About Little Ireland

Little Ireland is a Blog which launched on 27th August 2019, combined with the release of Cleator Moor Revealed - a book about the history of Cleator Moor. The website was envisioned to bring to locals a mix of news from the town, along with stories of interest that would hopefully whet the appetite of those reading.

Soon after launch, the user base began to grow quite quickly. At that time, it was decided to include stories from across the county and further afield. Since then, Little Ireland has brought a number of breaking stories to the fore, often days before they appear in print - locally and nationally.
  • In the first 12 months of operation, Little Ireland achieved over 830,000 page views and firmly established itself as a popular source of local information, free from annoying paywall notices that local media push onto visitors.
Little Ireland is operated by Mr Sean Duffy, a resident of West Cumbria. Sean was raised on Cleator Moor (at Mill Hill) and is a lifelong local history enthusiast. He is a bit of a geek who loves hiking, running, and photography. He has previously dabbled in local politics too, bringing about a huge overhaul to the Copeland governance system.

About Cleator Moor

Cleator Moor is a town in West Cumbria, UK, which was born from the ancient village of Cleator. In the 17th Century, Iron Ore was first extracted from beneath the ground. The moorland of Cleator was barren at that time, overlooked by the 352 metre Dent Fell. A few farms tended the stark land.

Prosperity from Iron Ore gave birth to the town of Cleator Moor. Thousands came to the town looking for work - many were from Ireland, fleeing a devastating potato famine. The Irish Diaspora gave rise to the moniker, Little Ireland.

Today, Cleator Moor has a population of around 7,000. The town and neighbouring village of Cleator are overlooked by Dent Fell which is on the fringe of the National Park; Dent is the first fell that you encounter on the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk. The Sea to Sea (C2C) cycle network also passes through Cleator Moor via the disused railway which is now part of the National Cycle Network.

South from Cleator, towards the town of Egremont is Longlands Lake a local beauty spot and haven for wildlife, the lake is set in the former iron ore mine. Cleator Moor has a few distinct communities which have emerged as the town has grown such as Mill Hill, Bowthorn and Wath Brow. The town is known for its sporting achievements; Celtic Football Club has produced players that have gone on to play for National Teams and for England, Wath Brow Hornets are a leading amateur rugby league team again producing national players. The Cricket Club has also won the National Village competition at Lords, London.

Industry

The town was based around the iron works industry and was served in this capacity by two railways. The Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway (WC&ER) was the first railway on the scene and it opened for goods traffic in 1855, then two years later it opened for passenger traffic. The WC&ER sold out to the London and North Western Railway in 1878 but when the Furness Railway objected to the sale it too became a partner, thus forming the Furness & London and North Western Joint Railway the following year. The second railway to serve Cleator Moor was the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway. This new company had a station on the western edge of the town and its double track main line made a junction with the former company at Cleator Moor West Junction.

The town had several iron ore mines and excessive mining caused subsidence. Some parts of the town have been demolished due to undermining in the area, most notably the original Montreal Primary School and the whole of Montreal Street on which it stood.

The Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway suffered from subsidence which forced it to build two deviation branch lines and stations. In Cleator Moor itself a new line was built curving further northwest than the original, with a new station being opened in 1866 some 600 yards further west along Leconfield Street than the original, which became a goods station. The new station was known simply as Cleator Moor, but was renamed Cleator Moor East in 1924.

Subsidence also necessitated a deviation at Eskett. As in Cleator Moor itself, a new line was built to the west of the original Eskett station which was retained as a goods station up to 1931. Yeathouse station was opened on the deviation line as a replacement.

The influx of Irish workers gave the town the nickname Little Ireland. World War I and World War II saw a fresh influx of immigrants from mainland Europe to join the settled Irish community.

In 1938, Jakob Spreiregen founded the company Kangol in Cleator, situated across the road from St Mary's Church. The original factory building still stands but empty, since the company ended its association with the town in 2009.

With the decline of traditional industries and the resulting high rate of unemployment, the town's economy is now dependent on the nearby Sellafield complex, which provides jobs to around half the town's people.

From 1879 Cleator Moor had two railway stations: Cleator Moor East on the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway, and Cleator Moor West on the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway. In 1923 both railway companies and their stations passed over to the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS had acquired shares in the local bus company so to make public transport more lucrative the LMS closed both stations to passengers in 1931. The goods facilities at Cleator Moor continued into the 1950s.

Sectarian Troubles

It may be that the Irish Famine prompted some increased migration to the town but links between West Cumbria and the northern counties of Ireland had been established before this time. Labourers crossed to work the harvest and, more permanently, take jobs in the mines and ports long before the Famine often prompted by the constant sub-division of farmland among children. From the 1850s to the 1880s, the population expanded rapidly as rich veins of haematite were exploited. From a settlement of 763 in 1841, Cleator Moor grew to house 10,420 souls by 1871, thirty-six percent of whom were Irish. As Donald MacRaild writes, "...formative economic developments, urban growth and the mass arrival of the Irish, took place entirely in years beyond the Famine."

The Irish in Cleator Moor were predominantly Roman Catholic but the general influx into the mines and industry of West Cumbria also brought others of a different persuasion from the same country and with them a particular sectarianism to add to the anti-Catholicism of Victorian England.

During the late 1860s the Irish Protestant preacher William Murphy led anti-Catholic meetings throughout the country inciting mobs to attack Catholic targets. Near Chelmsford in Essex they burnt down a Catholic convent. In May, 1868, two chapels a school and over one hundred houses and shops in Ashton-under-Lyme were ransacked. This led to the Catholic populations defending themselves and their buildings and when Murphy visited Whitehaven in April, 1871, the Catholic iron ore miners of Cleator Moor were determined to confront him.

The local authorities requested Murphy and his Orange Order backers to cancel his talks but they would not. He was heckled and threatened at the first meeting in the Oddfellows Hall, Whitehaven and eventually had to be escorted from the place. The following evening there was more concerted opposition as 200 - 300 Cleator Moor miners marched to the Hall and assaulted Murphy before the meeting began. Five men were sentenced for the attack. Murphy died in March 1872 and his death was attributed to the injuries he had received in Whitehaven. Disturbances in the area were regular during the years that followed particularly when Orangemen assembled on 12 July and on that date in 1884, the most serious of them occurred. That was the year the local Orange Lodges decided to hold their annual gathering at Cleator Moor, a deliberately provocative move: "as if to court disturbance the Orangemen... decided they would this year hold their annual demonstration in the stronghold of the enemy."

The marchers including eight bands paraded past the Catholic church and held their assembly at Wath Brow. As the gathering broke up and the Orangemen made their way back to the train station, trouble broke out. They were attacked by groups of local men throwing stones and then rushing them. Some of the marchers carried revolvers, cutlasses and pikes which they now used. A local postal messenger, Henry Tumelty, a 17-year-old Catholic was shot in the head and killed while others were listed as having received injuries from these weapons. The local Catholic priests defended their parishioners saying they had been provoked beyond measure by the foul sectarian tunes and the weaponry. Fr. Wray expressed serious regret: "It has thrown us back at least twenty years."

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: About Little Ireland
About Little Ireland
Little Ireland is here to bring to you a mix of stories from the town of Cleator Moor and further afield.
Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
https://www.littleireland.co.uk/p/about-little-ireland.html
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