Furness Peninsula Press:
The Industrial Archaeology of South Ulverston 2nd edition


ISBN 978-0-9553283-0-5 £15.99 + £1.95 p/p in UK

by Rob McKeever and Jack Layfield
2nd Edition 2013 with revised text and additional photographs

In A4 format, 144 pages of text containing over 120 images and b/w photographs


Jennifer Snell, Ulverston Historian:
The Best Book I Have Read on Local History in 20 Years

Mike Davis Sheil, Cumbrian Industrial Archaeologist;
A Superb Piece of Research

chapters as follows:

Chapter 1

The Landscape
Significant improvements were made to these areas when an Act for Dividing and enclosing the Commons, Waste Ground and Mosses within the town and Hamlet of Ulverston was enacted in 1799. The historical award made in 1812, divided the common town lands between those inhabitants that had collective use and rights over them. The importance of this award, a mammoth piece of local government legislation thirteen years in the making, should not be underestimated. The act of 1799 (passed in 1812) sets out the terms and methods of reaching an agreement:

Within the town and hamlet of Ulverston in the parish of Ulverston in the county of Lancaster are certain commons, Waste grounds and Mosses, containing seven hundred acres or thereabouts on which the occupiers of ancient messauages and lands within the said township are entitled to common pasture…………..And it be enacted by the kings most excellent majesty and with the advice of the Lords and Commons of this present parliament that Thomas Goad of Beiycliff, James Redhead of Birkrow and Anthony Cragg of Loskells (in Cumberland) are hereby appointed commissioners for setting out dividing, allotting and inclosing the said waste grounds commons and mosses…

The said commissioners shall also set aside ……..common watering places for cattle, getting stones for or other materials for erecting and repairing of buildings, bridges, walls, fences and other works and for the reparation of public and private roads which now, are or hereafter shall be within the same town and hamlet and shall also make and order and cause to be made, all such Bridges, Sewers, Drains and watercourses throughout and over any part of the said commons as aforesaid, shall be sufficiently fenced out on each side thereof from the lands adjoining and that it shall not be lawful for any person to erect any gate or gates across the said public roads

Consequently bylaws were introduced to protect public rights of way and roads through the wastes and commons were designated in typical fashion:

__Another public road, of the breadth of forty feet called the OVERSANDS ROAD leading from the [Fitz] bridge crossing the feeder to the mill dam of the Lundbecks Cotton Works, in an easterly direction by the north side of the dam and works, afterwards in a Northerly [southerly] direction to the Outcast Bridge, thence in an easterly direction to the Sandside……Another private road carriage road and public driving road of the width 24 feet called THE OXENHOLME ROAD leading from the Oversands Road on the east side of Lund Beck Cotton works over Oxenholme in a southerly direction…… Another private road carriage road and public driving road of the width 24 feet called the CONISHEAD BANK ROAD leading from the Oxenholme Road in a South easterly direction through the ancient enclosures of Wilson Braddle Esquire to the Conishead Bank…….._

Chapter 2


The Iron Ore Mines
The most extensive and probably the earliest workings at Plumpton were at Great Pit Spring Wood. Originally the iron ore may have been at, or near, the surface and early workings such as the 1220 grant mentioned may have been restricted to just that. Later over time, the pit was expanded and deepened. The pit, now surrounded by trees and filled with water, disguises it true size. Below the surface the mine floor is around forty feet deep. Above the floor there are at least three levels i.e. horizontal tunnels gradually sloping downwards that were cut into the rock to extract ore……

The Limestone Quarries
Redundant limestone quarries litter the Plumpton area. Although most are still visible some are heavily disguised by the colonisation of grasses and plant life, and the larger ones have been used as landfill sites. The Ordnance Survey Map of 1850 shows five quarries having been worked at or prior to that time. The evidence for the quarry developments to that date, lie in the immediate region. Limestone was used for walling during enclosure in the surrounding fields, in the construction of the canal and for iron smelting at the nearby Newland and Backbarrow iron furnaces. Other structures such as, the railway viaduct embankment at Plumpton and the pier at Canal Foot are all constructed of local limestone probably from these quarries.

Chapter 3

Ulverston Canal

_Several Gentlemen having proposed a canal to be made from Hammerside Hill to the Weint end …………desired me to make a survey of the same and to call a meeting of the gentlemen to make the same into consideration _

Accordingly Burnthwaite arranged the survey and the meeting, which was held at the Braddylls Arms, Ulverston on 8th August 1791. The outcome of the meetings proceedings was to instruct Burnththwaite to seek the necessary funds for the construction of such a canal and for the purchase of the land. The raising of subscriptions took until May 1792 and was based on the Burnthwaite survey, which was estimated at £2,000. Shortly after, a belated realisation that the survey arranged by Burntwaite was inadequate and necessitated the making of another, this time by architect John Rennie of Lancaster who carried out a detailed appraisal that was concluded in July 1792. A useful by-product of the survey was that it produced Ulverston’s first meaningful map 8. The survey included the option of an extension off the main canal to the Ellers but this was never implemented for reasons unknown, though cost inevitably springs to mind.
Rennie, in fact produced two estimates 9 to cater for two differing requirements. The first was for the lock water level ‘five feet above the highest spring tide’ at £3,043-13-2. The second was for the level in the lock at ‘two feet above the highest spring tide’ at £3,343-13-2, the latter estimate reflecting the greater volume of earth to be dug. No record was made of which estimate was chosen if any, but examination of the lock and comparing known levels of spring tides, suggests that the two feet above the highest spring tide listed below appears the more likely.

Chapter 4

Industry at Canal Sidings
Industrial development was initially concentrated at Canal Head. Shipyards, warehousing and an iron foundry to name a few, occupied positions in and around the basin. However as this space became more congested developments stretched seaward.
Prior to the development of Canal Sidings, in 1841 James Davis and Co occupied a site on the west bank of the canal for exporting iron ore. James Davis the proprietor had previously established an Ironworks at Poaka Beck and a steel rolling mill at Orgrave in his capacity as a partner at Furness Mining Co. At sometime he purchased and dismantled the furnace and rolling mill, later re-erecting them on the canal site in 1850 under the name of The Low Furness Iron Works.
The sidings were crucial in the development of the Furness Paper Mills, also known as the Ulverston Paper Works, which were established circa 1870s. The business started as a modest enterprise but eventually overwhelmed the Ironworks site, by expanding to occupy a frontage to the canal of 300 feet. Its position by the canal suggests that the intended method of transport was to be by sea. In 1876 12 Samuel Pollit was secretary to the Furness Paper Mills’ and resident at Hoad View. His title suggests that he was not the proprietor but sometime in the intervening decade that changed as the business was later described as Samuel Pollitt and Co, Paper Manufacturers. Pollit himself lived almost on the doorstep in the 1890s. He and wife Jane with their three sons and two daughters were the residents of Oubas House

Chapter 5

Low Mill and Outcast

Low Mill Cotton Mill
At the time of the enclosed award in 1812, ownership of low mill had been transferred to Edward Tomlinson, listed as Cotton Manufacturer in partnership with a William Towers. Ten years later in 1822 a partnership was formed between Philip Hartley of Low Mill and Robert Ashburner of Ulverston who………Have for several years past been concerned together as partners or joint trades as cotton spinners in the proportion two-thirds Hartley and one-third Ashburner.

Low Mill Tannery
In 1875 a William Barton, farmer of Outcast, purchased Low Mill then a redundant cotton mill for £85019……….All that freehold mill known by the name of Low Mill in the parish of Ulverston County of Lancaster with the milldam. Also that freehold house and the two cottages adjoining the said mill and also that close of freehold land known as the bleach fields …

The Rope Walk
Shipbuilding and maritime industries supported several ancillary trades in the area, particular in the manufacture of ropes. Across from the mill at Outcast is the place still known as Rope Walk, a long straight path used for the purpose of making ropes primarily for ship’s rigging.

Chapter 6

Sandside and Salt Coats
The inhabitants resided in cottages scattered at intervals along the edge of the shore from Hammerside Hill to Saltcoats. Until the 1870s this was essentially a maritime community, habited by mariners and fisherman. In the 1850s 2 eleven out of twenty three households at Sandside had a marine related occupation, second only to agriculture.
In the early 1800s a Thomas Leece is known to have operated a ship repair yard at Hammerside 3 at that time ships were blocked (supported) on the sands for repairs. In the mid 19th century across the lock on the banks of the canal was Schollicks shipyard, which relocated from Low Yard after the railway viaduct, had been constructed. Samuel Schollick the foreman ran the yard under the ownership of EJ Schollick. In 1855, Schollick after trying to dispose of the yard as a going concern then appears to have abandoned it (see advert). Under the his ownership the following incident was reported in Soulby’s Advertiser on 9th March 1854……….On Saturday last a ship-joiner employed by Messers Shollick of Canal Foot, Ulverston, was brought up charged with leaving his work without the consent of his masters and without lawful excuse. Upon promising to return to work, and behave himself in future, he was discharged on payment of costs. Yesterday before CS Kennedy Esq., the above Matthew Bowerbank was again brought up, charged with the same offence, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to one calendar months imprisonment in the Preston house of Correction….

Chapter 7

Dragley Beck

The Tanneries
Recorded History tells us that Tanning at Dragley Beck was conducted for at least 200 years until the early 20th century and in all probability this ancient trade was practised there long before then.
Early entries in the Ulverston Parish Registers are unfortunately wanting in information, particularly in regard to occupational trades. The situation improved in 1741 when the parish was directed to use a standard format, except by then Dragley Beck was often deemed as ‘Ulverston’. However the entry of Roger Barrow, ‘Tanner of Dragley Beck’ on his marriage in 1763 is noteworthy, as he is the father of one of Ulverstons most famous sons, Sir John Barrow Bart, of the admiralty.

Dragley Beck Foundry
The iron foundry was situated across the road from the tannery, adjacent to Dragley Beck Bridge and may date from the 18th century. The parish Registers recall in 1780 the marriage of George Lightburn ‘Founderer’, to Ann Ashburner and in 1795 John Barker Founderer married Susanna Atkinson. Ashburner and Atkinson at that time were established Dragley Beck surnames.
William Daws who was to later work the foundry, was formerly working one in Ulverston till 1816 8 when the Westmorland Advertiser published the following details:

W_illiam Daws, Ironfounder of Ulverston, Bankrupt:
Sale of stock of ironmongery, cutlery, fancy jeweller. Shop and warehouse are commodious and in a central situation in the market town of Ulverston. To be let at an easy rent. The foundry is convenient commands an extensive business their being no competition in the neighbourhood: has a new Patent Blowing Engine and is let at a very moderate rent._

The Shutter Works
From sometime in the 1870’s John Stones occupied the iron and brass foundry. His 1882 listing as an Iron and Brass Founder and Joiner of Dragley Beck is significant for the inclusion for the first time of the trade joiner. Locally John Stones Ltd are noted for their manufacture of window shutter and room partitions but the foundry continued for over 20 years this work eventually petered out during the next decade it became known as the Shutter Works, and lasted well into the 20th century.

Chapter 8


During the latter part of the 19th century the area between North Lonsdale Iron Ironworks and Priory Point was industrially developed. Essentially this was a direct spin off due to activity created by the ironworks. Within the vicinity resided a tar or chemical works, a wireworks and a brickworks. All were serviced by mineral lines, which linked them to the Bardsea branch of the Furness Railway Co at North Lonsdale Crossing. A mineral line also ran through Sandhall to the limestone quarry and gravel pit was situated at Gascow. William Gradwell owned and developed the quarry with James Bush of Hammerside Hill as his manager. The railway line embankment is still visible for most of its length.
The first record of brick making in the area was in 1760 with a reference to the forge at Low Mill (re chapter on Outcast) when the statement is made concerning a piece of waste ground situated near the brick kilns in Oxenholme Common.

Chemical Works
Ulverston Chemical Works was to be found adjacent to Sand Hall, the name of a singular farmhouse that has since given its name to the area.

Ulverston Wire Works
The Wireworks was situated adjacent to Priory Point Road, and existed for only a short time. Glimpses of its past are few and far between. However in the early 1890s in the Long Row at Sandhall there were five ‘wire drawers’ by the names of Henry Swindells Alfred Heathcote, William Makin, Alfred Whittiker and Peter Ripon The Wireworks foreman Peter McNicholls lived in Kennedy Street. Malleable iron billets presumably from the adjacent Iron and Steel works were reheated and drawn into wire through rollers and finally wire formers. Fumes from the reheating furnace were drawn off and vented through the chimneystack, the only item that remains, left to help pilot ships to Ainslie Pier. The works had disappeared by 1919.

Chapter 9

North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company
The North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company was incorporated on 16th of October 1873. When the Articles of Association of the company pronounced that:

The object of which the company is established for are: – The purchase of and working iron mines, quarries and other minerals and the erection and purchase of iron furnaces and steelworks and the manufacture of iron and steel in all its branches. The name of the Company is The North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company Limited.

The company was incorporated with a capital of £200,000. Its major shareholders were local industrialists the Ainslie family and Myles Kennedy together with over 200 other shareholders mostly belonging to the district. Although called the Iron and Steel Company, it was always known locally as the Ironworks and in fact never produced steel.
The design and construction of the works was by engineering contractors Howson and Wilson of Middlesborough. A construction period of around two years came to fruition when furnaces one and two were ‘blown in’ on 5th May 1876. Initially the works comprised three blast furnaces, later another was added, making a total of four. When four were operational, production was rotated between numbers 1 and 3 and 2 and 4 to allow for relining and repairs 3. The original design however, was more ambitious and called for the erection of six furnaces 4 but the final two for some reason were never built.

Chapter 10

The 20th Century and Now
Ashley Accessories Ltd.
Ashleys opened their electrical components manufacturing facility at Ulverston in April 1939. The company was founded in 1923, at Liverpool and in 1925 was known as Ashley Wireless Telephone Co
From the 60s onwards Ashleys went from strength to strength, by expanding their range of electrical products. The company specialised in injection moulding techniques, producing alongside their other goods a range of domestic sockets, lighting switches and ceiling roses.
The factory’s halcyon days were in the 1960s and 70s. The 70s saw an expansion with factories opening in Barrow, Cleator Moor and Zimbabwe.

One company has dominated the area since the closure of the North Lonsdale Iron and Steelworks. Glaxo, then a small pharmaceutical company decided on Ulverston as the site for an additional factory to meet the post war demand for penicillin. The company purchased the semi-derelict 100 acre former North Lonsdale Iron and Steelworks site from the owners. The construction work commenced almost immediately, undertaken by Taylor Woodrow, a leading firm of civil and construction engineers. The four furnaces and associated iron making plant were demolished. However some of the original iron works buildings were utilised for the new plant, which can be still seen within the site.

+Sandside Business Park +
This Business Park occupies the southern area between North Lonsdale Road and Sandside Road. Companies come and go and have in recent years Hawke Cable Glands, Ulverston Sheet Metal, Hoad Engineering Ltd and Ulvertech among them. Other Business’s located there have proved more resilient. Some of the most successful have included:

+Low Mill Business Park +
Low Mill an industrial site for at least 400 years has recently had a new lease of life. The North Western Evening Mail on Friday 30th June 1995 announced that Low Mill Tannery was set for a new lease of life, an ambitious £2m project was underway to create 200 new jobs. The reclamation scheme had been secured with £342,000 of European money from the EC’S Objective 2 structural funds for the Furness area and plans were being drawn up by Barrow based RT James and Partners.

Memories of South Ulverston in the 1930s by Jack Jewitt
Jack’s father was a disabled veteran of the First World War after which he obtained employment as a Night Watchman at North Lonsdale Ironworks, and occupied a company house in Kennedy Street.

Life in Kennedy Street in 1920/30s was primitive. No Mains Sewage, it was collected in the back street from a hole in the back wall of the privy by a horse and cart, the smell was awful on collection day. There was no electricity and one gas lamp in the front room provided our lighting. A bath was often a visit to the canal, to the place where the cooling water from the ironworks furnace was returned warm. At the appropriate moment of discharging, it was then a question of soaping up and jumping in.
There was Ned Cockerton the Knocker up operating in the district. He would come round early with his long pole and knock on the bedroom windows of the men on the early shift who had booked an early morning call. Ned was also the street lamp lighter. All the street lamps were gas and he had a pole with a hook and a flame on top, the hook was used to turn the gas on and the flame to light it.
To raise money we collected and sold watercress and on Saturday’s we would sometimes get a job at Bob Chadwicks farm in Watery Lane. If we worked really hard crushing cow cake and cleaning the cowsheds out we would get a sixpence. We were always sure of a nice basin of porridge before we started work as Moira his wife used to say, “You can’t work on an empty stomach”.
It wasn’t all work, Ulverston Paper Mill in North Lonsdale Road provided a much-needed diversion. We would climb over the wall and get comics such as the Hotsper and Wizard that were delivered to the Paper Mill for reprocessing and sometimes a large piece of coloured paper to make a kite, that was until they put on guard dogs.
As a small boy I spent a lot of time around the Canal Foot and remember three sailing boats used to go out on the tide from there and return on the next tide, with their catch of fish and shrimps. The shrimps were boiled on board the boat during the return journey. We would often buy a washing up bowl off the fishermen for a few coppers.
Most men were out of work in the early 30s, they were the depression years and work was hard to come by. Many of the unemployed men spent their time fishing or if the tide was out, treading for flukes, while others worked their allotments.