Louise Cooke – This Exploited Land Heritage Officer
Operating from 1861-1929 the Ingleby Incline section of the Rosedale Railway is a significant landmark in the TEL landscape. The incline connected the edge of the upland with Battersby Junction below, and the line onwards to Teesside and County Durham.
At this point the railway line rose up to 417.5m from a lower elevation of 183m over a distance of just 214m. The gradient of the incline itself averaged 1:5.5 and was 1:5 in places. It was a self-acting incline allowing ore laden wagons to be lowered down from the upland top whilst pulling back up empty wagons from the Battersby lowland level. The operation of the incline was not without risk, including the danger of runaway trucks – and a number of fatalities were recorded during its time in operation.
After the abandonment of the railway in 1929 the remaining features at Incline Top were later destroyed by the Royal Engineers in World War II to prevent their use as a navigation aid for aircraft, potentially guiding the way to industrial Teesside. However a large amount of very substantial stone work, brick work, timbers and metalwork survive on the surface, or buried just below the surface.
The whole site has been damaged by weather and erosion – resulting in fracturing of brickwork, erosion of mortars, deterioration of timbers and stone. The fragmentary nature of the site and the damage and the subsequent removal of brickwork and stonework makes this site particularly fragile and the archaeological features are particularly difficult to read as so little remains in situ. But our understanding of the site is greatly enriched by surviving engineers’ plans and historic photographs – by T W Brotton (photographs c. 1890-1910) who worked at the Weigh House at Ingleby Incline Foot, and photographs by Tom Page, William Hayes and Raymond Hayes.
Structures at Incline Top:
- Brake Drum House. Stone, timber and slate roofed structure. Constructed 1859-61, this original structure (which was the northern-end) housed 14ft diameter drums, this was damaged by fire in 1869 and repair carried out with replacement 18ft diameter drums. The drums wound the cables lowering and raising the laden and empty trucks. The structure is no longer in situ. The very large blocks of stonework have been pushed to the eastern side of the track bed.
- Brake House 1 (eastern). This was constructed 1859-61, and served to control the speed of wagons on the incline when the 14ft diameter drums were in use. This was left as a ‘spare’ after the 1869 fire. This structure survives only slightly with some brick walling on the western side (where it is more protected from the raised ground). The surviving brickwork is now extremely fractured.
- Brake House 2 (western). This was constructed in 1870 and served to control the speed of wagons on the incline when the 18ft diameter drums were in use. Little of this structure survives in situ – with just a few courses of the eastern wall. However there are very substantial quantities of timbers, and fractured brick work that has fallen down the slope to the west. The surviving brickwork is extremely fractured but has distinctive stamps of ‘Hartley … Castleford’.
- Keps. These inclined planes with stone revetment walling were part of the incline control mechanism to prevent run-away trucks. They survive as low earthen ‘mounds’ with some of the revetment walling still in situ – but this is truncated and now fragmented where stonework has been robbed and/or fallen. Much of the mortar has washed out so the surviving stonework has enlarged joints that will be more susceptible to damage.
- Cottage 1. A brick and slate roofed semi-detached cottage, some historic photographs show the garden plots having high-wooden fencing. This is now very fragmentary with little evidence on the ground but it did stand as more substantial walls until the 1960s/1970s.
- Cottage 2. A brick and slate roofed semi-detached cottage with a single-storey ‘office’. Much less now survives of Cottage 2 and examination of the aerial photographs shows that this was already substantially taken down prior to Cottage 1.
- Track. There were 5 tracks at the top of the incline, converging into two tracks for the incline itself, with diversion routes sited near to the top to manage ‘run-away’ trucks. In situ timbers are exposed at the break of slope but these are damaged by pedestrian and vehicle access resulting in further surface erosion and exposure of the timbers.
Last May, during the TEL development stage, a brief survey was undertaken at the incline site lead by members of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group. On site, we discussed and interpreted the extant features, measured the extant stonework, and created a photographic record. Subsequently the Group have analysed historic aerial photographs showing changes to the site over time, carried out archive research and assessed the condition of the remaining features.
Should HLF funding be forthcoming, the plan is to undertake further survey and documentation at the incline site, and at other sites across the TEL area. These smaller sites may not look as majestic now as remains such as the Rosedale Calcining Kilns, but each are an important gearwheel in the story of the ironstone industry and its communities.
As part of the investigative work back in May as series of evocative images were generated by John Davies of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group – see below. John explains how the images came about –
I have always been fascinated by old photographs and, since it was formed nearly 10 years ago, I have been acting as photo-archivist for Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group. One of our first projects was to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Rosedale Ironstone Railway, and in the course of the production of a heritage trail and a web site (www.rosedalerailway.org.uk), I had access to a number of old photographs of this awe-inspiring enterprise.
Last year, as part of the TEL project, I joined a group of fellow History Group members and NYM officers to survey the old industrial remains at the top of the Ingleby Incline. I took with me copies of old photographs and endeavoured to take new images from as near as possible to the old viewpoints. My initial plan was to produce “Now and Then” pairings of the new and the old but while processing the new ones, I came up with the idea of merging the century old photographs with their modern equivalents. With the help of the photo-editing software “Photoshop”, I managed to produce ghostly images appearing to loom out of the current landscape. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and for me these images evoke feelings that we are sharing the landscape with all those who have walked within it in the past.