North Sands, Hartlepool

The beach north of Hartlepool is surprisingly clean despite a legacy of heavy industry. The intertidal areas are designated as a European Marine Site on account of the variety of birdlife that feed here. The foreshore is however a different matter. Most of the industry has been cleared in recent years and the land is now being developed for housing but it’ll be a few years before nature hides all the scars.

It looks like some relics of industry will remain. Presumably the pier is too expensive to demolish. It was built in the 1960s for the Steetley Magnesium Works which extracted magnesia from saltwater. The works first started operation in 1936. At the time natural magnesia was largely imported from Austria but the deteriorating situation in Europe meant that a new source had to be found. High purity dolomite deposits at Coxhoe, seawater undiluted by river outflows and coal from the Durham coal fields for the kilns meant that Hartlepool was the ideal site.

The process involved the reaction of the seawater with the dolomite. Magnesia is used in the manufacture of refractory bricks and tiles, plastics, leather, oil, paper pulp and fertilisers as well as also being used in the steel, cement and non-ferrous industries.

I last visited the site in 2007 when it was derelict and a magnet for photographers looking for industrial decay. Here is a link to some of the photos I took then.

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