The copper mines around Coniston were worked from at least the middle of the 16th century and, with a number of breaks in production in between, up to end of the 19th when competition from high-grade ore imported from overseas killed this local Lake District industry.
Coniston Old Man, the mountain behind Coniston village, was a source of large amounts of copper ore. This ore was initially carried by pack horses to be processed at Keswick but from the 18th century onwards was transported by boat down Coniston Water and then carted by road to the coast.
Today the homes of generations of Coniston copper mine workers are mostly holiday cottages and the old mine workings are a tourist attraction, albeit mostly for those with enough energy to do some walking.
Anyone interested in old industries, or simply in the ways our forefathers earned their livelihood, or in the processes by which today’s Lake District landscape was shaped, will want to explore this aspect of Coniston’s past – either on the ground or in an armchair (see Coniston Copper Mines: A Field Guide by Eric G Holland).
Eric Holland’s much larger book, Coniston Copper: A History, gives a more extensive treatment of the subject. It is out of print but can still be found, albeit often quite expensive, at some book dealers either new or secondhand.
There is also a later blog post on the Coppermines at Coniston, expanding on this fascinating aspect of Lake District history.