Reading the Past: ‘Snapshots’ of Ironstone Life in Rosedale

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, David Ross Foundation, and the North York Moors National Park Authority among others, will shortly be coming to an end in March 2021.

Rosedale Bank Top calcining kiln after conservation work was completed in 2019, with the new interpretation panel and Cor Ten silhouette. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale Bank Top calcining kiln after conservation work was completed in 2019, with the new interpretation panel and Cor Ten silhouette.

Over the past four years the project has helped to protect, interpret and conserve the most iconic of the old ironstone mining sites and remains within the North York Moors. We have also helped to nurture the unique natural environment that surrounds them by working closely with land managers and other national partners ensuring habitats and species, such as riverbanks, ancient woodland and the Ring Ouzel, are cared for in the long term.

Yet even as we help to preserve the integrity of the monuments and help to protect the rich bio-diverse landscapes for the benefit of future generations, the voices of the individuals who once worked in the ironstone mining industry – the navvies (temporary workers), railwaymen, miners and families that expanded the populations of small villages like Rosedale during the Industrial Revolution – remain largely silent within the landscape in which they once worked, memorialised only in the receding industrial remains.

It is with this thought in mind that I turned to one important historical record where the individual stands recorded for posterity – the humble newspaper archive.

It is a place where accidents were recorded and individuals were named, where drunken brawls in isolated villages were highlighted and surreal accidents at remote kilns noted. The current newspapers of the time provide an invaluable insight into the social life and activities of the communities that populated the working life of the ironstone industry. It is here that you can understand the often-hidden tensions and terrors that so bedevilled a thriving but dangerous industry which helped to power the country in the 19th century.

Rosedale East kilns with new fencing as a part of the Land of Iron project. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale East kilns with new fencing as a part of the Land of Iron project.

Below are a few sample extracts taken from local and regional papers during the height of the ironstone mining industry in the North York Moors, with a particular focus on Rosedale and its concentration of the unique railway, ironstone mines and imposing calcining kilns at Bank Top and Rosedale East. This way we can get a ‘snapshot’ of a particular place within a relatively short amount of time.

Please note that the following extracts reflect mores of the time. You may find elements of the extracts upsetting. 

Liverpool Daily Post 10 June 1862
CLASH BETWEEN MINERS AND IRISH LABOURERS
At Rosedale, last week, the English miners combined to drive out the Irish labourers out of the valley, which they did. Some sharp fighting took place. The cause of the party feeling is stated to have been owing to an Irishman contracting for work at an under price.

Whitby Gazette 8 April 1865
ROSEDALE ABBEY
On Saturday morning last as a boy named John Hugill, 12 years of age was preparing a set of ironstone wagons for being drawn up the incline, another wagon unexpectedly ran against them with great force at the moment the boy was bent down between 2 wagons which he was coupling, and they were driven together with great violence causing such severe injuries to the boy that death resulted in a few minutes.

Whitby Gazette 29 August 1868
ROSEDALE WEST MINES
A fatal accident occurred on Monday 24th to a miner named Thomas Taylor of Low Row, 19 years of age.  It appears that he had gone to his usual work in the mines at 2 o’clock and had only been at work about 10 minutes, when a huge portion of ironstone from the roof, weighing five or six tons, fell suddenly, and in its descent, came in contact with the poor fellow mutilating him in a frightful manner.

York Herald 5 December 1868
HORSE BURNT TO DEATH
On Wednesday night, a valuable horse, belonging to the Rosedale and Ferryhill Mining Company, was accidentally burnt to death. A driver, named Foster, was fetching a set of loaded waggons out of the Rosedale East mines on to the top of the new calcine kiln, when, through neglect of having a spring catch on, he was unable to get the horse unyoked from the waggons. The consequence was that the horse was dragged into the kiln, which was full of burning ironstone, and burnt to death.

Leeds Mercury 10 April 1871
THE ROSEDALE IRON MINERS
Gentlemen, I would earnestly call attention to the sad and disgraceful state of drunkenness prevalent among the workmen engaged in the Rosedale iron mines …. For two or three days following each pay-day Rosedale village presents a scene of inebriation which baffles description. The miners may be seen staggering about the village in all directions, and not unfrequently fighting and kicking each other in true Lancashire style.

Malton Gazette 15 July 1871
ROSEDALE MINING FATALITY
On Saturday morning, a young man named Nelson, a native of Thornton Dale near Pickering, was proceeding to his work underground, being a miner, between 7 and 8 o’clock, having under his arm a small barrel, open at the top, containing 4 to 5 lbs of gunpowder, used for blasting purposes. Wishing to light his pipe, he struck a match, part of the match or a spark from it, ignited the powder, which exploded with great violence. His injuries were fearful, that death terminated his suffering in 2 to 3 hours later. He was accompanied by another man who escaped with rather severe shock and singeing of his whiskers and eyebrows.

Rosedale Hollins Mine and incline, with Bank Top calcining kilns visible at top right. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale Hollins Mine and incline, with Bank Top calcining kilns visible at top right.

Of course this is just small selection of the more dramatic clippings from the Land of Iron newspaper archive, but it is a fascinating insight none the less. The tough living and working conditions invariably led to accidents and fatalities, and as we can see above it was not uncommon for fights or brawls to break out when workers were paid their often meagre wages (Hayes and Rutter 2009).

The end of the ironstone industry in the 1920s brought further change to Rosedale as bit by bit the railways were removed, the structures of the kilns were left to decline, and the mines themselves closed down and sealed. It is pertinent to remember those real individuals, the men, women, and children (and animals) who lived and worked here, often did so in adverse conditions. The newspaper clippings can only ever report on a fraction of their lives and experiences.

Further Resources

For those who are interested in researching the lifestyle of the ironstone industry workers further, or are interested in pursuing their own research during the current lock down period, I recommend the British Library-ran Newspaper Archive resource.

For further reading on the ironstone industry within North Yorkshire, I recommend Hayes and Rutter much-reissued ‘Rosedale Mines and Railway’ 2009 publication. A newly updated edition of this book is due to be published this year.

For historic photographs, have a look at a previous blog entry to see two ‘colourised’ historic photographs from Sheriff’s Pit mine entry and the Ingleby Incline railway.

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What’s Ironstone?

Tom Kearsley – Mineralogist

Iron is arguably the most important metallic element in the history of human technology. In the most comprehensive modern reference volume on properties, processing and use of metals – the Metals Handbook edited by Davis, 1998 – there are more pages devoted to ‘ferrous’ metals (‘irons’, steels and high performance alloys) than to all of the other metals combined.

Together with Magnesium (Mg) and Aluminium (Al), Iron (Fe) is an abundant element throughout the Solar System (Lodders, 2010), including the Earth. It was inherited from dust created by ancient giant stars, then brought together over four and a half billion years ago during the formation of the planet from the collision of asteroids and meteorites in the early Solar System. Much of the Earth’s Fe, along with Nickel (Ni) and Sulfur (S), is now in the core where it is responsible for the magnetic field of the planet. ‘Iron’ is also occasionally found on Earth’s surface as a ‘native’ metal, this may come from meteorite falls (which will not be pure Iron element, but will also contain a little Ni), and even a little can be found in some volcanic lavas. This raw material has been used by people for at least 5000 years, but it is so rare that ‘iron’ was not the most widely used metal until much later. In nature, Mg and Al readily form common minerals with Silicon (Si) and Oxygen (O), but they are not found as metals without human intervention, and they have only become widely manufactured and used in the last century.

Although now a little dated, ‘Metals in the Service of Man’ by A. Street and W. Alexander (10th edition, 1994) provides a concise and readable introduction to the sources of metals, their processing, properties and uses. An excellent and detailed explanation of how metals (including ‘irons’) came to be produced, from the earliest methods up to modern large-scale industries, can also be found in ‘A History of Metallurgy’ by R. F. Tylecote (1992). The first widespread use began with discovery that Copper (Cu), and later Tin (Sn) could be extracted relatively easily from their ore minerals, giving rise to the ‘Bronze Age’, beginning perhaps 9,000 years ago. It is likely that the discovery of ‘iron’ smelting was accidental, perhaps around 4,700 years ago, and was possibly linked to the use of Iron-rich material in production of copper. By 3,000 years ago, ‘iron’ was important in human societies, being used widely in making weapons.

To produce ferrous metal in quantity, it’s necessary to find a good supply of a suitable starting material – the ore. Fuel is required to break the ore down into elemental Iron, typically by raising it to a very high temperature, away from air. It’s also important to be able to remove a range of impurities from the molten metal. Improvements in smelting technique have long been driven by pressures of the cost of mining and transporting ore and fuel, but also reflect the availability of different types of ore. Since the Second World War a very unusual type of ore, Banded Iron Formation (BIF) has been mined in enormous quantities in Australia, Brazil, the USA and Russia (among other countries). BIF is a very peculiar sedimentary rock, deposited in ancient seas, more than two billion years ago when the atmosphere and oceans had very different behaviour to the modern world. Because it is available in large quantities (many millions of tonnes per annum) and can be processed quite easily to concentrate the content of Iron, it is now most economic to transport this ore worldwide, rather than smelting at source in areas lacking fuel. Before the use of BIF, most production usually relied upon local supplies of ore, as well as coal, coke or charcoal, and additives to help separate metal and slag. In Britain, we have no BIF, and there’s little in Europe as a whole. The history of ferrous metal production in Britain therefore reflects making do with what was available, and many different types of Iron-rich rocks (ironstones) were used as ore.

Example of 'Ironstone'

The most common natural Iron-rich materials found on the modern Earth’s surface are oxide minerals, carbonates, sulfides and fine aluminosilicates. The oxides may be loose mineral grains from weathering of igneous rocks such as basalt lavas, or may form by reaction of volcanic glass and Iron-bearing silicate minerals (such as olivine or pyroxene) with Oxygen and water, especially during tropical weathering. Two minerals are often formed : Goethite (yellow-brown oxyhydroxide, FeO.OH, about 60% Iron by weight) and Hematite (red-purple-grey oxide Fe2O3, nearly 70% Iron by weight), both contain Iron in an oxidised form, Fe3+, which is not very soluble in water. As anyone who has owned an old car will know, metallic ‘iron’ and steel are also able (and all too willing) to form similar oxidised rust! The insoluble oxyhydroxides and oxides are very widespread as tiny grains in soils, giving brown or red colouration. Accumulation in dense soil layers can produce material suitable for use as ore, but these minerals were also occasionally deposited from warm water flowing through cracks in rock, and may form patches and veins of very high grade ores, such as the red Hematite ‘kidney ore’ of Egremont in Cumbria. BIF contain mainly Hematite, in layers with silica.

However, if the tiny grains are washed away by streams and rivers until they reach still water, they can sink and become gently buried within muddy sediment in a lake, delta-front or quiet-water sea. Here they are effectively cut off from air, and as bacterial decay of organic matter in the mud proceeds, they may again lose Oxygen, releasing soluble Fe2+ ions. In freshwater, the ‘reduced’ soluble Iron may react with carbonate created by bacterial oxidation of organic matter (such as rotting leaves), and can be fixed as an insoluble carbonate mineral called Siderite (FeCO3). This often forms spherical concretions that may become flattened as the muddy layers are gradually squashed by continuing build-up of sediment above. The hardened (lithified) concretions or nodules are grey-green when broken, although may turn brown on weathering. Often found in mudstones between coal seams of Carboniferous age across Britain, these Siderite nodules (called ‘doggers’ by miners) may contain nearly 50% Iron by weight, and were an important source of ore during the Industrial Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Iron-rich mud deposited in seawater may behave differently. The oxides and oxyhydroxides again release soluble Iron as Fe2+ ions, but bacterial activity near the surface of the accumulating sediment removes Oxygen from the sulfate ions in the seawater, creating sulfide ions. This is how disturbed marine muds often come to smell of ‘rotten eggs’, the characteristic signature of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Soluble Fe2+ reacts very quickly with sulfide ions, forming a black iron sulfide, and eventually golden Iron Pyrites (FeS2), with about 45% Iron by weight. This can be used as an Iron ore, but releases acidic sulfur dioxide fumes during processing, and requires both careful handling and large amounts of fuel. However, if deposition of mud is quite rapid, the production of sulfide can stop well before all of the soluble Fe has reacted, and more of the carbonate Siderite will then form, often becoming the main Iron-bearing mineral in shallow marine ironstones.

Iron may also be found in pale green hydrated aluminosilicate minerals (containing Al, Si and water), these are members of the Clay Mineral and Chlorite groups, called Berthierine and Chamosite, typically containing about 25% Iron by weight. How these minerals form is still not well understood, despite many studies of ancient and modern ironstones (Kearsley 1989; Young, 1989; Mücke and Farshad, 2005; Clement et al., 2019). There are probably several different origins. Some may be formed by soluble Fe reacting with the white clay mineral Kaolinite within the mud, or from insoluble Fe oxides reacting with Al and Si hydroxides. Some may form by tiny crystals growing within a slimy gelatinous blob or layer, some may grow as crystals directly from water in the mud. Strangely, these minerals also seem to favour growing in layers around a central core, making a concentric tiny egg, an ‘oolith’ or ‘ooid’. When ooids/ooliths are common within an iron-rich rock, it is described as an oolitic ironstone. It is not uncommon to find ironstones that contain aluminosilicates, Siderite, Hematite and Pyrite all together, including within ooliths/ooids – even with evidence that these minerals have replaced each other during or after deposition of the layer.

Rosedale SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) Minerals - copyright Tony Kearsley

Oolitic ironstones are complicated rocks (see figure above). As their content of Iron can vary a great deal, they may or may not prove to be an economic source of Iron, which may also depend upon the other materials that they contain. High contents of Calcium (Ca) may help smelting, but high Phosphorus (P) can contaminate the metal that is produced. The oolitic ironstones mined in Rosedale and around all of the North York Moors typically contain mixtures of Siderite and Berthierine, as well as Kaolinite and the Calcium carbonate mineral Calcite.

The oxide Magnetite (Fe3O4) may also be found in some oolitic ironstones, it contains over 70% Iron by weight. As the name suggests, this mineral is strongly magnetic, unlike almost all of the other Iron ore minerals. It is quite common in Mg- and Fe-rich igneous rocks (formed from molten material), and can occur in massive deposits with a very high percentage of Iron. For example, magnetite has long been mined in Sweden, and was much sought after by both Allied and Axis industries during the Second World War. Magnetite is well known to occur in rocks that have been subjected to burial heating (low grade metamorphism), probably growing as coarser crystals from iron carried through porous rock by hot water.

However, it has also been found (and almost completely mined out) in sedimentary ironstone deposits in Rosedale, it was so rich in Iron. Here its origin is still a mystery, and there have been differing interpretations of when and how it formed. There are several 19th century accounts of the discovery of magnetic ores in Rosedale (Bewick 1861; Wood, 1969; Marley 1871), as well as descriptions of these rocks in the Geological Survey Reports of Hallimond (1925) and Whitehead et al. (1952). From other evidence in the North York Moors, it doesn’t seem likely that these rocks were heated sufficiently to encourage metamorphic magnetite replacement of other minerals, and these are definitely not rocks formed from hot melt. Perhaps the peculiar setting where these sedimentary ironstones accumulated was an important factor in creating Magnetite? The earlier accounts suggested that the richest ore was found within elongate troughs, eroded into the underlying layers. Young (1994) suggested that there were indeed shallow basins where ooliths were deposited, but that the basins had been formed by fault motion at about the same time. Is it possible that stagnant water saturating the sediment within these hollows allowed Magnetite to form, replacing other more-oxidised Iron-rich minerals?

Ironstones deposited during the early part of the Jurassic Period have been extensively mined throughout England and Western Scotland, as described in Whitehead et al. (1952). There is a wider discussion of other ironstones from a broader range of ages, across England and Wales, in Hallimond (1925).

References

Bewick, Joseph 1861. Geological Treatise on the District of Cleveland, in North Yorkshire, Its Ferruginous Deposits, Lias, and Oolites; With Some Observations on Ironstone Mining. London: John Weale

Clement, A. M., Tackett, L. S., Ritterbush, K. A. and Ibarra, Y. 2019 Formation and stratigraphic facies distribution of early Jurassic iron oolite deposits from west central Nevada, USA. Sedimentary Geology 395 C Web. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2019.105537.

Davis, J. R. (Ed.) 1998 Metals Handbook 2nd Edition. ASM International, Materials Park, OH 44073-0002, USA. i-xiv, 1521 pp. ISBN 0-87170-654-7.

Hallimond, A. F. 1925 Iron Ores: Bedded Ores of England and Wales. Petrography and Chemistry. Special Reports on the Mineral Resources of Great Britain. Volume XXIX. HM Stationery Office, London. p 75, plate IV fig. 14.

Hawley, D. 2019 Rosedale – the magnetic ironstone conundrum. Field Excursion Notes. The genesis of geology in York and beyond. Yorkshire Philosophical Society and Geological Society of London History of Geology Group. 25th Anniversary Meeting Thursday 24th October 2019. Downloaded on 3rd December 2020 from: https://www.ypsyork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/HOGG-YPS-YORK-Rosedale-Magnetic-Ironstone-Conundrum-Oct-2019-ONLINE.pdf

Kearsley, A.T. 1989 Iron-rich ooids, their mineralogy and microfabric; clues to their origin. In Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds) Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46:141-164.

Lodders, K. 2010 Solar system abundances of the elements. In: Principles and Perspectives in Cosmochemistry. Lecture Notes of the Kodai School on ‘Synthesis of Elements in Stars’ held at Kodaikanal Observatory, India, April 29 – May 13, 2008 (Goswami, A. and Eswar Reddy, B. eds.) Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. p. 379-417 ISBN 978-3-642- 10351-3.

Marley, J. 1871 On the Magnetic Ironstone of Rosedale Abbey, Cleveland. Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. 19, 193-199.

Mücke, A. and Farshad, F. 2005 Whole-rock and mineralogical composition of Phanerozoic ooidal ironstones: Comparison and differentiation of types and subtypes. Ore Geology Reviews 26:227–262.

Powell, J. H. 2010 Jurassic sedimentation in the Cleveland Basin: A review. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 58:21-72.

Street, A. and Alexander, W. 1994 Metals in the Service of Man. 10th Edition. Penguin Books Ltd, London, UK. ISBN 10: 0140148892

Tylecote, R. F. 1992 A History of Metallurgy 2nd Edition. The Institute of Materials. 1 Carleton House Terrace, London. 255 pp. ISBN 0-901462-88-8.

Whitehead, T. H., Anderson, W., Wilson V., Wray, D. A. and Dunham, K. C. 1952 The Liassic Ironstones. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. pp 47-50.

Wood, N. 1869. On the Deposit of Magnetic Ironstone in Rosedale. Spons’ Dictionary of Engineering, Part VIII (Borings and Blasting), pp 501 – 512.

Young, T.P., 1989. Phanerozoic ironstones: an introduction and review. In: Young, T.P. and Taylor, W.E.G. (Eds.), Phanerozoic Ironstones. Geological Society of London Special Publication 46: ix-xxv.

Young, T. P. 1994 The Blea Wyke Sandstone Formation (Jurassic, Toarcian) of Rosedale, North Yorkshire, UK. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 50:129-142.

Colouring in

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

Have a look at these two digitally ‘coloured in’ historic photographs of our local mining communities in the North York Moors, from 100 years ago.

Photograph by Thomas Smith, courtesy Beck Isle Museum. Photo colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

Our first photograph (above) shows ironstone miners at Sheriff’s Pitt, Rosedale, getting ready for a day of hard labour in 1900. If you look closely you can notice the clothing they wore and the wide shovels they used for helping to move the heavy ironstone and scoop it into the tubs. From the tubs it was taken out of the mine and along to the nearby calcining kilns to remove the impurities to make it lighter to transport via rail on to blast furnaces in the wider region.

Photograph by Joseph Brotton, courtesy Ryedale Folk Museum. Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services.

The second photograph (above) was taken by J. Brotton on the 24 July 1903 – it’s of an almighty crash at the bottom of the Ingleby Incline railway. The incline is a 0.8 mile long stretch of rail to the moor top, which reaches a stonking 1 in 5 gradient at its steepest points. It was here that wagons were carefully drawn up and down the incline by a rope pulley system to allow the transport of ironstone from the Rosedale mines on to Teesside for processing into pig iron, before being transported and used across the country and the world.

Does the colourisation help make the people look more relatable? Does it make the scenes seem more immediate? Does it bring the communities of the 1900s to life?

Photos colourised by: Photo Restoration Services

Crash, bang, wallop

Aside

Land of Iron Volunteer, Adrian Glasser, has been applying his mind to calculating the potential velocity on Ingleby Incline. If you like equations or just want to see photographs of what happened to the runaway wagons – have a look at Adrian’s blog post. He has a way of explaining concepts that takes a lay person along for the ride.

Landscape view of Ingleby Incline today. Copyright NYMNPA.

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3D-ing

Aside

Here’s another reblogged post from Land of Iron volunteer Adrian Glasser. This one is about his photogrammetry turntable prototype – a turntable should make photogrammetry modelling a whole lot easier. The Land of Iron are using photogrammetry as much as possible in order to model the remains of local ironstone industry structures and associated features in 3D (see Land of Iron Sketchfab page).

2D image of (Land of Iron) rusty bolt - from Sketchfab.com

See Adrian’s recent blog post by clicking here.

Goodbye to all that

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Kim Devereux-West – Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant It’s that time already; my two year contract with the Land of Iron is almost over! With only a few days left on the clock I wanted to take a moment to … Continue reading

Short term closure for a good cause

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF ROSEDALE RAILWAY PUBLIC ACCESS ROUTE BETWEEN BLAKEY RIDGE CAR PARK & REEKING GILL
8 JULY – 30 SEPT 2019

Summer is in full swing now and the North York Moors is a great environment to take in a breath of fresh air surrounded by wonderfully diverse and rich landscapes.

In looking at a landscape in the UK it’s always useful to remember that it’s been shaped by people throughout history. Relics of an industrial age in the North York Moors still take visitors by surprise coming across Rosedale Bank Top kilns or the Rosedale East iron and stone kilns; silent majestic structures today overlooking the dale that once roared with the noise of the mining, processing and transporting of local ironstone.

Rosedale Dale Head with railway route and water tower. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale is a highly distinctive landscape; with a bit of understanding it’s possible to trace the influences of the ironstone industry on its shapes. The ironstone ore was found in particularly rich seams at Rosedale, once extracted it was calcined (roasted) on site to purify the ore before being hauled away on the railway network to places such as Teesside. Here it was turned into iron via blast furnaces and used in construction projects across the world.

Rosedale East new mines highlighting the top and bottom trackways to deliver the ironstone into the kilns and to take it away once it has been purified. Photograph courtesy of the Rosedale History Society Archive.

Rosedale kilns and railway wagons, a detail of the process to move the ironstone. Photograph courtesy of the Rosedale History Society Archive.The Rosedale Railway line made mining ironstone at this location both accessible and financially feasible. Today you can still see the line of the railway hugging the hillsides of the dale, which can be traced with the naked eye for up to 16 kms at many points.  Although it has been 90 years since the track closure the Rosedale Railway still retains its allure for visitors to the area, even as nature has reclaimed much of the track-bed area. This natural change in a previously heavily industrialised landscape now long passed its original function has led to a number of issues, including landslips and flooding episodes as wear and tear damage the route due to a lack of maintenance. Soil degradation from so-called desire-lines walked by people have also added to the erosion of nearby ground, further weakening the trackway.

Rosedale East Kilns with Rosedale Railway line in front. The railway fencing has been installed through the Land of Iron LPS. Copyright NYMNPA.

As part of the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership scheme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the David Ross Foundation, we have been hard at work helping to conserve the ironstone heritage and enhance the ecology of the associated landscape. An important part of this is recognising where access for the public can be improved upon so people can experience history in situ. It has been acknowledged for some time that the Rosedale Railway, now an iconic route traversing the original mineral railway route around the head of the dale, was in need of major improvement to maintain its integrity as a public access route.

So the more intrepid local explorers among you may have noticed that the Rosedale Railway route is currently closed from Blakey Ridge car park to Reeking Gill due to temporary construction works. From 8 July until 30 September 2019 this 2km long stretch of the northern end of the Rosedale Railway is undergoing reinforcement to help improve access and drainage capability.

Temporary Open Access Closure Sign

For members of the public the temporary open access closure means taking notice of the signage and barriers. Please keep clear of the works area as there are heavy machines on-site throughout the length of works. Here at the Land of Iron we do appreciate that this may cause temporary frustration for visitors, the summer is the best time to carry out the work before bad weather means machinery could get stuck and sensitive habitats could be damaged – we promise you that it will be well worth it once the works have been complete. The work will ensure long-term stability of the path and improved access for members of the public, including disability access. This will help encourage greater exploration of a hidden landscape gem within the North York Moors and help to ensure that historic features and ecological habitats at this location are cared about long into the future.

For information on the Land of Iron please see our website pages or phone the Land of Iron team on 01439 772700 for exciting volunteer opportunities and to find out what we are up to. If you have any questions please do drop us an email

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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.

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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.