Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Case of the Curious Chimney

Chimney and Quicksand Pool
The chimney on Jenny Brown's Point is a local landmark and can be seen some distance away whether seaward from this south side of Morecambe Bay or when walking on the surrounding hills. 
Its size can be judged by my companion making his way around the point at low tide.  It is often referred to as being as a copper smelter from 1790 (in the past small mining companies operated in the area) but there is no evidence such as the copper slag that would have be left behind from this process.
Another idea was it was a ventilation shaft for a mine but there is no trace of a mine, perhaps it was a lime kiln was another suggestion, but they did not have chimneys plus there is no discolouration inside as evidence of chimney use.  So is the curious chimney, despite always being called a chimney, ever been used for that purpose? Nobody really knows when it was built . John Bolton in a "From Keer to Kent:" journal item comes up with a possible explanation when he found an article from 1945 by E Cuthbert Woods* who made mention of a very early guide (1796) to the Lakes by Father West (author of Antiquities of Furness) complete with map of the route across the sands from Hest Bank to Ulverston. On the position of what is now called Jenny Brown's Point is shown a tower with flames and smoke issuing from the top and identified with the word - "beacon".
It is possible it was a guide to ships bringing ore to the furnaces of  Leighton Beck which operated from 1713 to 1806.  The sea at this time flowed further inland and there would have been a good channel half a mile to the landward side of the chimney (shown on the charts of 1736), smoke signals would have provided navigation assistance.  An additional benefit would be to provided guidance to those people crossing the sands from Hest Bank to Silverdale.
Over recent decades the changing sands have revealed the timber of the old jetty at this point.  I believe that in front of nearby Brown's

cottages it used to be sand and grass but with the higher tides and the shift of the River Kent bed  in its hundred year cycle from one side of the estuary to the other this has been scoured off. Perhaps in decades to come the water will lap once more at the protective wall and there will be a point once more for a jetty but in the days of electronic charts and echo sounders not chimney beacons .

*"Some History of the Coastwise Lights of Lancashire and Cheshire" by E Cuthbert Woods. Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume 97, 1945

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Hildred said...

Verrrry interesting, - perhaps it's a Folly...

photowannabe said...

Fascinating mystery of history...

katney said...

Wonderful history.

Roger Owen Green said...

Chimney is quite CHARMING!
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Lea said...

Very interesting!
Lea's Menagerie

Leslie: said...

The original "lighthouse" perhaps.

abcw team

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting! The Cornish chimneys of the tinmines came to mind, but you said there was no evidence of any mining activity there. A beacon is the most logical explanation. Great post!
Wil, ABCW Team

Nanka said...

Fascinating and interesting!! A beacon it is, like a chimney on fire in those days!!