Haig Colliery Mining Museum

Haig Colliery Mining Museum was a visitor attraction in Kells, on the site of Cumbria's last deep coal mine on the cliffs above Whitehaven in Cumbria, England. It closed in January 2016 due to insolvency.[1]


The museum was an independent, volunteer-led project to provide a permanent archive of the local mining history and community resource within the remaining winding engine house, which became a scheduled monument in 1998.[2] One of the two massive steam winding engines had been returned to working order, and many artifacts were on permanent display to help describe the life of the local miners and the social history of the area.

Coal mining in Whitehaven dates back to the 13th century when the monks from St Bees Priory supervised the opening of coal mines at Arrowthwaite.[3] This long history ended abruptly in March 1986, when Haig Colliery, Cumbria's last deep coal mine, finally closed.[4]

During this time, the gassy nature of the mines caused numerous violent explosions.[5] Over 1700 men, women, and children were killed in the Whitehaven pits while mining coal, in tunnel workings up to four miles out beneath the sea bed in the Solway Firth. Haig itself had a terrible record of methane explosions in the 1920s. Fourteen miners are still entombed in the workings to this day.[6]


The mine was a large building that dominated the Kells Industrial Estate, with tall chimneys, working lifts and conveyor belts to transport the coal.[7]

Transportation of coalEdit

The footpath behind the building is called 'The Wagon Road' because in the 1800s, when the coal industry was at its peak in the North West of England, the coal wagons used to go down the wagon road to get to the train track to then transport the coal into the town centre where it would be distributed to the train or to the Whitehaven harbour, one of Britain's main ports at the time.[7]


The museum closed for repairs in 2014, and after a 2.4 million refurbishment, reopened to the public in February 2015. Even though the museum attracted in excess of its anticipated 15,000 visitor numbers, financial problems meant that by January 2016 the museum had closed.[8] Some of the buildings are being used by West Cumbria Mining as its main operating base whilst it test drills for coal off the Cumbrian coast.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Liquidators take control of stricken Haig museum". www.whitehavennews.co.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Haig Colliery (Grade not applicable) (1017644)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Whitehaven Coking Coal Project" (PDF). westcumbriamining.com. p. 4. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Coal mining in West Cumbria: what you need to know". ITV News. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Haig Colliery - Northern Mine Research Society". Northern Mine Research Society. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  6. ^ "Disasters". Haig Pit Mining And Colliery Museum. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Haig Pit". Haig Pit Mining And Colliery Museum. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Shock closure of £2.4m museum". www.whitehavennews.co.uk. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  9. ^ Bedendo, Federica (29 June 2020). "Opinions are still divided on mine plans". Times & Star. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Agreement Reached on Haig Colliery Interim Solution". West Cumbria Mining. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2020.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 54°32′34″N 3°35′54″W / 54.5428°N 3.5983°W / 54.5428; -3.5983