Cleator Moor, or Little Ireland, as the local residents affectionately know it, came into being during the 12th Century. The town grew from a few farmhouses into a very important industrialised centre due to the very pure Iron Ore that was held in huge quantities beneath the ground.
Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of 1845-1850 were attracted to the prosperity offered by work across the sea. Nearly 2 million people left Irish shores in the hope of a new life. Several hundred arrived at Cleator Moor during this period looking for work in the expanding Iron Ore mines – it is mainly due to the enthusiasm of the Irish immigrants that this small farming community grew into an important link in the chain of the industrial revolution. The influx of Irish workers gave the town the nickname Little Ireland.
Following the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s and the rise of the Orange Order, Cleator Moor found itself for a short period at the centre of sectarian troubles. In April 1871 several hundred Cleator Moor miners entered neighbouring Whitehaven and attacked “Anti-Popery” campaigner William Murphy, pushing him down the stairs of the Oddfellows Hall. The following year Murphy died, possibly as a result of his injuries. On 12 July 1884 the combined Orange Lodges of Cumberland, marched through the town of Cleator Moor to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne, leading to riots and the death of local postal messenger Henry Tumelty, a 17-year-old Catholic, with others listed as having received injuries from bullets, cutlasses and pikes.
From 1879 Cleator Moor had two railway stations: Cleator Moor East on the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway, and Cleator Moor West on the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway. In 1923 both railway companies and their stations passed over to the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS had acquired shares in the local bus company so to make public transport more lucrative the LMS closed both stations to passengers in 1931. The goods facilities at Cleator Moor continued into the 1950’s.
Unfortunately, due to advances in technology during the industrial revolution, pure Iron Ore no longer became a necessity – industry could cope with inferior substitutes, often imported from abroad. It was the very same industrial revolution that had given prosperity to the town, which also changed it from an important area of commerce into a prominently residential area.