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Saltom coal pit

A Scheduled Monument in Whitehaven, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5411 / 54°32'27"N

Longitude: -3.6023 / 3°36'8"W

OS Eastings: 296431.886085

OS Northings: 517384.836929

OS Grid: NX964173

Mapcode National: GBR 3H8X.WX

Mapcode Global: WH5Z7.M4T1

Entry Name: Saltom coal pit

Scheduled Date: 5 October 1976

Last Amended: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017558

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27801

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Whitehaven

Built-Up Area: Whitehaven

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Kells St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Saltom Pit, the
first undersea coal mine in Cumbria, which operated between 1729-1848. It is
located on a rock platform some 6m above the sea between Saltom Bay cliffs and
the shore, and includes the upstanding but roofless remains of a winding
engine house, a chimney, and a gin circle, the mine shaft which is now
protected by a concrete cover, the footings of dwelling houses, a shed and a
stable, together with the buried remains of a number an ancillary buildings.
The latter include two engine houses, boiler sheds, shops, dwelling houses and
coal depots which are all depicted on a plan of the complex made in 1864 and
which are considered to lie beneath a cliff fall which occurred after the plan
had been made. Also included in the scheduling is a sandstone-built sea wall
constructed to protect the mine and its associated buildings from the ravages
of storms and high tides.
The sandstone-built winding engine house was built in 1782 and stands
virtually to its full height. There are doorways and windows in three sides of
the building, and gable ends indicate it originally had a pitched roof. The
engine house contained a steam engine which powered winding machinery for
hauling coal up the shaft. At the southern end of the engine house are
footings of a shed and adjacent to this is a sandstone-built chimney standing
about 2.5m high. A short distance to the south are the footings of miners'
dwelling houses. North of the engine house is the site of the concrete-covered
shaft upon which stands a modern metal casing. The mine shaft is elliptical in
shape and divided in the middle; one half was used for pumping water; out the
other half was used for drawing the coal up. Immediately to the east of the
shaft there is a flat circular area marking the site of the horse gin with its
stone retaining wall still in situ on the east side. This was the location for
a 7.5m gin arm or pole powered by two horses, which rotated a winding drum to
raise the coal up the shaft prior to the introduction of the later steam
engine. Footings of the stable for the horses are adjacent to the gin. The
northern part of the mine complex is partly covered by debris from a cliff
fall. Within this area stood two engine houses built in 1731 and 1739 to house
atmospheric engines used for pumping water out of the shaft. Also within this
area were boilers and boiler sheds associated with these engines, three
chimneys, coal depots, miners dwellings and shops. A plan of the remains of
Saltom Pit produced in 1864, some 16 years after the mine had closed, depicts
all these buildings and also shows the course of a tramway which ran between
the mine buildings and which took coal to the nearby Ravenhill Pit from where
it was transferred to Whitehaven Harbour.
Saltom Pit was owned by Sir James Lowther who employed Carlisle Spedding to
sink the pit shaft. Spedding was the chief overseer and had a good grasp of
current mining techniques and an ingenuity for innovation. He pioneered
mining's earliest experiments in through ventilation, the piping of methane,
and the use of atmospheric power with an engine in duel operation at Saltom,
and is also thought to have developed the Spedding Steel Mill here; this was a
means of providing illumination for miners by the use of rotating wheels and
cogs and a piece of flint to give off a constant stream of sparks. Spedding
felt that the sparks were less likely than a naked flame to ignite fire damp
and the steel mill consequently became widely used throughout British mines
until the invention of the safety lamp.
The modern metal casing situated on top of the mine shaft is excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000
coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war
nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four
coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national
archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of
national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a
comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the
industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity.
The term `nucleated' is used to describe coal mines that developed as a result
of increased capital investment in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are a
prominent type of field monument produced by coal mining and typically
consist of a range of features grouped around the shafts of a mine. The
simplest examples contain merely a shaft or adit with associated spoil heap.
Later examples are characterised by developed pit head arrangements that may
include remains of engine houses for pumping and/or winding from shafts,
boiler houses, fan houses for ventilating mine workings, offices, workshops,
pithead baths, and transport systems such as railways and canals. A number of
later nucleated mines also retain the remains of screens where the coal was
sized and graded. Coke ovens are frequently found on or near colliery sites.
Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this
has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England
to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and
characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north
Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the
better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and
technological range of nucleated coal mines, together with rare individual
component features are considered to merit protection.

Saltom Pit is the oldest surviving undersea coal mine in north west England.
It still retains a gin circle and a later steam engine house and is thus a
rare example of a coal mine which visibly demonstrates the evolution of horse
powered winding to steam power. Despite removal of the steam engine, the
surviving engine house still retains important technological information.
Additionally, Saltom Pit was the site of many early developments in British
mining technology; these include the use of through ventilation, the piping of
methane, and the development of a steel mill which provided relatively safe
underground illumination.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Marshall, J D, Davies-Shiell, M, The Industrial Archaeology of the Lake Counties, (1969), 113
Marshall, J D, Davies-Shiell, M, The Industrial Archaeology of the Lake Counties, (1969), 110-15
Ward, J E, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Sinking of Saltom Pit, Whitehaven, , Vol. XCI, (1991), 127-43
Coal Industry Step 3 Report, Cranstone, D, Saltom Pit,

Source: Historic England

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