The Lake District is often not thought of as an industrial place, being more famous for its beautiful countryside, but dozens of industries have thrived in Lakeland. In the towns there were tanners, cordwainers, cloth makers, paper makers, snuff makers, breweries, painters, dye makers and many more businesses plying their trades.
The unique geology of the area meant that there has been mining across the Lake District since Roman times. Quarries produced stone while underground mines brought up coal, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, and many other minerals. The abundant woodlands also gave rise to their own industries with coppiced local trees being used to make charcoal, bobbins, swill baskets and tools. The heavy rainfall meant that the rivers and streams could provide more reliable power than elsewhere in the country, giving the industries in Lakeland an advantage before the invention of the steam engine.
In this gallery you can learn about these industries. Take a look into a mine, see a bobbin making machine, and the strange tools used by tanners. Learn about why swill baskets were so important to Lakeland life and how tanners were crucial to the industrial revolution.
Featured Object – Painter’s Door
This fascinating door highlights just one of the trades carried on in Lake District towns. Originally from a coach painter’s in Staveley, the rough texture has been built up by generations of painters cleaning their brushes.