The history of the Farlam Parish centres on the coal that has been dug from the fells since the Roman times, the monks at Lanercost Abbey.

The Earls of Carlisle owned a considerable amount of land and by the end of the 18th century it was centred at Kirkhouse Farm. The west coast of Cumberland was the only area in the county that produced more coal.

Mining continued until the 1950’s when the last major workings in the area closed but there are a number of very interesting ups and downs during this time.

The person who seems to have contributed a lot to the area is a young James Thompson.  As a 14 year old he joined, as assistant to William Lawson, Lord Carlisle’s agent and eleven years later in 1819 he succeeded him as agent.

Lawson must have been a great mentor because Thompson sank the pit at Blacksyke and 4 years later, another pit at Midgeholme. To service these pits the railway track was extended from Tindale to the Midgeholme pit head and a branch line on to Blacksyke pit.

Anyone who walks the fells will see that the area is a web of waggonways and rail tracks and should appreciate how difficult it must have been to lay these tracks with many many tons of earth being moved to create a reasonable bed for the tracks and build the embankments.

The track from Hallbankgate to Brampton staithe used a cable, that is the full carts would be connected by a rope or cable to the empty carts and so pull the empty carts back up the slope.


Not only was James Thompson starting the new pits but around 1824 he purchased Farlam Hall,the manor of Farlam dating back to 1428 and had become a manorial house by 1579 and had extensive renovations carried out to make a family home.

It appears that once the house was completed he enjoyed a good social life with many wealthy and creative people including George Stephenson who helped with the layout and design of the rail tracks and engines.

The Rocket’ locomotive was purchased by James Thompson and at one time stood on old track at Farlam Hall before being given to Science Museum. A number of other engines were purchased from Stephenson’s works in Newcastle, it is not clear if they were supplied fully assembled or in kit form but Kirkhouse Farm had developed into an amazing works did produce a number of engines. To read more click on the link.  Brampton .

Whilst he was achieving all this, in on 14th December 1836 James Thompson was elected as a Fellow of the Geographical Society of London. To date I have not found any record of any papers that he presented to the Society. 


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