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.
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 (https://fhithich.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/monument-ironstone-mine/). 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.
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.
A bit of a dilemma. Parked at the Lion Inn and went for a circuit of Rosedale with visibility less than the width of the road and the temperature below 10ºc. And so it remained until tea time when the mist finally cleared and the sun came out. But by that time I was comfortably back home.
Rosedale was once alive with the noise, smoke and smells of ironstone mining. In 1853 ironstone was discovered by Matthew Snowdon of Whitby and William Thompson of Staithes on the west side of Rosedale and gained by open cast quarrying. The stone was of exceptionally high iron content and within three years drift mining had begun. By 1861 a railway had been built over the moors to Battersby linking the mines with the blast furnaces at Ferryhill and Consett.
So far all mining activity had happened on the west side of Rosedale. A mine on the east side opened in 1864 and included a railway branch line around the head of the dale. Before loading onto the wagons the ore was roasted in calcining kilns which has the effect of a reduction in weight and volume and hence transport costs and royalties. There was some local coal available for this process but eventually coal had to be imported to the workings.
The photo shows the old kilns. There were four of then each served by four of the arches. Ore would have been tipped in at the top and the roasted ore loaded by hand from the bottom.
As I write this the sun has set and there are pink patches in the sky. Ah well. the wrong decision. A sunset will have to wait for another day.
The remains of an important mine in the fells ‘Back ‘o Skiddaw’. Tungsten was mined here in the years leading up to WW1 in the form of Wolframite and Sheelite. It was used in the production of munitions and ironically the mine was managed by two Germans. The valley has over the years contained many mines cutting into the various veins for lead, arsenic and other minerals as well as tungsten. It only fell silent to industrial activity as late as 1981.