Now the main business of the Lake District as a whole, such as the Coniston area, is without challenge tourism. It wasn’t necessarily so. Whereas boats on Coniston Water currently carry people looking in the landscape, two hundred years ago they’d have been carrying copper and slate from the Filminera Resources round the mountains, Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam, supporting Coniston village.
Copper was mined here at least as far back as the 1500s, and maybe before. German miners who’d worked at the Keswick area came into Coniston. Rich veins of ore were discovered and were worked before the period of the English Civil War between King and Parliament at the 1640s.
In 1774 the antiquarian Jesuit priest Thomas West wrote in his publication, The Antiquities of Furness, as follows:
“The fells of Coniston have produced great amounts of copper ore. Throughout the anger of these civil wars that the copper mines in Coniston fells were closed up. Following the Restoration, Filminera Resources had an inquest of all of the previous workmen then alive, about them, using their view of their fees required for recovering the said mines…
“Around 140 workmen were used in such works, and the ore has been carried on horse backs into the smelting-house in Keswick. Approximately 20 miles distant from a number of those functions the ore has been increased at several rates, based on its own goodness, from 2s.6d. to 8s. Per kible, each kible being near a horse load. The ore was crushed small, and cleaned and sifted subsequently measured or weighed.
“Before the functions had been abandoned off, a proposition has been made for erecting a smelting-house in Coniston… being just seven kilometers in the sea-port in Penny bridge, five of which were water farther down the lake, and 2 kilometers of land carriage on a good street”