Saltom coal pit


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017558

Date first listed: 05-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Dec-1997


Ordnance survey map of Saltom coal pit
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: NX 96435 17379


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000 coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity. The term `nucleated' is used to describe coal mines that developed as a result of increased capital investment in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are a prominent type of field monument produced by coal mining and typically consist of a range of features grouped around the shafts of a mine. The simplest examples contain merely a shaft or adit with associated spoil heap. Later examples are characterised by developed pit head arrangements that may include remains of engine houses for pumping and/or winding from shafts, boiler houses, fan houses for ventilating mine workings, offices, workshops, pithead baths, and transport systems such as railways and canals. A number of later nucleated mines also retain the remains of screens where the coal was sized and graded. Coke ovens are frequently found on or near colliery sites. Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of nucleated coal mines, together with rare individual component features are considered to merit protection.

Saltom Pit is the oldest surviving undersea coal mine in north west England. It still retains a gin circle and a later steam engine house and is thus a rare example of a coal mine which visibly demonstrates the evolution of horse powered winding to steam power. Despite removal of the steam engine, the surviving engine house still retains important technological information. Additionally, Saltom Pit was the site of many early developments in British mining technology; these include the use of through ventilation, the piping of methane, and the development of a steel mill which provided relatively safe underground illumination.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Saltom Pit, the first undersea coal mine in Cumbria, which operated between 1729-1848. It is located on a rock platform some 6m above the sea between Saltom Bay cliffs and the shore, and includes the upstanding but roofless remains of a winding engine house, a chimney, and a gin circle, the mine shaft which is now protected by a concrete cover, the footings of dwelling houses, a shed and a stable, together with the buried remains of a number an ancillary buildings. The latter include two engine houses, boiler sheds, shops, dwelling houses and coal depots which are all depicted on a plan of the complex made in 1864 and which are considered to lie beneath a cliff fall which occurred after the plan had been made. Also included in the scheduling is a sandstone-built sea wall constructed to protect the mine and its associated buildings from the ravages of storms and high tides. The sandstone-built winding engine house was built in 1782 and stands virtually to its full height. There are doorways and windows in three sides of the building, and gable ends indicate it originally had a pitched roof. The engine house contained a steam engine which powered winding machinery for hauling coal up the shaft. At the southern end of the engine house are footings of a shed and adjacent to this is a sandstone-built chimney standing about 2.5m high. A short distance to the south are the footings of miners' dwelling houses. North of the engine house is the site of the concrete-covered shaft upon which stands a modern metal casing. The mine shaft is elliptical in shape and divided in the middle; one half was used for pumping water; out the other half was used for drawing the coal up. Immediately to the east of the shaft there is a flat circular area marking the site of the horse gin with its stone retaining wall still in situ on the east side. This was the location for a 7.5m gin arm or pole powered by two horses, which rotated a winding drum to raise the coal up the shaft prior to the introduction of the later steam engine. Footings of the stable for the horses are adjacent to the gin. The northern part of the mine complex is partly covered by debris from a cliff fall. Within this area stood two engine houses built in 1731 and 1739 to house atmospheric engines used for pumping water out of the shaft. Also within this area were boilers and boiler sheds associated with these engines, three chimneys, coal depots, miners dwellings and shops. A plan of the remains of Saltom Pit produced in 1864, some 16 years after the mine had closed, depicts all these buildings and also shows the course of a tramway which ran between the mine buildings and which took coal to the nearby Ravenhill Pit from where it was transferred to Whitehaven Harbour. Saltom Pit was owned by Sir James Lowther who employed Carlisle Spedding to sink the pit shaft. Spedding was the chief overseer and had a good grasp of current mining techniques and an ingenuity for innovation. He pioneered mining's earliest experiments in through ventilation, the piping of methane, and the use of atmospheric power with an engine in duel operation at Saltom, and is also thought to have developed the Spedding Steel Mill here; this was a means of providing illumination for miners by the use of rotating wheels and cogs and a piece of flint to give off a constant stream of sparks. Spedding felt that the sparks were less likely than a naked flame to ignite fire damp and the steel mill consequently became widely used throughout British mines until the invention of the safety lamp. The modern metal casing situated on top of the mine shaft is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27801

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Marshall, J D, Davies-Shiell, M, The Industrial Archaeology of the Lake Counties, (1969), 113
Marshall, J D, Davies-Shiell, M, The Industrial Archaeology of the Lake Counties, (1969), 110-15
Ward, J E, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Sinking of Saltom Pit, Whitehaven, , Vol. XCI, (1991), 127-43
Coal Industry Step 3 Report, Cranstone, D, Saltom Pit,

End of official listing