Harrington Collieries


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.

1 thought on “Harrington Collieries”

  1. Reg Instone said:

    I have looked at the H.O. “List of Mines” for almost every year from 1894 to 1930. From 1894 to 1900 inclusive Nos. 5, 7 and 9 were working. In 1901 & 1902 there were only 5 men working at No.7 and it was not listed from 1903 onwards. In 1903 to 1909 only Nos. 5 & 9 are shown. In that period No.9 increased from 250 to 368 men employed underground. In 1910 and 1911 No.10 is shown as “sinking”, and No.9 further expanded with 409 and 516 men respectively underground. In 1912 coal winding must have been transferred to the new No.10 shaft, which had 630 men underground and 193 on the surface. The peak year was in 1914 with 856 and 212 respectively. By contrast No.5 only had 20-30 men underground and 3-5 on the surface.

    I have not yet seen the lists for 1916 to 1920 inclusive. No.11 is stated above to have been sunk in 1916, and in 1921 had 66 and 15 men below and above ground. Through the period 1923 to 1930 the number underground was around 100-140. It seems to have worked the four feet seam only, until No.12 was abandoned, after which it also worked the six quarters and later other seams, but with the same number of, or fewer, men. It was some distance to the east of the main complex, and adjacent to the railway connection from the WC&E line.

    No.12 was short-lived, being sunk in 1921-22 and abandoned on the last day of 1931 (catalogue of plans of abandoned mines). It worked the four feet and six quarters seams, and also the fifteen inch after1925. At its peak in 1927 it had 206 men underground. The grid ref given (NX988218) is the same as No.12 – were they alongside one another?

    Meanwhile No.5 kept working until after 1935, but had closed by 1945. It was reopened about 1948/50 as a “licensed mine” known as Micklam, still owned and operated by the United Steel Co.

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