In 1673 Henry Curwen owned collieries in Harrington and Lowca.
In 1783 Harrington Colliery consisted of 7 pits, McCall, Tarn, Dyke, Lowes, Lonsdale, New and Lonsdale 2nd. Between 1783 and 1792 John Christian Curwen sank a further 11 pits – Drape, McMillan, Hodgson, Old Baskett, Natty, Bella, Udale, Fox, Laybourn, Henry and John.
By 1812 only Hodgson, John and Henry were still working, and in 1847 only the first two were left producing 25-30,000 tons a year.
In 1865 the colliery was taken over by Bain, Blair and Paterson of Harrington Ironworks who were to eventually sink 10 pits. These were:
No. 1 pit – never completed due to flooding.
No. 2 Pit
No. 3 Pit – 1867 to 1879
No. 4 Pit – 1871 to 1879
No. 5 Pit – this was the old Micklam Pit re-opened.
No. 6 Pit – 1871to 1874
No. 7 Pit – 1874 to 1901
No. 8 Pit – 1872 to 1874. This pit was only 65 feet deep and was flooded due to the sea breaking in. The men at work at the time had a lucky escape, climbing the ladders in the shaft as the pit flooded in less than an hour.
No. 9 Pit – sunk 1880.
In 1901 only Nos. 5, 7 and 9 pits were working. In 1905 only No. 9 pit remained. It eventually became the upcast shaft for No. 10 Pit
No. 10 Pit – sunk 1910-11. This was the “Lowca” Pit which closed in 1968.
The colliery was taken over by the Workington Iron and Steel Company, an amalgamation of four companies including the Harrington Company, in 1909.
No. 11 Pit was sunk in 1916 and worked until 1963.
No. 12 pit was sunk 1921-2 and worked until 1932.
No. 5 Pit was re-opened and worked until 1980, although by this time it was only a small operation producing mainly fireclay for the furnace linings at Workington Ironworks.
On 9th December 1946 an explosion occurred at No. 10 Pit which claimed the lives of 15men. This was only 3 weeks before the pits were nationalised, the owners being the United Steels Company.
At the time the pit was producing about 3,000 tons per week from the Main Band seam. 770 people were employed, 240 (30 being women) on the surface, 195 at the coal face and 335 elsewhere below ground. The Main Band in the No. 2 District where the explosion occurred was 12 feet thick of which the lower 9 feet 6 inches was being worked. This was 1½ miles from the shaft.
The district was worked by roadways 15 feet wide by 10 feet high using a combination of shortwall coal cutters, explosives and Duckbill loaders to win the coal. The district was very wet, with water falling from the roof.
The explosion occurred about 2 hours after the start of the day shift on a Monday morning. Normally there were about 250 men underground but on this day only 208 were at work. (This level of absenteeism was common for a Monday morning and was known to have “saved” more than one man who had not turned in. Had the explosion happened the following week the death toll could have been higher. It would then have been “Bull Week” where men were working as many shifts as possible to earn extra money for Christmas).
That the explosion was one of firedamp is without question. The source of ignition is, however, a mystery as all but one of the men in the district were killed.
These men were:
1. William Hoodless Aged 41 Overman
2. Thomas Addison Aged 44 Face Worker
3. Robert Henry Brown Aged 31 Service Engineer
4. Charles sharpe Aged 26 Face Worker
5. John Tolson Hill Aged 39 Face Worker
6. Daniel Largue Aged 43 Face Worker
7. William Henry Ennis Aged 54 Face Worker
8. Harrison Fidler Aged 37 Demonstrator to Face Workers
9. Ronald Pflaumer Aged 32 Bricklayer
10. John Fox Aged 34 Bricklayer
11. Wilfred Chapman Aged 42 Face Worker
12. Robert Maurice Bruney Aged 44 Face worker
13. John Wright Bird Aged 46 Timber Drawer
14. Thomas Bird Aged 31 Timber Drawer
15. Thomas Austel Miller Aged 41 Deputy
1. John McMullen Aged 54 Stoneworker.