Armouth Wath

Finally, woke up to clear blue skies so a trip over to the head of Baysdale where there is a ruin by the name of Armouth Wath which means, I understand, the ford at the meeting of the streams, wath being the local name for a ford. The ruin was most likely accommodation for coal miners working several pits nearby.

The North York Moors are not usually associated with coal mining. There is some archaeological evidence of coal being burnt in Eboracum (Roman York) but there is no mention of coal mining in Yorkshire in the Domesday Book. The earliest documentary mention of coal mining on the NYM is in Farndale, just to the south, in a document dated 1715 although this refers to “new pits” implying coal mining was already in existence. The coal seams were thin, 40-50 inches recorded at Bilsdale, deep, 150 feet at Fryup Dale Head and of poor quality. The method of ming the coal was primitive. It seems likely that the method used here at Armouth Wath would have been similar to elsewhere on the moors. That would be by bell pits, a vertical shaft sunk until the coal seam was met, then expanded horizontally in all directions until it became unsafe to continue. The pit would then be abandoned and a new shaft sunk. Coal and spoil would have been raised to the surface by windlass and transported away by packhorse along bridle roads bearing names which are recorded on old versions of the Ordnance Survey maps such as ‘Ingleby Coal Road’.

The coal was probably intended for domestic use although there is evidence of it being used in the alum industry and in lime kilns. By the end of 19c coal pits on the NYM had not been worked for a number of years but there was a short lived resurgence in 1926 at Harland during the coal miners’ strike

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