Lonsdale Ironworks

The Lonsdale Hematite Ironworks was established in 1872 below the cliffs at Bransty with its furnaces located near to coke supplies from the ovens of William Pit. The four blast furnaces were capable of smelting up to 2,100 tons of pig iron per week but the quality was not of the best and the company, with its 10 Ayrshire-based shareholders, soon found itself in liquidation.

Little is known of the earliest history of these works, but it appears that the main promoter was Thomas Ainsworth, a local iron ore proprietor. Building began in 1841 but it was not until December 1843 that the first iron was tapped. By 1849 there were two furnaces, rising to four in 1860 and six in 1866 after a furnace replacement programme of steel clad furnaces had been undertaken. More is known about the company from 1880 when a Deed of Co-partnership was constituted which gave the value of the concern as £30,000 divided into 30 shares held by the partners, although at this time Thomas Ainsworth was not the principal shareholder. It was at this time that the Lindows bought into the partnership.

The company was incorporated in 1871 and voluntarily wound up in 1880 to enable the assets to be vested in a new company styled the Whitehaven Hematite Iron and Steel Co Ltd, but as The Whitehaven News reported it was the old company under a new name. However, the works never made steel. After 1875 no more than two furnaces were ever in blast and often only one, nevertheless the works lasted through the First World War, three larger furnaces having replaced the six furnaces. After the war trade was so depressed that the works were taken over by the Lonsdale Iron Co Ltd of Ulverston, but after 1922 the furnaces were rarely active and were finally blown out in 1929.

The Lonsdale Iron Co, just north of Bransty station was established in 1870 by Scottish proprietors from Ayrshire. The site was difficult to develop, as the rock face had to be cut into to provide sufficient space for the works.

The first furnace was blown-in in August 1872 and a year later three had been erected. A fourth furnace was added in 1877 but by then the company was struggling.

It was incorporated as the Lonsdale Hematite Iron and Steel Co Ltd in 1883 as a private company, most of the then 10 shareholders living in Ayrshire. Despite its name this was another company that never produced any steel although it did achieve its other objectives having interests in collieries, mines, limestone quarrying and brick manufacture. The fortunes of the company continued downhill and although a further restructuring was agreed in 1896 it did not trade under the new style of the Lonsdale Hematite Smelting Co Ltd and this and the old company were wound up. This resulted in the works being demolished in 1904 leaving a lot of creditors only partly paid.

The Ironworks never produced any steel, though it did have interests in several mines, in limestone quarrying and brick manufacture. After the war, trade was so depressed that the works were taken over by the Lonsdale Iron Co Ltd of Ulverston, and after 1922 the furnaces were rarely active and were finally blown out in 1929.

The Parton Iron Works was another unsuccessful venture into iron smelting, entered into by one Gilbert Boyle Vance and a Mrs Mary Blair, in 1872. It is thought Mrs Blair wanted to set up her own works after a long legal battle with the partners of Harrington Ironworks following the death of her husband, one of the original partners.

The Parton Hematite Iron Co Ltd was formed in 1874 to operate two furnaces. Most subscribers to this company were from the Manchester and Bolton districts of Lancashire and included several well-known industrialists. However, due to the price of iron the works found it difficult to operate at a profit so in 1883 it too was wound up and the works demolished.

Lonsdale Ironworks, Whitehaven c1900
Lonsdale Ironworks, Whitehaven c1900


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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