David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant
A Brief Historic Note
The second and final part of this anonymous but momentous poem, transcribed by the local historian Malcolm Bisby, describes the inherent industrial appeal of ironstone production in the North York Moors and the bustling economy that it brought. Picking up where Part 1 finished, two years have passed since the collapse and the kilns which have replaced the experimental kiln at Rosedale burn brightly in a never-ending production cycle. They roast (calcine) the ironstone, mined close by, which is then sent on its way to Teesside via the railway.
The physical remains of the kilns today, at Bank Top and at Rosedale East, are tangible reminders of the way populations alter the landscape. Although the remains are quiet today, they once thronged with working people (including children) each with their job of work to do as this poem so clearly reminds the modern reader.
The poem ends on an eerily prophetic note as the poet notes that, as long as the furnaces burn, there will be an industry present along with ‘peace and plenty’. The ironstone industry within the North York Moors burned fiercely but briefly, largely coming to the end of ironstone mining and calcining processing by 1929.
After the poem we provide a unique insight into the industrial design of the experimental kilns, and those that replaced it, provided by Malcolm himself.
‘Discussion between two friends on the New Kiln while building, noting a few of its’ misfortunes, 1865’
Transcribed by Malcolm Bisby
43. And if this plan at first they’d tried,
T’would saved them much expense.
For two full years have passed away
Since first it did commence.
44. But part of her is burning now,
By day as well as night,
And men and boys are there engaged
To keep this kiln alright.
45. There’s men to tip, and boys to spray,
And coolers there likewise,
There’s red and black men I do see,
And men of every size.
46.There’s horses, and their drivers too
Are ready at a call –
A oft I hear the drivers say
Their wages are too small.
47. The calcine men work down below,
They’re men that look so funny,
And there’s no doubt but all those men
Work very hard for their money.
48. And far under the ground they are,
Beneath this rugged hill,
The miners – and if not for them,
The works would soon stand still.
49. The miners from all men are known,
In the Beer House they talk louder,
And while at work they have to use
Both iron steel and powder.
50. And many think that mining is
A very easy trade
But for their work the miners are
Not much more than half paid.
51. And deputies there are also
To see that all is right,
To prop and timber is their work
The mines to keep alright.
52. With axe and saw they pop about
To see who wants a balk,
And so they hear all kinds of news –
They love a bit of talk.
53. And platelayers there are at work,
Laying inroads and points.
They go round with hammer and nails
To straighten all foul joints.
54. If the platelayers go away,
There soon is something up.
“A wagon’s off the road,” they shout,
“Come, bring t’big bar and sup”
55. We have a furnace in the mines
Which burns both night and day,
For the good of miners when at work
To draw powder smoke away.
56. And two old men attend the fire –
We call them both “Old Dads,”
I wish you like wise for to know
We have some small trap lads.
57. We likewise have two noble men,
In the mines to see fair play,
To see that all men get their rights
There’s one there night and day.
58. Dog Whippers they are called by trade,
The Horse Drivers well they know
They are to tell them what to do,
And where they have to go.
59. The manager comes round to see
That all things do keep right,
I’m sure that he’s got much to do,
In keeping all things straight.
60. So now you’ve heard what there’s to do
Beneath the rugged hill,
But if I was to mention all,
I many a page could fill
61. To bring my story to a close
On the works no longer dwell,
The weighmen I must mention now
Before I bid farewell.
62. Those are the men we have to trust,
Masters on them depend,
And if they’ll do what’s right and just
They’ll never want a friend.
63. I took a walk the other day
Once more this kiln to see,
And to find this kiln completed,
Delight it was to me.
64. I long have wished to hear the news,
That I have heard today,
The men say she is finished,
The boys they shout, “Hooray.”
65. Great Praise is due to the workmen,
For workmanship and skill
For everyone that see her say
She is a noble kiln.
66. All praise unto the gentlemen,
Who the money had to pay,
Some said that she would beggar them
But they have won the day.
67. For now she’s burning briskly,
Some hundred tons a day,
‘Midst all the expense there has been,
She’s sure to pay her way.
68. And long may she keep burning on,
Our gentlemen to cheer,
And while she’s doing well for them
The workmen need not fear.
69. Our prospect’s bright for future years,
There’s work for young and old.
When you’ve heard all I’ve got to say,
There’s still one half untold.
70. And long may peace and plenty reign,
Within this lovely dale,
When the Poet’s tongue lies silent,
In death’s cold chilling vale.
Malcolm Bisby’s historical commentary
This fascinating poem clearly gives some useful clues as to the construction date and design changes relating to the so called “New Kilns” (or ‘Iron Kilns’). The term ‘New’ used in this case could also mean ‘of different design’ – for these kilns appear to have been a unique, one-off experiment – doubtless hoping for a more efficient calcining process in terms of fuel cost, through put rate of more uniform heat distribution.
However, this very crude system was doomed to be phased out by the gradual development of the Gjers design of calcining kiln (development of this design of kiln began around 1865) – compromising a large upright cylinder: constructed of wrought iron plating, internally lined with a refractory brick lining.
This design of kiln was by far more efficient and easier to operate and was usually sited adjacent to the blast furnaces that they were supplying. The claimed coal to ‘raw’ ironstone ratio was one ton coal to 25 tonnes of raw ironstone.
Malcolm will be presenting the final part of his lecture series (‘Tales over Tea‘) on the Rosedale Ironstone Industry at 2pm, Wednesday 18 July at Danby Village Hall.