A New Kiln for Rosedale: a poetic perspective – Part 2

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.

MB299 Rosedale Railway, East side c. 1903. Locomotive with loaded wagons, 8 in total for Ingleby Incline top was the maximum load. The derelict cottages were known as High Gill Cottages and probably once housed miners and their families. They were later used as farm storage for straw but have since been demolished.

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

Rosedale Miners. Rosedale Local History Society.

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.

Rosedale East Kilns, mid 20th century?

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.

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