Another what might have been

At the very end of the 19th century a number of gentlemen including MPs and a Fellow of the Royal Society formed a company (Ravenscar Estate Limited sometimes called Peak Estate Limited) purchased the 800 acre Raven Hill Estate on the North Yorkshire coast between Whitby and Scarborough. Their purpose was to transform their renamed property, Ravenscar, into a first class seaside watering place.

The location had a number of attractions – ‘between sea and moor’, ‘romantic situation’, ‘bracing air’, ‘elevated position’, ‘magnificent sea views’, ‘splendid cliffs’; all of which Ravenscar Estate Limited were keen to promote. The site had an existing railway station to bring people in, and also included the old Hall which was soon sold off and turned into a Hotel. The plan was to develop the resort at the same time as selling plots and parcels of plots to other gentlemen to invest in. The plots would be built on adding up to shops, marine villas and lodging houses ‘for which there is a great demand on this favourite and fashionable coast’. Over the next few years these plots were sold on gradually through auctions (often with a free luncheon and sometimes even with a special train laid on) so as not to deflate the price by offering too many at one time. By showing that other gentlemen had confidence in the scheme, the intention was to entice others to get involved too and make sure they didn’t miss out.

NEW WATERING-PLACE FOR YORKSHIRE. Important Property Sale. (BY OUR OWN REPORTER)
The first practical steps towards the creation of a -new watering-place on the Yorkshire coast, near Robin Hood’s Bay, were taken yesterday, when an estate known as Ravenscar was offered for sale in building lots, at the Raven Hill Hotel about half a mile from Peak Station. The site is a picturesque one, and access to it is obtained by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, which brings the visitor to within a couple of hundred yards from the summit of the cliffs. Standing on the pretty castellated garden terraces in front of Raven Hall, one obtains a charming view. .. Immediately beneath the terraces at Ravenscar, and extending away south as far as Hayburn Wyke, are gigantic cliffs, the highest, with one exception, on the Yorkshire coast. To the geologist many an interesting problem is presented by the dislocation, of the strata, especially on the line of the great fault, where there is a three of fully four hundred feet. The undercliff extends for several miles along the coast, and gives to it an unusual appearance of rugged grandeur. About these cliffs hundreds of sea-gulls have their homes, and foxes and rabbits by scores have also chosen to make their burrows here. Ravenscar, which now consists of little save pastoral land, has a history of its own. The commanding situation of the Peak Hill was seized upon by the Romans for a military outlook camp in the days of Constantine, and later it was occupied by the Danes. Indeed, the names Raven Hall and Ravenscar have been chosen from the fact that the Danes here set up their standard, the national emblem of the Danes being a raven. It was a happy conception that led a number of public-spirited and enterprising gentlemen to form a company for the purpose of conversing this charming spot into a watering-place, and, judging from the keen competition there was amongst the bidders yesterday, their opinion that the place was capable of development was evidently shared by others. A visage standing high up on the cliffs, with the sea on the one side and hemmed in on the other by an extensive tract of moor- land, ought to be a healthy spot. Indeed, few places can boast the combined luxury of refreshing winds from the sea and exhilarating breezes scented from the moors…When their scheme is completed, there will be an esplanade running along the summit of the cliffs, and abutting upon this will be thirty or forty villas. Other houses will also be erected upon roads to be constructed in the proposed village. At present a few long piles of sods, which have been cut out to mark the roads, and a number of staked-out lots for building sites, are the only visible signs of the great transformation about to take place…
Leeds Mercury, 8 July 1896

There is a lot of mention of Scarborough and the idea of creating a rival or complimentary resort nearby, and also how resorts have been created successfully on the south coast of England. There is much talk of ‘inland’ residents especially in growing towns wanting to access the coast and its special qualities, and an expectations that this demand will grow.

It’s clear from the regional newspapers of the time that gentlemen with money to invest from industrious West Yorkshire were one of the a target audiences for the company. By 1899 the roads were laid out, reservoirs were built to provide a water supply from moorland springs, a drainage scheme was drawn up, and exclusive on site brick making rights had been sold to Whitaker Bros from Leeds. There was hope in the development, so much so that a Curate was appointed to the existing isolated Church with the expectation of growing congregations. However early on the company had to lower expectations of a quick investment win.

A good start is sadly needed. It is exactly three years ago this week since the first sale at Ravenscar took place. The estate during that time has been well laid out in streets, and paths have been made. A few houses have been built, but still things have hung fire. Speaking on Friday the estate auctioneer, Mr Stansfield, of Bradford, said he had seen it stated in some quarters that the sales had been bogus, but he assured the company present on his professional honour that such was not the case, and that he had personally sold upwards of £10,000 worth of land since he had been appointed auctioneer. At the commencement of anything progress and development was necessarily slow, but in the future of the estate the company have the firmest confidence, and they were determined to do all in their power to open up its resources and give to Yorkshire another watering-place which in its health-giving qualities, its picturesqueness, and its popularity, would view with the best of those the county already possessed.
York Herald 11 July 1899

Auctions continued.

LAND SALE. Messrs W G. Stansfield & Co., auctioneers, Bradford, held a sale yesterday at Ravenscar, the new watering place in the process of making on the cliffs between Scarborough and Whitby. This was the first sale of the season, and there was large attendance of bidders from Bradford, Leeds and other places. Ideal weather prevailed, and the visitors were privileged to see the place in its most charming aspect. The hot sunshine was tempered by a cooling breeze, and there was scarcely more than on the broad expanse the North Sea. Mr W Stansfield, after luncheon proposed the health of the King, and the sale then commenced. Mr Stansfield, in his prefatory remarks, pointed out that already £49,000 worth of land on the estate had been sold. The Ravenscar Estate Company had, he said, developed the undertaking wonderfully. Every element needed for success was to be found on the spot. Messrs. B Whitaker & Sons Limited, of Horsforth, had put down an expensive brick making plant, and would be able give a quotation for bricks in June; there was good sand and stone on the estate. There was also a good supply of pure water, the company having themselves provided two reservoirs; and there could be no difficulty with regard to sewage at Ravenscar, where they were close to the sea and 600 ft. above it. In short there was no reason why this should not be unique seaside place.
Bradford Observer, 21 May 1901

Image of an 1903 Auction Poster

As sales continued so did the optimism, despite the slow pace.

Ten years have passed since the auctioneer first flourished his hammer in the Assembly Rooms of the Ravenscar Estate, Limited. People came from all parts the country to buy “eligible building sites” and the transactions were so numerous that it was thought this City of the Peak, six hundred feet above beach, with magnificent outlook over sea and moor, was going to put Scarborough in the shade. Ravenscar, however, is still unspoilt. The old hall, whose carriage on the Roman Road, is flanked with pillars bearing effigies the Danish raven, or the Roman eagle, has been extended or converted into a modern hotel and year by year many holiday makers climb the hill enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the scene. It is an ideal spot for people who would escape from the distractions of the modern seaside town, and as well worth visiting at any time, if only for a peep at the terraces and gardens that have been formed and planted on the face of the precipitous cliffs. Within the last few years shelters have been erected here and there, fenced, of course, to keep the cattle off; and zig-zag paths have been made from the summit to the beach, making the journey much easier that it used to be for ladies and children…People familiar with this lovely district have a good deal of faith in its future. One gentlemen, who is able to speak with some authority, believes that the builder will be busy here within the next few years, for the demand for country and seaside residences in such situations is likely to increase among people of means who feel that they are crowded out of so-called popular resort.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 27 August 1907

Image of a North Easter Railway (pre 1921) Poster

Then in 1909 the short lived Ravenscar Estate Limited Company went into receivership, leaving Ravenscar behind.

Why not try Ravenscar? I remember when this of city of the Yorkshire “Peak” was planned and boomed as likely to jostle Scarborough out of favour as the Queen of the North. But the builders have not made much progress during the last ten years, and, as for the pegged out claims, it takes a mighty fine eye to spy out the pegs, while the claims are still undistinguished by boundary of hedge or wall…somewhere about 1897 the parcels of land were first offered for sale on easy terms. In the course of a couple of years about 700 building plots were knocked down at public auction, and by August 1899, no fewer than twenty one sales had been held on the estate, each sale being largely attended by people chiefly from London and the West Riding. Some plots in “choice positions” were sold in August, 1899, at the rate of £1,100 [approx. £140,000 today] per acre, the sale realising a total (as it appeared in the newspapers) of £2,252 10s, and it was then announced that £34,000 [approx. £4.3 million today] worth of building plots had been disposed of. But the tranquillity of the place is undisturbed. When I saw it a few days ago men were making hay on the building sites between the Crescent, the Esplanade and other roads and avenues, whose names are painted on little wooden posts…The wonder is that the spot was not covered with houses and hotels years ago…All the accommodation at present consists of one hotel, a boarding-house or two, and a few cottages scrambling on the hillsides.’
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 10 August 1909 

A few years on and Ravenscar makes an impression, and at last gets compared with Scarborough although not in a good way.

The UNBUILT COAST TOWN OF RAVENSCAR – Roads that Wait for Houses. By a Peripatetic.
…”Yon road I enter upon and look around, I be-
lieve you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here”
Those lines of Walt. Whitman sprang to my lip as I walked along. Yes, there must more in this trim road than meets the eye. This road that leads – where? Other neatly-made roads branch off – roads which frankly admit that they lead to nowhere in particular. The place spreads out before one like a huge draught or chess board, but without the pieces. Here a town has been planned and left unbuilt. One could imagine that was intended to be sort of smug Suburbia-by-the-Sea…It was almost uncanny to stand there alone on the cliff and survey the land that waits for the town that yet to built.’

This article then turns to describing the limited amenities the anonymous writer found in 1913 Ravenscar including a lack of any available food, a savage sounding farm dog, an abandoned ship, a locked Bar, and a wild wet wind. The writer also suggests he met one of the owners of a plot, although this might be artistic license  – ‘I helped to pay for this road. Why? Because I one lunched not wisely but too well. I saw visions of stately mansions standing there…Would you, he added wistfully, like to buy a bit of land? You can have it at your own price”.’ The somewhat louche writer concludes ‘I will not roam o’er Ravenscar again until they have erected winter gardens which extend a mile or so. Gardens where lamps ape the sun, and where the soft, sweet music of a string band soothes one, and where pretty girls sit alone in cosy corners playing “wallflowers”. Then, and only then, will I take a second glance at Ravenscar, the romantic’.
Yorkshire Evening Post, 14 August 1913

A week later there is a robust reply to the anonymous critic, exalting in the delights of Ravenscar and its environs.

THE UNBUILT TOWN OF RAVENSCAR.
Sir, l surprised at your correspondent’s account re Ravenscar. First of all, he arrived on a rainy day. Why did he not remain one night, and would have beheld the very next day glorious with sunshine, pure air, and a magnificent view, and, above all, unlike Scarborough, room to live. He complains that he could get nothing to eat. Why did he not come on to the hotel, where could have had an excellent dinner. He complains of the dullness of Ravenscar. No pretty girls! No string bands! says your blind correspondent. There are many pretty girls in the hotel, both from your home country and America, but even pretty girls like a rest and holiday from admiration and dress occasionally!. And we hope you will keep your string and brass bands to Scarborough, and leave in peace and solitude, from “that madding crowd,” to enjoy the magnificence of Ravenscar…But the less I say of Ravenscar the better, as I want to keep it as it is. We do not want your Scarborough crowds. It seems the only spot left on the East Coast free from commotion…by Ravenscar Visitor
Yorkshire Evening Post, 18 August 1913. The Editor agreed diplomatically that the fashionable resort e.g. Scarborough and quiet Ravenscar each serves a purpose.

Indeed a glance over local papers around that time reveal that Ravenscar had all sorts of things going on: illustrated lantern slides, Yorkshire folk dancing, on-foot fox hunting foxes on the cliff sides, classes at the Vicarage, archaeological discoveries, recitations, shipwrecks, tennis, sailplane flying, sea water bathing, billiards, wild fires, whist drives, disappearances from the beach, house breaking, patriotic songs and comic duets, an air crash, bloodhound trials, golf, fan drills, snow storms, mines washing up on the beach, gliding, accident deaths by being run over by a train and being blown off the cliffs, egg production, a report of spies signalling out to sea in WW1, picnic parties, landslips, meetings of the Yorkshire Federation of the Junior Imperial and Constitutional League, the ‘Famous Terraces and Hanging Gardens’ (admission two pence), and a wager over whether someone could carry a 10 stone weight up the cliff (he could).

Ravenscar Estates Limited did feature in a number of legal cases in its early years – a failure to pay local rates and breaches of contract over the sewers development – but in the end the development just didn’t take off rather than it being the subject of fraud or conspiracy. One big problem that might have dampened enthusiasm was that the magnificent cliffs providing sea views were also a barrier to reaching the shore and the shore itself is particularly rocky – interesting and exciting to explore, but not like Scarborough. Around the time (as dissected in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in August 1921) it was noted that by accepting payments by instalments a lot of plot purchases weren’t completed, leaving plots not built on. Another issue was the condition the plot holders could only build houses above a certain value e.g. marine villas, no doubt in order to maintain the ‘first class’ aspect and avoid the expanding working class holiday market, but for the small investors targeted this was a block to reaching development.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer in 20 August 1938 who had been so optimistic previously, now presents a different doom laden view worthy of the times.

The Phantom Resort. The lost town of Ravenspurn now lies beneath the waves off Flamborough Head. Something akin to it is the lost town of Ravenscar, further up the coast, which I visited this week. But Ravenscar is more of a phantom than Ravenspurn, its only existence was its own imagination. Under the grassland one can still trace macadamised roads, kerbstones, a sea front and , in fact, all the ground plan of the town, but that is all there ever has been of it. Ravenscar is the ruin of a town that never was. It is many years now since the abortive attempt to develop this breezy spot – a scheme which never got further than this making of roads and drainage. To walk there now is to feel the eerie sensation of being in a Wellsian world from “The Shape of Things to Come”. Ghosts of all the unbuilt Marine Terraces and sea views seem to hang in the air. It is a good place to brood for those extreme prophets of woe who like to think in another century or two all our towns will present the same sort of picture…

Sources from The British Newspaper Archive

Ravenscar is in the distance on top of the headland. Credit Ebor Images.

Ravenscar did not return to being Raven Hill. It is left with designed street plans you can still trace, the large Cliff House Bed and Breakfast, and the Ravenscar Hotel with its Italian terraced gardens. The village still has its many attractions which interested the developers so much over one hundred years ago.Image of front of National Trust leaflet - Ravenscar: 'the town that never was'

The National Trust also have a Visitor Centre at Ravenscar. They have a leaflet for a fascinating 2 mile walk around Ravenscar: ‘the town that never was’, tracing what you can still make out of the planned resort and imagining what would have been.

 

 

Snowy days gone by…

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant

Has the snow ever stopped you from doing your job or getting in to work? It didn’t stop the workers on the Rosedale Railway! The locomotives used were fitted with snow ploughs to clear the tracks. Time is money.

The railway was built to transport iron ore from the Rosedale mines, across the moors, connecting to the main line north and on to be processed at ironworks in Teesside and County Durham. The railway was opened in 1861 and use to run from Bank Top Kilns on the west side of Rosedale over the top to Battersby Junction, where it connected into the main railway line. A later addition connecting the Rosedale East Kilns into the Rosedale line via Blakey Junction was completed in 1865.

Have a look at what the winter conditions were like for the workers on the Rosedale Railway in its time.

Engines and snow ploughs in Rosedale (courtesy of Rosedale History Society)Engines and snow ploughs in Rosedale (courtesy of Rosedale History Society).

Rosedale Bank Top (courtesy of Malcolm Bisby)

Rosedale Bank Top: Extensive engineering maintenance was done on site because of the difficulty of getting locomotives down off the moors – the extreme gradient change at the top of Ingleby Incline meant that 6 wheel locomotives couldn’t be taken down the incline without the centre wheels being removed. Sheer legs and lifting chains were used for removing or replacing locomotive wheel sets which periodically had to be machined to restore their circumferential precision. Spare sets were brought up, and the damaged ones sent to Darlington machining shops. Off the moors locomotives would go for maintenance to the Darlington engineering sheds. (Courtesy of Malcolm Bisby).

Clearing the snow under the bridge near Blakey Junction (courtesy of Malcolm Bisby). The Blakey Ridge road today runs right next to where that bridge was – you might still see its remaining parapet wall next time you go that way.

Rosedale Bank Top - severe winter drifting outside the engine shed (a William Hayes photograph courtesy of Malcolm Bisby)

Rosedale Bank Top – severe winter drifting outside the engine shed (a William Hayes photograph courtesy of Malcolm Bisby). Towards the centre pillar is the coaling crane used for lifting coal out of standing wagons into locomotive tenders).

Further reading on Rosedale and its railway:

Websites
Rosedale History Society
Rosedale Railway
Our Rosedale Abbey
Land of Iron

Books & reports
Hayes R.H. and Rutter J.G., 1974. Rosedale Mines and Railway, Scarborough: Scarborough Arcaheological and Historical Society.
Lane P., 1989. The Archaeology of the Ironstone Industry of Rosedale, North Yorkshire, Helston: P Lane.
NE Yorkshire Geology Trust, 2010. When the devil came to Rosedale. Whitby: NE Yorkshire Geology Trust.
Staley N.R. and King L., 1980. The Rosedale Railway: An Archaeological Survey, Helmsley: NYMNPA.

Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme logo

Making Pictures

Nicola White – Land of Iron Film Maker Intern

I’ve spent the past 12 weeks clambering over the North York Moors with my camera, capturing the elements that form the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme. This adventure has been challenging, hilarious and hot (given the summer we’ve had).

I began with the Combs Wood excavation, bugging the volunteers each morning by crouching on the ground to get the best shot as they dodged their wheelbarrows around me. It was incredible to see them constantly uncovering something new and seeing just how much had been hidden by the nature that surrounded us. See Combs Wood Part 1 – Volunteering, Combs Wood Part 2, and Combs Wood Part 3.

I also got involved with the Warren Moor Mine conservation work this summer. The details of the huge chimney still on site really are incredible. My video focuses on the lime mortar work that the team have completed on the engine beds, as well as all the previous clearing that has taken place during the project in order to preserve the features. It’s impressive to view the impact that Land of Iron has had on this area, and for that reason it’s recorded in my video. See Warren Moor – The Movie

I didn’t just concentrate on the impressive industrial building sights; I’ve also created a video showing the environmental conservation work undergone. From fences and walk ways at Fen Bog to forest work and tree planting across Rosedale, my video illustrates how this work is restoring habitats and encouraging rare species. See what I saw

The final video of my creation sets out to capture the entire essence of the Land of Iron. Focusing on the three main aspects – history, people, environment – this video uses interviews with the core team and footage that I’ve recorded throughout my summer with them, to explain what the programme is all about. See the whole picture …

This summer has been an incredible opportunity to learn and create. The people surrounding and supporting the Land of Iron scheme should receive a medal for all the work they do; constantly typing away on their keyboards in the office or covered in mud down a one-meter deep hole. It’s been a pleasure to dig in the mud with them for such a short time, and I hope I spend all my future summers in a similar way.

Something else … The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme is approaching its halfway point with building conservation works starting on site and teams of volunteers across the North York Moors helping us care for our fascinating industrial heritage. We’re currently undertaking an EVALUATION SURVEY – this is a really important way to check the scheme is heading in the right direction and achieving what it wants to. Please give us a few minutes of your time to tell us what you think. Your feedback will help shape the next stage of the programme. 

Warren Moor Mine: Part Two – the excavation

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

We were back at Warren Moor Mine within weeks of completing the lime mortaring of the winding engine bed, but this time to carry out an archaeological excavation. Five Land of Iron volunteers and two members of staff investigated two trenches dug across the ditch on the site. One trench was between the winding engine bed and the downcast shaft, and the other further upstream, close to the boiler house and chimney. The purpose of the excavation was to build upon the information left to us by those who built and operated the mine site, and the knowledge gained by John Owen and his team from their 1970s investigations.

A very short history recap

Warren Moor Mine was only in use for a grand total of nine years, on and off, between 1857 and 1874. The land was first mined by a John Watson from 1865 to 1868 as part of the Warren Moor Mine Company Ltd. After being taken back by the Kildale Estate (land owners), in 1872 – once the price of iron had risen – a new company, the Leven Vale Company Ltd took out the lease. They further invested in the mine, even building a row of stone workers cottages. However, in 1874 the Leven Vale Company Ltd also failed. These short periods of tenancy at Warren Moor Mine were likely due to the poor quality of ironstone which made deep mining unviable.

105 years later John Owen, an enthusiastic industrial archaeologist, and his team undertook an excavation of the site. They not only investigated the standing buildings, but also explored the upcast and downcast shafts and the pumping engine, providing us with detailed diagrams of the interiors of the structures and how they may have worked (Owen’s report can be found here).

What we got up to this time

This excavation was on a much smaller scale than that carried out recently at Combs Wood, with only two trenches around 1 metre wide and 2 metres long to start with. One purpose was to investigate the bank that ran along one side of the river (Leven). It is thought that the bank had been built up by Owen to change the course of the watercourse in order to reduce the damage being caused to the structures. Another purpose was to investigate the retaining wall around the winding engine bed, to discover its thickness and materials used in its construction, and whether there was a direct relationship to the downcast shaft.

Most of the findings from the trenches were in line with Owen’s previous excavations. In the first trench next to the engine winding bed we uncovered the extent of the retaining wall. There was also a lot of evidence of burning with large lumps of slag (metal waste) and a compacted surface layer. We made the decision to extend this trench after we uncovered the corner of a large worked stone. This stone sat just below the topsoil and appeared to be a block from the winding engine bed. This raised a few questions for us – what was this stone doing here on the other side of the retaining wall? had it been placed here purposefully or just discarded?  We also dug two sondages (test pits) to get a full profile of the layers in this trench.

The second trench, up near the standing chimney, was extended far beyond its original dimensions. The aim of this trench was to explore the embankment. Upon removal of the topsoil we found the embankment to be a roughly piled brick feature. However, the more we revealed of the brick work the more we saw a structural pattern emerge. Then, unexpectedly, one of the volunteers revealed two stone door jamb bases, proving without a doubt that there was a previously unknown building! Unfortunately, this was all discovered on the last day, so we weren’t able to explore it any further at this time. This trench also contained the same burnt compacted layer and slag deposits that were in the first trench.

So what happens next?

Another excavation has been scheduled to establish the dimensions and purpose of the newly discovered building!

The volunteers group will continue to maintain the site. In addition, contractors will be working on site into next year to carry out conservation works and make the site safe for public access and enjoyment.

Warren Moor Mine: Part One – the Lime Mortar task

Eleanor Lees – Land of Iron Community Archaeology Intern

For five days back in August a group of very determined Land of Iron volunteers and staff, along with one local lime mortar expert descended on Warren Moor Mine in Little Kildale to begin conservation work on the winding engine bed. During the 144 years since the mine closure tree roots, vegetation, insects and the weather have slowly eroded the site of Warren Moor Mine which includes a winding engine bed. The stonework had very little remaining mortar, and so we took on the task to re-point in order to help protect this historic structure.

Follow this link for a 360 view of the site.

A (Very) Short History of Warren Moor Mine – the story of Warren Moor Mine starts in 1857 when the Bell Brothers of Middlesbrough surveyed the nature of the ironstone in this dale, once isolated but now connected by the new railway. Investigations on the main seam revealed that it was 5-6 ft. deep but split by a band of shale and also had low iron content; only just averaging out at 26% when other parts of the Cleveland area averaged at 30%. The Bell Brothers Ltd declined the mining lease offered by the Kildale estate (landowners) and for eight years Warren Moor remained undisturbed.

Then, despite the results of previous surveys, in 1865, under John Watson and his southern investors, work began on open drift mines into the top ‘dogger’ seam. Drift mining means digging into an edge from the side, horizontally, and is much easier and therefore cheaper than digging downwards. A year later Watson took out a 42 year lease and the ‘Warren Moor Mine’ (Company Ltd) was formed. Letters suggest that the first year of the lease resulted in profit. The ironstone extracted was calcined (roasted to remove impurities) on site and then transported by rail to the blast furnaces. Work began to sink two shafts to intercept the main seam at 220 ft., along with the construction of a steam boiler house and corresponding chimney, a winding engine and a steam powered pumping engine, all to enable deep mining. By 1868, most of the structures had been completed with the exception of the downcast shaft which had only been completed to a depth of 150 ft. but by that time the Warren Moor Mine Company Ltd were in financial trouble no doubt partly due to the poor quality of ironstone leaving the Warren Moor Mines. Kildale estate reclaimed the site and all its equipment.

Four years later in 1872, the Leven Vale Company Ltd took out a lease on the site, not put off by the previous company’s failure to make the site commercial. A row of stone cottages were built to house miners and their families, these cottages appear on historic maps labelled Leven Vale Cottages – in 1972 the cottages were demolished by volunteers from Kildale village and the stone was used in the Village Hall. Regardless of the initial investment into the site by the Leven Vale Company no progress was made with completing either the downcast shaft nor any other parts of the non working downcast mine. The company continued to use the drift mines to mine the top seam but in 1874 became insolvent just like its predecessor.

So after only nine years of operation the mines were abandoned for the next 105 years until 1979 when the archaeologist John Owen and his team excavated the site providing detailed diagrams and explanations for many of the mines remaining features (Owen’s report can be found here)

…And then along we came!

A view of Warren Moor Mine today, Copyright NYMNPA.

Of course we weren’t the first group to set foot on the site since then, but being in such a remote location it sometimes feels that way. Our task in August was to conserve and protect what was left of the winding engine bed and that involved re-mortaring. We started with a day of training and demonstration at Kildale Village Hall (built with the stones from the Leven Vale Cottages). Our expert, Nigel Copesy, explained the benefits of using a hot lime mortar mix over natural hydraulic limes (NHLs) or other cementitious materials, as well as explaining the science behind the mixing process and why that resulted in better effective porosity enabling buildings to shed water quicker resulting in less damp and decay. He also showed us different ways of creating a mix and some of the more extreme reactions of slaking quick lime.

Nigel Copsey demonstrating the reaction from mixing hot lime mortar. Copyright NYMNPA,

Over the next four days we undertook the actual task of re-pointing the engine bed. I think we were all surprised at the amount of mortar you could put into a joint before you would feel any resistance! We used three different types of mortar on the different areas of the engine bed in order to provide the best level of protection that we could.

The first mix that we made was used to point the sides of the stonework; it consisted of two different types of sand, brick dust, quick lime, a clay based pozzolanic additive and water. This created an exothermic reaction, where a decent amount of heat was given off but quickly cooled to useable temperatures.

The second mix is appropriately named an earth lime mortar and was used to fill the larger gaps on the top of the engine bed packed with some loose stones. To make this mix a slightly different technique was used. Using some excess soil from a previous archaeological test pit, we soaked it for a few hours before adding some quicklime to give it form. This soil contained high amounts of clay which is known to work well with quick lime. Earth mortars are more common than people realise. Many traditional buildings in the North York Moors and elsewhere have earth mortars at the core of the wall. They allow the building to breathe which can help prevent damp and create a healthy living space.

Our third and final mix was used on top of the earth lime mortar and had a very high pozzolanic value, making it more durable and less permeable. As the top of the engine bed will be most exposed to weathering, the mortar used had to almost repel any rain water. Although this type of mortar would not have been used in this location traditionally; it was thought necessary to adapt the mortar on this occasion to help protect this historic monument into the future, which is now far more exposed to the elements than it was when originally built.

Re-mortaring Warren Moor Mine engine bed - with the bottom of the chimney in the background. Copyright NYMNPA.Warren Moor Mine engine bed - with new lime mortar. Copyright NYMNPA.

The result of all five days of hard work is a winding engine bed that is infinitely more protected than it was at the beginning of the week. Conserving our industrial heritage is hugely important, especially with a site like Warren Moor which still provides a snapshot in time. The Land of Iron team would once again like to thank the amazing efforts of our volunteers, Kildale estate, and also Nigel Copsey for sharing his knowledge.

A to Z: a rabble of Rs

R

RABBITS

Hares are native to Britain, but rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are not considered to be native at least not since the last Ice Age. Rabbits, also known as coneys, were introduced first by the Romans and then imported by the Normans in the early medieval period. Rabbits were valued for their meat, fur and skin. On southern facing slopes of the North York Moors, rabbits were farmed from the medieval period through to the 20th century using warrening structures. Warrens were artificially constructed with embankments, ditches and ‘pillow’ mounds. Particularly common were ‘Rabbit-types’ where rabbits were caught through trap doors which released into pits.  These artificial warrens allowed the rabbits to be managed (farmed) efficiently on a large scale.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries felt from rabbit skins and fur was an important money making product for the south east corner of the North York Moors. Felt was in demand for hats and rabbit was an alternative to beaver. The industry slowly declined with the last warrener working up until the 1920s.  Many warrening sites have been lost as land has been re-used, but some large scale warrening complexes can still be traced in the Forestry Commission owned forests such as Dalby and Wykeham.

Rabbit, Westerdale. Copyright Ami Hudson, NYMNPA.

Wild/feral rabbits are now a particularly successful non-native invasive species, despite there being a number of native predator species.

Ranunculus sp.

As winter is losing its grip, hopefully the photo below will help brighten your day.

Grassland with buttercups. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ranunculus is the plant genus which includes our buttercup species and provides our countryside with vivid displays of yellow during the summer months.  There are lots of different species, and here are but a few found across Britain including the North York Moors, all with sunny yellow flowers.

Meadow buttercup R.acris: Look at a hay meadow in the summer and the chances are that it is this species that is predominant. It is an indicator of moist unimproved grassland, and although it grows in a wide range of soil types it is not tolerant of high nutrient levels. As it can survive cutting and is not palatable to grazing stock, old meadows and pastures are where it thrives best.

Creeping buttercup R.repens: This buttercup can, from a distance, give the impression that you are looking at a species rich hay meadow. The reality can be very different though as this plant is very tolerant of high nutrient levels and disturbed ground and is sometimes considered a problem weed. It is often found around field gateways where poaching and tramping make it difficult for other plants to survive, and in overgrazed fields where it remains untouched by stock and readily out competes less tolerant plants. One of the key differences between this species and meadow buttercup is the presence of rooting runners which allow this plant to spread very effectively and quickly cover bare ground. The species’ method of reproduction (cloning) meant it was used a few years ago for an interesting study into aging meadows. https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2009/june/title-77794-en.html

Bulbous buttercup R. bulbosus: This species prefers much drier conditions and, like meadow buttercup, is an indicator of unimproved grassland with a low tolerance to fertilisers. It is common on well drained neutral or calcareous soils and can be identified by its downturned sepals (when flowering) and a swollen stem base which can be identified by carefully scratching a small amount of soil away from the base of the plant.

But it’s not just buttercups. Also in the same Ranunculus genus, and providing a splash Lesser spearwort. Copyright NYMNPA.of colour in the early days of spring before the other Ranunculs is Lesser Celandine (R.ficaria). This is easily identified by its narrow, glossy yellow petals, low-growing form and heart-shaped mottled leaves. It’s usually noticeable as it is in abundance when other plants are still tentatively emerging from their overwintering.

Finally, brightening up bogs in the summer is Lesser spearwort (R.flammula) which thrives in wet places and can often be found growing with soft rush in unimproved habitats. The flowers look very similar to a buttercup, but it has spear-shaped leaves.

READING ROOMS

In the 19th and early 20th century there was a trend for the better off in society, to provide the means to try and ‘improve’ their local workforce i.e. the not so well off. Rather than people gathering in public houses to drink, debauch and mutter – the idea instead was to provide an opportunity for social, moral, intellectual and spiritual improvement for the local community. ‘…the more he knows, the less hasty, the less violent, and the more correct will be his judgment and opinions’ (from the Manchester Spectator 1849).

The philanthropic benefactors would be local landowners, local business people on the rise, new industrial entrepreneurs, and often the local Church including non-conformists e.g. the Methodists. Individuals or local committees of bigwigs, would gift their local community a Reading Room, first in growing towns and then also in rural villages. Any local community who wanted to think themselves liberal and progressive needed a Reading Room. The provision of a building where men could read instructive newspapers, educational periodicals and improving books promoted the popular ideas of self-improvement and self-help. Reading Rooms were the forerunners of public libraries. It wasn’t all reading – they also hosted useful lectures and respectable entertainments as well.

There are a number of Reading Room buildings remaining in the North York Moors, some still used as community buildings and others converted. It is interesting that a number are clearly connected to industrial populations such as that in Rosedale, but others are located in more rural communities such as Boltby, Lastingham and Runswick Bay.

ROBERT HESELTINE HUDSON

“Rarely does a case, even of murder, excite such an intense interest as that which has been taken by the general public in the charge against Robert Heseltine Hudson, of the wilful murder of his wife and child on Roper Moor, near Helmsley, on the 8th of June last.”

 “Accused was accommodated with a chair and remained remarkably quiet throughout the trial. He certainly had not the look of a murderer. There was nothing dreadful in the dark sallow countenance, nor repulsive in the black hair, eyebrows, and bearded face, with cultivated moustache trimmed in imperial fashion. The eye was steady and the body restful, and an expression of ease and indifference seemed reflected in a faint smile upon the lips which looked more natural than feigned. Hudson, for some reason, had practically nothing to say. He sat throughout the evidence without manifesting any perceptible distress and it was impossible to judge of the man’s inner consciousness from his appearance…What did seem probably to many observers was that Hudson had quietly resigned himself to his fate…”

From the Yorkshire Gazetteer Saturday 27 July 1895

Robert Hudson’s family was from near Helmsley, he went to school at nearby East Moors. His parents then moved the family to Darlington and as an adult Robert Hudson worked in Liverpool, Sheffield and Nottingham. However in May 1895 Hudson, then a house furnisher’s assistant, brought his wife Kate and their son Heseltine who was not yet one, back to where he had started from. They lodged in a house on Bondgate, Helmsley.

Robert Hudson took his family out for walks and drives in the local countryside – it was reported that Mrs Hudson complained that the places they visited were lonely. On 8 June Mr Hudson returned but his wife and child did not. He told his landlady that they had gone to visit an aunt in Hovingham. Hudson then swiftly disappeared on the 3.39 train to York. Suspicions were aroused resulting in a search of the lonely local countryside. After a while a recently dug hole was found under a clump of trees on Roppa Moor. The bodies of Kate and Heseltine Hudson were found together in the hole covered by a thin layer of soil. Their throats had been cut with a carving knife; Mrs Hudson’s hands were terribly injured suggesting she had struggled to stay the knife.

Hudson was tracked down to Birmingham and arrested, he was brought back first to Helmsley to be committed for trial and then taken to York Crown Court. The evidence was pretty overwhelming. Hudson had bought a spade from a Helmsley ironmonger and was seen cycling about with the spade tied to his bicycle. The spade was later found on Roppa Moor. A local man had come across the hole on Roppa Moor a couple of days before it was used as a grave. Various other local people identified him as a man they had seen acting suspiciously on and around Roppa Moor. Soon after the ‘disappearance’ of his wife Robert Hudson was advertising for a new wife “Bachelor, tall, dark, age 27, wishes to meet with lady of some means, with a view to early marriage”. There was also a pocket book in which Mr Hudson had written on 15 June – “One week from the saddest event in my life, at ten to one o’clock, and I am living yet”. The jury considered their verdict for c. 6 minutes. Robert Hudson was found guilty.

Robert Hudson did not directly confess to the murders, but he did blame bad company for his predicament and expressed repentance. He was hanged at York Castle on 13 August 1895.

ROMANS (1st to 4th centuries AD)

Following on the heels of trading links the Roman invasion and then entrenchment across most of Britain  started with temporary military installations and infrastructure including connecting roads to maintain control. This was overtaken with more permanent military bases, as well as the establishment of towns, industrial centres and civilian farmsteads. Romanisation of society was backed up with military might, but at the same time the lure of Roman luxuries, the value of Roman technologies, and the promise of Roman advancement and power very much helped its spread.

Unlike the Iron Age native population, the Romans weren’t interested in living on the moors part of the North York Moors. Most Roman related remains are along the southern edge, close-ish to Malton and York which were major Roman towns. There are a number of minor “villa” complexes (Romano-British farmsteads) at Beadlam, Spaunton and Blandsby Park and the remains of two forts and a military camp at ‘Cawthorn Camps’.

Romans at Cawthorn, 2010. Copyright NYMNPA.

There is another early fort at Lease Rigg in the north of the North York Moors. This site includes ramparts, barracks, stables, a granary, a praetorium (Officer quarters), and a principia (main building for admin and religion). The forts at Cawthorn and at Lease Rigg are connected by Wheeldale Road/Wades Causeway, which is recorded as a Roman road. Because of the lack of quality it has been suggested it isn’t actually a Roman road at all.

The North York Moors Historic Environment Record includes a number of Roman finds including pottery, tessalie (mosaic tiles), coins, armilla (metal armband), beads, weights, pins, and altars.

There are also a number of Roman signal stations along the coastal cliffs from the 4th century. The best example in the North York Moors is at Goldsborough. There might also have been a signal station at Ravenscar – the evidence for this is an engraved dedication stone identified in the 18th century, but this might have been brought onto the site from somewhere else after the Roman period. The stone reads IVSTINIANVSPP VINDICIANVS MASSIERIV(RR)/(PR) MCASTRVMFECIT A….0. (JUSTINIANUS COMMANDER  VINDICIANUS…PRAEFECT OF SOLDIERS BUILT THIS TOWER AND FORT FROM GROUND LEVEL). Signal stations were built towards the end of the Roman period to guard against the growing threat of Angles and Saxons from the sea. By this time people on the edge of the Roman Empire were having to look after themselves because as the empire contracted it was clear no one was going to come and rescue them. The end of the Roman period fizzled out slowly. Often the new invaders would use the same sites, carefully chosen for their resources and setting. For example there is evidence that Cawthorn Camps was subsequently re-used as an Anglian settlement.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P, Q