Roseberry Ironstone Mine

A flock of sheep from Aireyholme Farm graze around the few remains of the Roseberry Ironstone Mine. These can be seen from Aireyholme Lane. In the distance is Coate Moor with Captain Cook’s Monument. The concrete bases, probably machine foundations for the workshops, are slowly being lost to nature, covered with a fine carpet of moss. One contemporary grainy photograph I’ve seen shows the mine buildings at the time of closure were semi-circular with a skin of corrugated steel, a type of Nissen hut. The mine provided periods of employment for the men of Great Ayton until final abandonment in 1921.

Roseberry Ironstone Mine map


Monument Mine

An overview of Ayton Ironstone Mine or Monument Mine as it was known locally owing to its close proximity to Capt. Cook’s Monument. I’ve posted a photo before ( The mine closed in 1931, several concrete foundations still remain hidden amongst the gorse and bracken. I am standing above the main drift of which there is now no trace. The are is extensively used for motor bike scrambling. In the far distance, across the flat lands, is the familiar skyline of the Cleveland Hills.

Rosedale East

The fledgling has returned. ‘Reading week’ he says. Half term by any other name. A suggestion: “do you fancy going to the Lion Inn tomorrow? I’ll go on my bike and meet you there”. So I find myself in Rosedale for the second time in four days. But a different Rosedale with the Inn in cloud; drizzling and cold. Winter has come.

I took the easy option of following the course of the branch railway to the Rosedale East Mines, contouring around the head of the dale. Popular with mountain bikers, it’s slightly downhill, a 1 in 50 gradient. The line closed in 1929. Dead centre in the photo can be seen the New Calcining Kilns and in the far distance the Old Kilns. Far left are High Baring cottages, cheap housing for the miners. Closer, in the foreground are what remains of the Black Houses. A pair of railway workers two storey cottages that were coated in bitumen to improve their weatherproofing. Hence the name. The ruins you see are merely a lean-to wash house.

Rosedale really is an interesting dale, the industrial archaeology is fascinating but it’s a sad reminder of what we humans are doing to our planet. We exhaust the natural resources and desecrate the planet with our industrialisation, leaving nature to pick up the pieces. The ironstone has certainly brought prosperity to the dale and beyond to Teesside and the North East. 80 years on the wealth has now vanished and instead of an idyllic pristine valley we are left with the scars. But we live with the scars of the past however unsightly.

A North York Moors National Park initiative, This Exploited Land, has been created to conserve the ironstone heritage. It has a funding of £3.75 million which sounds a lot but probably won’t go far. Work has begun, repairing a landslip to the railway in front of the Old Kilns and stabilising the culvert at Reeking Gill.

Skelton Park Pit

Very little remains of Cleveland ironstone mines. It was second only to coal as the UK’s biggest extractive industry. Ironstone had been mined in the Cleveland Hills since the 12th Century when primitive furnaces called bloomeries were used to melt the iron out of stone gained from rock outcrops along the dale sides.

But it was the discovery of good quality ironstone in 1850 in the Eston hills which provided to kick start to an industry upon which Teesside and Cleveland was built. Sadly many of the mining sites have been cleared to be turned into industrial parks or just left as waste ground. Skelton Park is an exception. It’s on private land next to a working farm. No Public Right of way passes through it. Consequently the many building have escaped being demolished or simply trashed by the generations local teenagers. The buildings are now considered to be the most complete and best preserved of the Cleveland ironstone mines.

Skelton Park was one of a pair of mines, the other being Skelton Old Shaft, opened by the Bell Brothers in 1872. At its peak in 1881 it had a payroll of 300. Ironstone was transported by a branch line to the North Eastern Railway at Slapewath and on to the Bell Brothers’ furnaces at their Clarence Ironworks.

Obviously the wooden headgear has long gone but the range of brick and stone buildings surviving is substantial. The winding house, boiler pump house, power house, ambulance room, time office, blacksmith’s and joiner’s shops, saw mill, the saddler’s shop, the secondary winding engine shed and provender house (for storage of feed for the pit ponies).

The photo shows the Schiele fanhouse building with its upcast shaft. Notice the different coloured bricks at the top which date from when it was converted to be winding shaft as well as just for ventilation. The shaft itself was 378ft deep. Nearby is the down cast shaft. The mine was electrified in 1910 and many modern features introduced. This is a great site and deserves preservation and is certainly worth a visit.

From 1923 the mine was operated by Dorman Long & Co until 1938 when the mine was closed. Although the buildings are considered good they are suffering from the passage of time. Nature is reclaiming the site. Preservation of the buildings to prevent further deterioration is currently being undertaken by the volunteers of the Cleveland Mining Heritage Society.

Kilton Ironstone Mine

It’s been fifteen months since I was last visited the Kilton Ironstone Mine and the reinforced concrete winder house seems to have deteriorated noticeably. Large pieces of concrete have fallen off exposing the mesh reinforcement. The building was built in the late 1930s to house the 370 brake horse power electric winder motor. At that time the mine was operated by Dorman, Long & Co. Ltd. In the distance is the conical spoil tip which is visible for miles around.

An heffalump trap?

I visited this brick lined shaft on Tuesday but I wasn’t happy with the photos so a return visit today. It was a ventilation shaft for the Coate Moor Ironstone Mine. A furnace would have been at the bottom and the air warmed would rise drawing in fresh air from the main drift entrance.

Ventilation shaft, Coate Moor Ironstone Mine
Ventilation shaft

Coate Moor Mine operated for a mere four years from 1872 to 1876. It was one of three ironstone mines on the Kildale Estate. Warren Moor and Lonsdale being the other two. None were successful in spite of the iron trade being in a boom period in the early 1870s. Miners were striking to improve their wages and working conditions and at the same time Coate Moor Mine had to compete with bigger mines. By 1875 it was in debt and was put up for auction.

It must be twenty years since I was last here. I was planning an orienteering event. There was no fence around then and with the hole being big enough to catch a heffalump never mind a runner the courses were carefully planned to avoid it. The landowner has obviously been advised of his liability under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 and has since put the fence up. A selfie stick came in handy to take the photo.

Spawood Mine Powder House

Even in the bright summer sunshine it’s dark beneath the tree canopy of Spawood near Slapewath. The powder house stored black powder, the explosive used in the ironstone mines. To minimise potential damage in the advent of an explosion, the building was substantially made with thick walls buried within the hillside some distance from the mine buildings.

Spawood Mine was leased by the Weardale, Coal and Iron Company from the Gisborough Estate in 1853 along with the Belmont Mine, west along the escarpment. Eleven years were to pass before the first stone was actually gained. But it was ore of low quality which meant the mine underwent a stop start production until closure in 1928. During the Great Depression between  1873 – 96 operations ceased many times for several years at a time. This must have caused much hardship down in the town of Guisborough.

Ironstone mining made such an impact on the town. Between 1851 and 1861 the population doubled. Ten years later 1,600 men and boys were recorded as mine workers and coming from all over Britain: Lincolnshire, East Anglia, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

The town of Guisborough struggled to cope with this dramatic increase in population. Overcrowding and cheap housing was provided by speculators. There are reports of ashpits having to be emptied by carrying the soil out in baskets through houses. There were several smallpox epidemics. The town itself was well supplied with inns and public houses. Here the miners could forget the poor working conditions and overcrowding but led to the town having a riotous reputation.