Carlisle Spedding (1895 – 1755)
Carlisle Spedding was one of a line of Spedding’s which served the
Lowther Family so diligently for almost a century. Carlisle was by far
the most important and successful member of the family. Born on
September 10th 1695 to Edward and Sarah Spedding at Akebank
Carlisle was the youngest of 4 sons and his father Edward was a
farmer, but not a successful one and his debt made life hard for the
Spedding family. Educated in the basics in Whitehaven, Carlisle was
destined for a life at sea. However persuaded by his older brothers
Edward and John Spedding who were employed by Sir James Lowther, in
1710 at the age of 15 Carlisle entered the colliery under the
tutelage of Edward who had held the post of colliery agent since 1707.
In 1712 Carlisle began working for his other brother John who was Lord
Longsdales Agent in the Whitehaven pits. At that time most mines in
Whitehaven were sunk to 20 fathoms (120ft) to the thick main band
seam, however there were frequent problems with flooding and gas
At the age of 18 the young Carlisle was sent under an assumed name to
work in the collieries of the North East to gain experience, and learn
all aspects of deep mining, the use of blasting powder and the
building of wagon ways, returning to Whitehaven when his true identity
was revealed following an accident underground in which Carlisle was
burnt. Lord Longsdale sent doctors from Newcastle to tend to his burns
and so his true identity and purpose was discovered Carlisle fleed the
North East to return with new skills and ideas for his employer.
Carlisles new found skills began to transform coal mining in and
around Whitehaven, in 1715 he began work to install a Newcomen
Engine16 inch diameter and 8ft in length at Stone Pit, located at the
bottom of Monkwray Brow to drain water and aid ventilation, completed
the following year at a cost of £85, though the wooden pipes were
prone to leaks and not ideal. At the same time Carlisle was sought by
rival engineers and offered double his wages, but Carlisle wouldn’t
turn his back on Whitehaven or his future wife Sarah Towerson.
In 1716 Carlisle married Sarah and purchased a house on Irish Street.
The Newcomen engine was so successful in its work that Carlisle
realising that he needed to extend the coal mining efforts in
Whitehaven began making plans to sink a pit going out under the sea,
the first of its kind in England the initial site was from where King
Pit would later stand. Using his skills and knowledge from existing
pits Carlisle estimated that the coal band would be found at a depth
of 105 fathoms (630ft) under the sea. In 1729 12 feet above sea level
on an outcrop of rock at Saltom beach the place was choosen to sink
the new pit. With the backing of his brother John funding and manpower
was given to clear the headland from the cliff top and build a road.
Trial sinkings of Salthom found coal at 80 fathoms (480ft). Lowther
then gave his permission to sink the pit.
Carlisle employed sinkers from Northumberland and Scotland to sink the
the shaft, installed horse ginns and build stone sheds to store tools
and a water cistern (wc). Carlisle further innovated coal mining with
the use of an oval shaft 8ft by 10ft divided down the centre allowing
the dual operations of drawing of coal on one side and the
ventilation and pumping of the workings on the other. Carlisle planned
that the day to day ventilation would be controlled by door traps that
would cause the air to be directed around the workings.
At a depth of 42 fathoms the sinkers encountered a thin band of coal
emitting a rush of gas, lighting from the candles of the workers.
Carlisle further investigated this and instructed the sinkers to work
without light because of the danger of fire. He then went about
installing a piping method to drain the gas from the pit to the
surface where it was said to burn day and night.
A small harbour and short wooden wagon way was constructed for direct
shipment of the coals to Ireland which completed the sinking of Saltom
late in 1731, the sinkers received a bonus payment of £6-0s-0d and ale
for their accomplishments.
In 1731 Carlisle installed a larger Newcomen Engine to prevent the
continuing ingress of water and the use of air coursing to clear the
mine of the gas. At this time the temperature’s recorded below ground
were 33C on the coalface and 29C on the roadways. Because of this it
was common practice for both men and woman to work stripped to the
waist. Humidity was high and they often worked in deep water.
Carlisle manned the pit with local families, men woman and children
working long hours.
By 1733, 861 tons of coals had been exported to Ireland, and the
commencement of a drawing shaft at Ravenhill began to enablecoal
from Saltom to be raised to the wagon road.
In 1737, both Carlisle and his son James were badly effected by the
underground gas following a rescue attempt at Corporal Pit on 5th
August in which 23 were killed this included 8 men who had gone in as
a rescue team. The injured were treated by Dr William Brownrigg with
salad oil, this began a lifelong friendship with Carlisle and they
both worked to further the safety underground of the miners, Dr
Brownrigg had a laboratory built to study the gas and its effects on
miners, Carlisle had the fireamp gas piped to the laboratory close to
Pedlar Pit and Carlisle invented a devise to be used underground for
lighting and detecting methane.
The Flint Mill.
From the time of the Corporal Pit explotion Carlisles health was in
decline, although he still was overseeing the growing number of pits
in the area with new workings at Thwaite and Parker Pits.
In 1750 Carlisle began drawing up plans for a new church in Whitehaven
(St James on High Street)
Carlisle was killed in 1755 in one of his own pits by an underground
gas and is buried in the Trinity Gardens in Whitehaven.
Carlisle Spedding (1895 – 1755)