Wall repairs in an industrial landscape
Our Ranger team head for the coast to help conserve some of Whitehaven’s industrial heritage by repairing and rebuilding trackway walls that date back to the eighteenth century.
The trackway linked the colliery settlement of Arrowthwaite, south of Whitehaven Harbour, to the Saltom Pit.
Saltom Pit dates back to 1729 and was the first pit in England to delve under the sea and at that time was the deepest undersea mine anywhere - an enormous, though risky, undertaking. Truly innovative in mining technology, the reality of Saltom Pit was that men, women and children worked below the sea bed to extract coal, for more than 100 years.
The trackway was used by miners to get from home to work, but also by the carts used to transport the precious ‘black gold’ away to the docks that had developed during the previous century. Saltom Pit was abandoned in 1848 and now only ruins remain, but it is a protected Scheduled Ancient Monument.
This walling task differs from the dry stone walls the team often work on across the Lake District. Prior to the use of cement, these kinds of walls used a lime mortar which has been replicated here. Lime mortar is more porous than cement reducing the likelihood of water freezing and thawing around the stones which causes cracks and weaknesses. The soft porous sandstone local to the area really benefits from the lime mortar as it allows the stones to 'breathe'
Local people stopped by to admire the team at work, some remembering how the walls used to be maintained 50 years or more ago and how as kids they had picked the mortar from the joints.
" people really seemed to appreciate that we work sympathetically with traditional materials and skills, which can be a rarity in this age of concrete and convenience"
Interesting to note
Much of the rich industrial development at Whitehaven was brought about by the entrepreneurial Lowther family, who in 1761 also bought a large house in Cockermouth, where land agent John Wordsworth was to live and bring up his five children, including a promising young lad called William!