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Travel North - 4: Walk the Moor - in the Footsteps of Eston Ironstone Miners

Alan's at home here, raised at the foot of the 'scarp' his interest in home territory has taken in the area's geography and history

Eston Moor - What was there long ago, that overlooked the escarpment and the lower Tees Valley?

An artist's impression of the Iron Age hill fort that dates back to 700 BC, traces of which were found near the Nab at the top of the escarpment.

An artist's impression of the Iron Age hill fort that dates back to 700 BC, traces of which were found near the Nab at the top of the escarpment.

A plan of the Iron Age Hill Fort. Seen from ground level the perimeter is well marked out with its now shallow ditch

A plan of the Iron Age Hill Fort. Seen from ground level the perimeter is well marked out with its now shallow ditch

Eston Moor with the rim of the escarpment - top - and footpaths to the old mine and cottages (Upsall Pit)

Eston Moor with the rim of the escarpment - top - and footpaths to the old mine and cottages (Upsall Pit)

A member's recent photograph of a moortop track that leads eastward to the narrow, winding lane between Wilton village and Guisborough

A member's recent photograph of a moortop track that leads eastward to the narrow, winding lane between Wilton village and Guisborough

Where Eston's history took off: mining engineer John Marley finds 'rusty gold' up behind the village of Eston (from Craig Hornby's dvd 'A Century in Stone')

In 1850 John Marley was with John Vaughan, business partner of ironmaster Henry Bolckow since 1840 (works at Witton Park, County Durham) when he kicked over an iron-bearing rock. First quarrying was above Bankfield, Eston, (later Old Bank incline)

In 1850 John Marley was with John Vaughan, business partner of ironmaster Henry Bolckow since 1840 (works at Witton Park, County Durham) when he kicked over an iron-bearing rock. First quarrying was above Bankfield, Eston, (later Old Bank incline)

John Marley and John Vaughan find an outcrop of ironstone above Lazenby Bank

John Marley and John Vaughan find an outcrop of ironstone above Lazenby Bank

A short note provided by Craig Hornby about the filming of 'A Century In Stone' (see links below near the foot of the page).

The actors in the opening scenes were Paul Chapman as John Vaughan (contacted through Spotlight:Actors Directories via his agent) and Jason Etherington of Darlington took the part of John Marley.

The sequence was shot in one day at Lazenby Bank on the original footpath taken by Vaughan and Marley in 1850. The final quarry shot was at New Row, Kildale (you can see it from the Kildale-Commondale road). The rock face was actually sandstone, but for the sake of the filming it became ironstone!

The scene below shows the opening of the Bold Venture quarry in 1850, a painting by Craig Hornby, author of 'A Century In Stone' DVD in the absence of a photographic record,

Official Opening of the 'Bold Venture' quarry in January, 1851

When PM William Ewart Gladstone came north to Middlesbrough as Trade Secretary he also visited Eston. He was duly impressed by its industry and spoke of a bright future. Eston mining ceased in 1949, almost a century on

When PM William Ewart Gladstone came north to Middlesbrough as Trade Secretary he also visited Eston. He was duly impressed by its industry and spoke of a bright future. Eston mining ceased in 1949, almost a century on

walking-the-moor

"A Century In Stone" - The DVD that tells the story of Eston's ironstone miners, where and how they lived

Watch a sometimes harrowing, often heartening story of the doughty men of Eston, their families and kin. Many of their descendants still live in the village that became a town astride the road between Marton Crossing (near where another doughty Yorkshireman, James Cook was born) and Redcar. The ironstone they brought out from several drifts and one shaft mine was processed, went to the creation of industrial Teesside and an international name for quality steel. Famous bridges produced by Dorman Long Engineering Ltd. include Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Nile bridge at Khartoum ... Oh, and one of the bay bridges of San Francisco.

That's a history that's well worth recalling ... And the circumstances of its creation


A Century In Stone

  • PANCRACK.TV
    Craig Hornby's coverage of some of Teesside's iconic stories, notably "A Century In Stone" and "Teesside Troubador", a story of Vin Garbutt's dedication to his art in folk music ... And there's more ...

Report by John Marley, 1856-1857, published 1857

A web address that proved too long for the link module,

www.aditnow.co.uk/documents/Personal-Album-859/Cleveland-Ironstone-John-Marley.pdf

This is a 52 page report made about the discovery of the Main or Thick Seam and its uses by the Iron works in the North of England - to wit, County Durham and duly also the North Riding of Yorkshire

Scroll to Continue

A view that predates the station to the west of Jubilee Road

Overlooking Trustee Drift and gradient to Low Drum, Eston, late 19th Century before the station was opened in 1902 by the North Eastern Railway. Christ Church (centre background) had been built in the late 1870's, but looks newer in red brick

Overlooking Trustee Drift and gradient to Low Drum, Eston, late 19th Century before the station was opened in 1902 by the North Eastern Railway. Christ Church (centre background) had been built in the late 1870's, but looks newer in red brick

1856 Map of Eston with the inclines - minus Trustee (Lady Hewley's), which would be added last, and be used to bring out stone from the Upsall Pit shaft

1856 Map of Eston with the inclines - minus Trustee (Lady Hewley's), which would be added last, and be used to bring out stone from the Upsall Pit shaft

Eston's Productivity, 1858-1881, OS reference NZ 563182

The figures shown here are combined, (New Bank Drift, Old Bank Drift, Trustee Drift, Upsall Pit, Lowthers Drift, Bold Venture Quarry):

Year...... Ore in Imperial Tons ...... Value in £ nearest 000 *Gaps indicate no figures available

1858 ............. 507,265.............................. 76,089

1859 ............. 638,620 ..............................95,793

1860 ..............613,391.............................. 92,008

1861 ............. 565,285 ............................. 84,792

1862 ............. 608,420 ............................. 91,263

1863 ............. 633,206

1864 ............. 649,404

1865 ............. 685,980 ........................... 171,495

1866 ............. 710,156 ........................... 177,789

1867 ............. 665,975 ............................166,493

1868 ............. 715,248 ........................... 178,812

1869 ............. 761,594 ........................... 190,398

1870 .............. 831,787 .......................... 207,946

1871 .............. 532,821 .......................... 133,205

1872 ...................... No detailed returns

1873 .............. 705,228 .......................... 214,568

1874 .............. 569,240 .......................... 170,772

1875 ............... 571,621

1876 ............... 581,978

1877 ................592,477

1878 ............... 557,982

1879 ............... 540,749

1880 .............1,037,654

1881 ............ 1,094,200

....................16,028,121 Total tonnage extracted by 1881

Figures taken from CLEVELAND IRONSTONE MINING by John S Owen, ISBN 0 9506863 2 8, published 1986 by C Books, PO Box 11, Redcar TS10 1YS,

Owners until 1881 were Bolckow Vaughan. Dorman Long took over ownership until September, 1949 when operations ceased at remaining sites, New Bank and Lowthers. Over the time the Eston mines were in operation there were 372 fatalities, the last being Randall Brighton in 1949. Interestingly the previous fatality, Raymond Nellist was eight years earlier in 1941.

By 1949, after 99 years of extracting iron ore at the different sites - beginning with the Bold Venture working - over 60.3 million tons had been gained from this one district of the North Riding. Much of the iron ore went into Teesside's industry, and some (lucky Aussies!) going into the Sydney Harbour Bridge (for details of a trip down under see Craig's Pancrack website below, at the foot of the page)..

The view from 'Eston 'scarp' - the iconic escarpment that overlooks Teesside to the north and the Cleveland Hills to the south

The view from here - on a clear day see around the panorama of Teesside, across the Tees towards Middlesbrough, and north-west beyond to Stockton. In the other direction...

The view from here - on a clear day see around the panorama of Teesside, across the Tees towards Middlesbrough, and north-west beyond to Stockton. In the other direction...

...Teesmouth, Tees Bay and the North Sea - seen from the site of a Roman beacon and many years later a Napoleonic War era beacon tower (demolished) that made way for the present 'Nab' ... The ever-changing view north

...Teesmouth, Tees Bay and the North Sea - seen from the site of a Roman beacon and many years later a Napoleonic War era beacon tower (demolished) that made way for the present 'Nab' ... The ever-changing view north

To the south is the equally warming view to another iconic landmark, Roseberry Topping and the Cleveland Hills

To the south is the equally warming view to another iconic landmark, Roseberry Topping and the Cleveland Hills

Seen from the moortop in winter, Roseberry Topping with the Cleveland Hills beyond

Seen from the moortop in winter, Roseberry Topping with the Cleveland Hills beyond

Pen and wash drawing of the Nab towards the North Sea

Pen and wash drawing of the Nab towards the North Sea

A cottage - shack, really - was built just below the escarpment top as a family dwelling, seen here in 1910, since demolished

A cottage - shack, really - was built just below the escarpment top as a family dwelling, seen here in 1910, since demolished

No visit to the escarpment on Eston Hills would be complete without the views in any direction...

... Of the beacon tower, a simple stone design that in 1956 replaced the old watchtower built at the height of the Napoleonic War. A warning beacon was erected here during the Roman occupation to look out over the North Sea for raiders from between the Rhine delta and the Jutland peninsula (the so-called 'Saxon Shore').

Look north-west towards Stockton-on-Tees, north-east over Tees Bay and the North Sea beyond. A great place to land ships for raiding. At one stage in September, 1066 Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi', came with his great fleet (over 300 vessels', it's said) and landed some in an attempt to intimidate the locals in what was termed 'blooding' raids to introduce his rawer recruits to the act of killing for profit. What they took with them no-one knows. Few had anything worth taking. The nearest church was inland at Kirkleatham near modern-day Redcar - then known as 'West Lith' or Lythe - and the settlement at 'Middilburh', the site of what in the mid -19th Century would at the time become the fastest-growing town in Europe, Middlesbrough.

Below is the iconic Eston Nab, its predecessor built at the height of the Napoleonic Wars in 1808 and demolished as an unsafe structure in 1956 to be replaced with the simple stone structure you see in the second view, seen from the north-west side.

... Or the 'Nab'

A view of the old Nab structure shows the long vertical crack in the masonry that ushered its demolition. It was still lived in at this stage

A view of the old Nab structure shows the long vertical crack in the masonry that ushered its demolition. It was still lived in at this stage

The earlier beacon tower built during the Napoleonic War in 1808, demolished in 1956 with a huge crack in its north-east wall - replaced by...

The earlier beacon tower built during the Napoleonic War in 1808, demolished in 1956 with a huge crack in its north-east wall - replaced by...

This is 'The Nab' atop the Eston escarpment that overlooks the Tees Bay, the original reason for a lookout tower and beacon from Roman to Napoleonic times

This is 'The Nab' atop the Eston escarpment that overlooks the Tees Bay, the original reason for a lookout tower and beacon from Roman to Napoleonic times

The geology under your feet, why and where mining was conducted

General geological map of Yorkshire, bordered by the Tees to the north, east by the North Sea, to the south the Humber and the Pennines in the west

General geological map of Yorkshire, bordered by the Tees to the north, east by the North Sea, to the south the Humber and the Pennines in the west

Iron ore seams are still broadly extant around hilly north-eastern Yorkshire...

... between the sea and the western edge of the Cleveland Hills overlooking Northallerton. Early bloom furnaces have left slag deposits across the area. During the mid-19th Century mining was widespread as far south as Eskdale to the west of Whitby. Although this southern moorland area is not strictly Cleveland, the umbrella term was applied to its output, as well as to that from Rosedale.

(Refer to: Cleveland Ironstone Mining by John S Owen, ISBN 0 9506863 2 8)

Over the fifteen decades that ended in January, 1964 at Skelton in East Cleveland, six distinct seams were worked to impracticability, and this was just the northern half of the district. From when the first underground workings were begun in the Grosmont area, three mining districts developed. These were 1. The Esk and Murk Esk dales centred on Grosmont, 2. Rosedale and 3. Cleveland. A grouping of this nature, based on deep dales between high moorland was more interestingly sub-divided by geological eccentricities of workable seams.

The narrow Pecten and Avicula seams were worked around Grosmont, the Top Seam level was worked around Rosedale and the Main Seam was worked altogether north of a line drawn between Swainby near Northallerton and Port Mulgrave south of Skinningrove. There were scattered local workings of other seams within these main districts, but the thicnkness and quality of seams were the determining factor in their exploitation.

Along the coast all the commercial layers but the topmost Eller Beck formation show on the surface on perpendicular high cliffs. Small scale exploitation of the outcrops was undertaken here from early in the 19th Century until demand made quarrying necessary. Around wide-spread inland districts tests were conducted for workable seams. Extension of the rail networks made exploitation easier, which in turn brought home the realisation that greater deposits were there to be had.

Jurassic

The moorlands and coastal cliffs of north-eastern Yorkshire are made up of Jurassic layers, most being formed under a succession of sea and fresh water. Thin coals also formed sometimes when the land was inundated by water. With this compacting of layers the rocks were sandwiched, made up largely of shales, sandstones and limestones with widespread iron minerals. A few thin ironstone seams or iron nodules can be found at various levels and could have been the source of early furnaces.

The Main Seam with associated Pecten, 'Two-Foot' and Avicula Seams is in the Middle Lias and the Top Seam is the base of the Inferior Oolite, the Eller Beck ironstone cropping up a little higher in the series. As they are of marine origin all six named ironstone seams vary somewhat in the way they were left behind and quality was dictated by the origins of the sediment and local conditions at the time they were laid down.

All the ironstones embody the iron-carbonate Siderite and the iron-silicate Chamosite to different degrees. Most look like mudstone or oolitic rock. In some areas partial replacement of the minute, round chamosite ooliths by other minerals like kaolinite, calcite and opal took place. A newly broken-off fragment of rock might look as if peppered with minute white dots. Broadly speaking, the ironstones of the Middle Lias might be seen as made up of a third part chamosite, a third siderite and a third non-iron content.

All the seams contain a notable quantity of phosphorus which before 1879 limited Cleveland ironstone's use. The following written comment was made on its chemical composition :

'The phosphorus content of the ironstone is mainly due to the presence of the cryptocrystalline mineral collophane, a calcium phosphate which generally also contains carbonate... The Mineral generally occurs in the form of water-worn fragments... Organic structure is rarely found in the collophane of the ironstone...'

Two major faults, the Upsall fault with a maximum downthrow of 550 feet (170m) on the south side of the Eston Hills and the Lockwood Beck fault with a maximum known easterly downthrow of 240 feet (73m) had a considerable effect on mining, as did a deep synclinal basin with North Skelton at its centre, where the Main Seam sank by 400 feet (120m) below the surface of the sea.

Main Seam

By definition the Main Seam can be seen as the most consistent in thickness and standard where commercial value dictated working. This seam turned out to be thickest. With the highest iron content of a little over an average 30% where it shows in the northernmost range of hills - Eston and Upleatham - the seam thickness reduced from 11 feet (3.4m) in the west and centre to around 8'-6" (2,6m) in the east towards the coast. To the south of the Eston-Upleatham axis the thickness of the seam narrowed considerably and the quality of the stone was relatively lower. Also to the south of Eston-Upleatham the solid seam was split vertically by an intrusive band of Dogger Ironstone (low quality stone) which gradually increases in depth and is finally replaced by a band of ferruginous shale. This shale thickens to the south, just as the ironstone band thins out, a factor not tolerated by the blast furnaces. This is a factor which saw the Grosmont mines being worked out at a much earlier stage than in their northern Cleveland neighbours. In some areas, such as Commondale, the workings were very short-lived.

The apex of the Main Seam is marked by a notable 'Sulphur Band'. A thin section of the ironstone had been offset by pyrites and care was taken not to load this mixed in with the ironstone. From 1870 a market opened for this material with regards to the manufacture of sulphuric acid. Above the sulphur band is a seam of impure ironstone, known to miners as the 'Dogger', which was worked with the Main Seam at first, then rejected by blast furnace managers. It was from then on kept as a tough and durable material for 'roofing' purposes in the drifts.

Pecten Seam

Named from the abundant 'pseudopecten aequivalvis' fossils found within it, commonly mentioned as the 'Picton Band' by Cleveland miners (after Picton on the western edge of Cleveland, south of Yarm).

It is largely of poor quality with a maximum thickness of about 5 feet (1.5m) in a small part of Eston Mines where it underlies the Main Seam and was worked with the better ore. Over much of the mining area it is separated from the Main Seam by a ferruginous mudstone known as the 'Black Hard' and although generally sampled it was thought too thin and of too poor quality to be worked.

Around Grosmont it averages around 3'-6" (1.07m) in thickness and was worked from various small mines in the Eskdale district. Analyses reveal its iron content to be at most 27% in the area locally. .

.

Ironstone - the Cleveland Klondike

Above where New Bank Drift adit was, the empty shell of an electricity substation stands guard - since the picture was taken in the 1970's the structure was demolished, leaving no trace (unless you're ready to rummage around in bracken and brambles)

Above where New Bank Drift adit was, the empty shell of an electricity substation stands guard - since the picture was taken in the 1970's the structure was demolished, leaving no trace (unless you're ready to rummage around in bracken and brambles)

New Bank Incline Top - date unknown (colourised image)

New Bank Incline Top - date unknown (colourised image)

New Bank Incline Top with empty chaldron wagons drawn up for loading (colourised image) - six empties would be drawn to the bank top by six laden descending to Tip Yard under the High Street by a short tunnel.

New Bank Incline Top with empty chaldron wagons drawn up for loading (colourised image) - six empties would be drawn to the bank top by six laden descending to Tip Yard under the High Street by a short tunnel.

New Bank Incline foot, looking in the opposite direction beyond the 'clip wheel (see below)  - the site is fairly overgrown now, the steep incline barely visible at ground level

New Bank Incline foot, looking in the opposite direction beyond the 'clip wheel (see below) - the site is fairly overgrown now, the steep incline barely visible at ground level

This is the cable drum at Low Drum behind the California Estate . From here wagons were lowered by the narrow gauge line under the Redcar road to the tipping yard

This is the cable drum at Low Drum behind the California Estate . From here wagons were lowered by the narrow gauge line under the Redcar road to the tipping yard

The scene now, totally transformed with the incline almost invisible from the air under a spreading canopy of trees

The scene now, totally transformed with the incline almost invisible from the air under a spreading canopy of trees

Old Bank Drift mine - an early view

Old Bank Drift mine - an early view