David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant
A Brief Historical Note
The ironstone industrial sites of the North York Moors and the Cleveland Hills were of great national economic importance in their time (Historic England Listing – Rosedale East Mines calcining kilns and iron mines) and utilised a considerable workforce for this most gruelling of industries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The massive structures, the sense of progress, the nobility of endeavour, inspired emotional and artistic responses.
A unique contemporary insight into the industrial expansion in Rosedale comes from this wonderfully evocative anonymously-written narrative poem about the New Kiln’s design trialled here – as transcribed by the noted local historian Malcolm Bisby.
The kiln, built as an experiment in 1865 alongside the more traditional designs of the age, provided work for skilled individuals from across the region. Rosedale was productive in both mining quality ironstone and being able to calcine (or roast) it on site, before it was carried away by locomotives along the specially-constructed railways, which extended into the Durham and Tees areas from the heart of the North York Moors. As the poet recalls, the kilns roasted ‘by day as well as night’, a glow which lit the landscape in a way we can only imagine today in the peaceful and tranquil setting of Rosedale . . .
‘Discussion between two friends on the New Kiln while building, noting a few of its’ misfortunes, 1865’
Transcribed by Malcolm Bisby
1. I long have looked for you,
‘Midst all I’ve had to do,
And many changes there has been
Since last I talked with you.
2. I’m glad once more your face to see –
Don’t think that I am joking,
While some say I am far too fast
My lines are provoking.
3. You long have wish’d to know
Our doings in this place,
And I am going to tell you
Although ‘tis a sad disgrace.
4. ‘Tis two full years at least
Since first I came this way,
Come listen and you soon will hear
What I have got to say.
5. At first I shall remind you
When here we sat alone,
And watch’d the men lay down
The first foundation stone.
6. We wondered what all this could mean
Until we saw that man
He said “They’re going to build a kiln
But ten to one she’ll stand.”
7. We did not take much notice then
To see them first begin,
But before they reach’d half the top,
Our fears they did begin,
8. Then people soon began to talk
As shortly you shall hear
Some of them spied a crack or two
And they began to fear.
9. The news soon spread from place to place
In country and in town,
And those who live to see the day
She’ll surely tumble down.
10. The mason work look’d strong and good
For which I shall allow
The master of them all you know
He came from Lastingham town.
11. The fitter came with screws and bolts
To finish and adorn,
It would be better perhaps for me.
To let these men alone.
12. Their work I’m sure it was admired
By all that came this way,
But sad to think as well as say
It shortly all gave way.
13. Then all the skill of man was tried
The kiln for to keep up
But they like all the rest you see
Had nothing but bad luck.
14. Up spoke a workman of this place –
A wild and wicked wretch
“This kiln will fall and that you’ll see,
And kill poor old Frank Petch.”
15. Up spoke another and he said
“Thou wants this kiln to fall,
But if she does thou may depend
It’s a bad job for us all.”
16. “Thou need not start to grunt and growl
About t’bad job, thou’ll see.
There’ll always be plenty of work
For either thee or me.”
17. “Thou doesn’t care for t’masters
When thou thy wage has got,
If’t kiln do fall in spite of us
And beggar all t’job lot.
18. “I don’t think it would beggar them
If she was down today,
Our gentlemen are very rich
As I’ve heard people say.”
19. “They’re very rich I must agree
But they’ve had heavy losses,
She has so many times given way
It’s sure to tax their purses.”
20. Some hundreds of pounds was paid –
Nay, thousand I may say,
But in spite of all that they could do
Part of this kiln gave way.
21. The workmen for awhile stood still
And looked sore amaz’d
And if we’d had the masters here
They might have gone quite craz’d..
22. It was a pity for to see
This noble kiln diminish’d
And worst of all she fell you know
Before she was quite finished.
23. The bricklayers too I’ve got to mention
Likewise their noble work,
I could not learn what were their names
They said they came from York.
24. And those were men of noble skill
They show’d their work was good
But it would have looked better
If only it had stood.
25. I wish you had been there to hear
The rumours on that day
Go where you will, you hear the cry
The kiln is giving way.
26. You that this kiln have never seen
You may believe my words
She was tied back you soon shall hear
With some large iron rods.
27. The rods began to crack and break
The workmen cried “Begum –
To the Blacksmith’s shop you must away
Tell Carter he’s to come.
28. “And while you thus to Carter go,
The Blacksmith for to tell,
Somebody else must run away,
And fetch Mr. Fell.”
29. And something else I now shall state
As clear as ever I can
And when you hear my story out
I think you’ll know the man.
30. It is not very long ago
They played the man a trick
I shall not state what is his name,
I’ll only say “Old Mick”.
31. This man was tired – There is no doubt
And he’d gone home to bed,
No doubt but this noble kiln
Was running in his head
32. But some one to his door came,
And in a haste did say,
“You must arise, a bad job’s up
The kiln is giving way.”
33. “And will she fall?” the inmate cried
“Yes that she will and soon,
You must be quick and come away
Or before you’re there she’s down”.
34. So without any more enquiring
This man did go to see
And the kiln was standing then alright,
How simple man must be!
35. But tricks like these are far too bad,
To either friend or foe
But what can you expect from those
Which do not better know?
36. I would have them for the future try
To do the best they can
And in their minds to always bear
That manners take the man,
37. But on this point I must not dwell
For they are leading the kiln away
And with the stones they’re mending t’road
I saw the other day.
38. And every body came to see
This kiln when she fell down
T’was such a crash! The news soon spread
In country and in town.
39. T’will be remembered there’s no doubt
As long as we’re alive,
And we’ll tell what passed in Rosedale
In eighteen sixty five.
40. And generations yet to come,
Will remember what I’ve said,
When the noble workmen of this kiln
Lie numbered with the dead
41. But a different plan they’ve tried at last,
And not a better one can be.
Instead of having her all in one,
They’ve made her into three
42. It’s thought she’ll stand and not disgrace
The last inventor’s plan,
But stone to calcine she will burn
Three times the age of man . . .
We’re only half way through – the finale of this fascinating poem will follow shortly, with a unique commentary by Malcolm Bisby.