Haematite extraction - Florence Mine, Egremont, Cumbria
The chilling sight of a decaying pit head. Haematite was mined here, not coal. It’s one thing to visit a mining museum, quite another to walk around an abandoned working with the machinery still in place and rusting around you in the spring sunshine. You think of and can almost hear the men who worked here from 1914 over several generations, building and operating this untidy structure that now whistles in the wind.
Vertical and inclined shafts access the geological seams deep below, laboriously cris-crossed with tunnels leading to mining galleries where the Haematite mineral could be found, reputedly the best quality Haematite in the world. Its red tint giving life to faces in make-up (ie “rouge”) and artists’ work on canvas (ie “ochre”).
Florence Mine was closed when it no longer made money for its owners. It was bought out by the employees in 1980 and continued as the last deep working iron ore mine in Europe. Even the tourist tours have now been stopped, due to safety concerns. There’s now Florence Mine Arts Centre in the former office building, but for me the real exhibition is the site outside.