The industrialisation of Copeland started with coal mining in the 17th.century in the area about Whitehaven and this activity led to the development of the sea port at Whitehaven which at one point in time was the third largest port in England. The merchants of Whitehaven were major players in the development of the estates on the eastern seaboard of America (tobacco & cotton etc) and the West Indies (rum & spices).
A major port such as Whitehaven needed boats to carry the goods traded from there. Shipbuilding activity started about 1680 and continued until 1891. In 1800 there were five yards working at Whitehaven, they were Brocklebanks, Shepherds, Bowes, Nicholsons and Kirks.
Iron ore, along with lesser amounts of copper, have always been mined in Copeland in the high fell regions where the ore outcropped onto the surface. Starting in the early 19th.century the deep mining of iron ore started as mechanisation developed and large quantities of high-grade haematite ore was taken in the areas around Workington, Cleator, Egremont and Millom; this mining in turn led to the building of blast furnaces for processing the ore at the same places - other than at Egremont. These industries have now been and long gone with only a specialist railway line production unit left from the Workington Iron & Steel company at Workington. The Florence haematite mine at Haile near Egremont is now all that remains of the large mining complex formerly found in this area. The Florence mine produces small quantities of high grade ore for use in both jewellery and pigmentation as well as running as a visitor attraction showing both the history & the impact of mining on the local community. The sites of the Hodbarrow Mining Company (1855-1968) and the Millom Hematite Ore & & Iron Company (1866-19??) are now reclaimed and given over to be wild life reserve. The site of the Cleator Moor Iron Works ( 1842-1926) has become an Industrial estate for smaller & more modern enterprises.
Some of the other major industrial activities were:
1. The nuclear reactor & re-processing industry which was based on the World War 2 Royal Ordnance factories at Sellafield & Drigg.
2. Sulphuric & Phosphoric acid and detergent manufacture (Marchon Industries), based originally upon gypsum, anhydrite & phosphates mined at Kells in Whitehaven
3. Silk fabric manufacture, in 1939 Miki Sekers (Sekers Fabrics) started the development of silk making at Hensingham in Whitehaven; this went on to become the largest employer in Whitehaven after the 1939-45 war.
4. Millers of Yarmouth, the shoe & leather goods manufacturer set up at Cockermouth. This was established in the empty Jonathon Harris flax mill premises in 1934.
5. Kangol, the head wear manufacturer of Cleator Moor.
6. Elbeo, the ladies hosiery manufacturer at Millom.