Iron mining pithead opened 1947, including headframe and heapstead, winding engine house, fan house, ore processing plant, compressor plant and workshop. All largely complete, still retaining its machinery and equipment.
Reasons for Designation
Florence iron mining pit head, which opened in 1947, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a remarkably intact mining pit head complex including a full suite of buildings retaining most of its machinery and equipment in situ: one of the best surviving mining sites of any type nationally, certainly the best surviving example of an iron mining pit head in the country.
* iron mining from the mid-C19 fundamentally altered western Cumbria, but has left very little direct evidence in the form of surviving structures. Florence marks the culmination of the iron industry in the region, built just before peak production, and was worked through the decline of the industry through the second half of the C20, being the last mine to close.
The rich deposits of iron ore found in western Cumbria were exploited from prehistoric times, but mining dramatically expanded in the second half of the C19, the ore, mainly hematite, being particularly suitable for mild steel production via the Bessemer Process. Iron mining and the burgeoning heavy engineering industries which it supplied, dramatically changed western Cumberland and the Furness peninsular, although industrial decline in the second half of the C20 has left few surviving remains of the iron industry.
Shaft sinking for Florence Mine commenced in 1913, with the first ore raised in 1923 from what proved to be the largest ore body to be found in West Cumberland: Florence Mine produced some 20 million tonnes during its lifetime and was not worked out. The sinking of Number 2 Shaft started in 1940 by the Millom and Askam Hematite Company, with working transferred to this new pit head in 1947 to allow the extraction of ore around the original shaft which was nearly 200m to the south. Florence was interconnected underground with the neighbouring Ullcoats Mine in the 1950s and then worked with Beckermet Mine from 1969 following nationalisation, supplying the steelworks at Workington. Closed by British Steel in 1980 it was partly reopened by redundant miners and worked on a small scale until 2006, the hematite mainly being ground and sold as a pigment, Egremont Red. During this period access to the mine workings was principally via a new drift entrance just over 100m to the north east of the shaft. This later drift entrance is not included in the listing. In 1996, the underground workings were designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their geological interest.
At the time of the site inspection (2017) the machinery and equipment was reported to be complete and effectively still operational. West of the heapstead, north of the fanhouse is an office range, this office range is not included in the listing. The drift entrance opened in the 1980s lies approximately 100m north-east of the heapstead, but is also not included in the listing.
Iron mining pit head, 1940s for the Millom and Askam Hematite Company.
LAYOUT: the head frame rises from the heapstead building which encloses the head of the shaft. The winding engine house lies immediately to the south-east; ore processing plant, connected via belt conveyors, extends to the north-east; the fan house lies to the south-west. To the east of the winding engine house there is the compressor house and a larger workshop.
HEAD FRAME: this is of steel girder construction, rising from the heapstead, the backstays extending from the engine house to the south-east. The western backstay supports a stepped access to the platforms at the top of the frame. The frame carries a pair of spoked winding wheels. The run for the lift cages between the roof of the heapstead and the platform above is enclosed with corrugated iron sheeting.
HEAPSTEAD: is of three storeys, being steel-framed with brick infill panels and a flat concrete roof. The top floor, accessed via an external staircase, is lit by picture windows divided into twelve panes. On the north-east side a large door gives access to the head of an ore conveyor. Just below this there is a single storey flat roofed projection forming part of the ore processing plant. On the north-west side there are a pair of ore chutes extending out at second floor level, originating from the top floor. On the south-east side there is a single storey lean-to which provided access to the ground floor of the heapstead, this being used by miners entering the mine via the shaft. This remains uncapped and the interior of the heapstead retains much of its original equipment and fittings, most obviously the cages, guides, railings and gates forming the working parts of the headframe and shaft.
WINDING ENGINE HOUSE: this has a concrete and brick basement supporting a large, but light-weight steel-framed shed that is clad and roofed with corrugated-iron, the roof being low-pitched, supported by fink trusses. The building retains most of its original equipment and control gear including the electric powered winding engine with its electrical equipment and operator’s cabin. The winding engine is thought to be the earliest electrical winding engine nationally to still survive in situ. The building also includes a travelling crane which was used to facilitate maintenance work. Many smaller details such as signage also survive in situ.
ORE PROCESSING PLANT: this extends north eastwards from the heapstead and includes a first stage jaw crusher, vibrating screens, trommel, secondary crusher, ball mill and final stage screens, all being belt driven. Some of the equipment is housed within a single storey projection on the north east side of the heapstead, with some housed within small sheds clad with corrugated iron that lie to the north east, linked to the heapstead by two conveyor belts, one being enclosed.
FAN HOUSE: this includes the concrete walled fan drift which descends at an incline north-eastwards to join the shaft below the heapstead. A short, square-section, brick-built chimney rises from the head of this drift, this being the evasée for the fan. Attached on the north side of the drift is a small, single storey brick building with a corrugated iron roof retaining a ridge ventilator. This houses the electrical motor for the fan and associated electrical equipment.
COMPRESSOR HOUSE: this lies immediately to the east of the winding engine house and is a low, single-storey corrugated iron shed lit with square windows. This retains its equipment, the air reservoir tank being sited immediately outside the building.
WORKSHOP: lying immediately to the east of the compressor house is a larger brick-built building with two large openings in its northern gable end. This retains a simple forge along with some pumping equipment.