Millom’s rapid development was as a direct result of the discovery of iron ore in an area known as Hodbarrow.

In 1841 the population of Holborn Hill to the north of the current location of Millom “Newtown” was under 400.

Of these 400 individuals, only 3 were miners. From 1865 the population grew fast as miners relocated from Cornwall and Ireland.

Working conditions were very hard.

Miners had to buy their own tools and candles from the Mining Company. Iron ore leaves a red dust on surfaces, including skin.

Part of the Millom Discovery Centre Model railway layout showing slag being tipped onto a heap.
Railways were key to the industrial development.

The miners lived in simple wooden huts until Millom Newtown was built in the early 1870’s.

By 1900 a strong local economy had been established supported by railway links, ship building, trade and commerce. The geographical isolation of the town and the dangers and challenges of mining and iron ore processing was an important factor in building a very strong community spirit and identity that persists to the present day.

One reason for the success of the mines was the high quality of the ore which was found to very pure.

We have samples of ore in the museum that visitors can touch and they feel like metal.

There are sometimes samples to purchase in the giftshop.

We also have books available on the history of the town in our online shop.

The museum has a full size display incorporating a mining cage used at the Hodbarrow mines before their closure in 1968.

The updated display incorporates an audio-visual guide to the key elements of the cage and the mine.

The cage came from the Moorbank mine at Hodbarrow and weighs 1.5 tons. It was designed to carry 8 men. It was also utilised to carry iron ore on trolleys like the one in the current display.