The history of the Farlam Parish centres on the coal that has been extracted from the fells since the Roman times, the monks at Lanercost Abbey used it.
The Earls of Carlisle owned or leased a considerable amount of the land and by the end of the 18th century, Kirkhouse became the centre for these operations, with a foundry, engineering workshop, brickworks, coking plant and a gas works that was also piped to the church. Kirkhouse Farm, opposite the Parish Church was the nerve centre of the whole operation
In the middle of the 19th century 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 in 1808, he became assistant to William Lawson, Lord Carlisle’s agent and eleven years later in 1819 he became agent.
A very good paper was Read in Carlisle on 27th September 1974, 'Colliery settlements in east Cumberland'. By ALAN HARRIS, M.A., Ph.D.
Lawson must have been a great mentor because Thompson sank the pit at Blacksyke in 1920 and 4 years later, a 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 track beds and it should be appreciated just 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 was rope or cable operated to Kirkhouse (it may have gone further), 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. this technique was used in other areas where the slope was too great for the engines of the day to pull the carts up and hold and hold the full carts going down 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 it had become a manorial house by 1579, He had extensive renovations carried out to make it a family home. You can read more of his time at Farlam Hall on the History page of Farlam Hall
It appears that once the house was completed he enjoyed a good social life with many wealthy and creative people. One in particular was George Stephenson, in 1835 - 36 he surveyed the route of the new line from Hallbankgate to Kirkhouse and on to Brampton.‘The Rocket’ locomotive was purchased by James Thompson in 1837 and at the end of its working life it stood on a piece of old track that ran through the garden of Farlam Hall prior to 'Rocket' being refurbished and given to the Science Museum in London. It was the first a number of engines that were purchased from Stephenson’s works in Newcastle, it is not clear if they were supplied fully assembled or in kit form. The works at Kirkhouse Farm had developed into an amazing centre and could have easily have assembled engines.
On 14th December 1836 he was elected as a FELLOW of the Geographical Society of London. From starting work at 14 years of age 28 years later he has become a Fellow of the Geographical Society .