcoats Farm c.1770, and later in 1850/60s by Thomas Mount
Enclosure Award of 1812 enclosed the previously common land of Oxenholme. Carter Pool, once 50 yards wide, was narrowed and gated. An earth embankment 8ft wide and 3ft high ran from the floodgates to Conishead Bank on the seaward side of Sand Hall (now a footpath). Saltcoats Bridge over Carter Pool built around 1870s to afford access to housing and works at Sand Hall.
Maltkiln operated in Carter House Lane post 1830.
The North Lonsdale ironworks built its own tidal quay by which ore was imported and pig iron dispatched. Their original Beaconsfield Pier was replaced by larger Ainslie Pier at Hammerside.


Limestone Quarry – Plumpton


Industrial developments as spin off from the Ironworks.
Gasgow Quarry and Gravel Pit off Priory Road (now a caravan site) owned by William Gradwell with linking mineral line
Brickworks. Brick-making had been carried out at Sandhall since 18th century, and the merits of the local clay had been used to promote the Canal. Brick kiln on Oxenholme Common mentioned in 1760, and the road to Priory Point was called Brick Kiln Road. Priory Brickworks advertising bricks and tiles in 1856/60. Ireland’s Brick & Tile Works operated through the 19th century. In 1876 William Gradwell is listed as owning the Ulverston Brick Making Co.. Two terraces of houses were known as Brickwork Cottages. Works and quarry up for auction in 1879, purchased by Gradwell outright. Works closed c.1900. Clay dubs flooded and now angling pools.
Chemical Works. Begun c.1861 as Alexander Sadler’s Tar Distillery. Sadler owned quarries in County Durham and supplied coke to the iron and steel industry, tar being a byproduct of coke ovens and required by ship-builders. In 1881 Alfred E Sadler, a “manufacturing chemist”, (?son of Alexander), was resident at Sandhall. In 1886 the company also had a site on the Canal. Products included petrol, tar, pitch and napthalene. In 1904 also advertising chemical fertilisers. Workers’ housing at Sandhall called Chemical Row.
Wire Works. Messrs Brand of Middlesbrough. Only had brief existence. Present in 1882, disappeared by 1919. Took malleable iron billets from the Ironworks for reheating and extrusion. Fumes vented through fine brick stack which was left as navigation aid for vessels berthing at Ainslie Pier.
A station was built at Priory which was intended to serve a new housing development by William Gradwell and partners on part of the Conishead Estate. Railway construction ceased when the track reached the Priory Station.


Furness Railway Boundary Post


1850 OS map shows five quarries, In 1869 Bolton speaks of two quarries – dark limestone (Wood End) and white limestone (Spring Wood and Twice-a-Day). Also Ashes up-stream of viaduct – ‘bloomery’ stone used at Newland Furnace and Backbarrow. Much infilling with domestic refuse. Remains of rail sidings etc.
Plumpton Junction site of former box and triangle. Furness Railway boundary stones. Tall home signal post. Leven Junction – Greenodd Junction spur.
Iron mining remains. Haematite ore was being extracted at Plumpton as early as 1220, probably from shallow drifts, and old maps indicate the existence of old pit shafts since backfilled. From 1718 the ore deposits has been systematically exploited with ores being taken to furnaces at Backbarrow and Invergarry. Mining activity appears to have ceased by the beginning of the 19th century.


The Ulverstone & Lancaster Railway : Les Gilpin, Cumbrian Railways Association, 2009
The Furness Railway – A History : M J Andrews, Barrai Books, 2012
The Industrial Archaeology of South Ulverston : Rob McKeever & Jack Layfield, 2004
Ulverston Canal and the construction of Collins Weir : Jack Layfield, Finger Prints, 2007
Lost Ulverston : Jennifer Snell, Finger Prints, 2008
Articles in the North West Evening Mail to mark the bicentenary of the Canal : John Marshall, 5,6,& 8 November 1996
Barrow Record Office : Furness Railway plans of the Bardsea Branch
Original working drawings of the Sliding Railway Bridge copied in Ulverston Canal Masterplan
Copy of coloured drawing of the Sliding Bridge deck (in private collection)
Aerial photographs of the Canal taken by Lawrence Hill