Saturday 15th March 2014 Away day Report

Seven members had a very successful foray into N.W. Durham to look at several assorted industrial sites. Most travelled to the meeting place via the A68 which passes through Tow Law; at 9.30 am on a cold and windy Saturday morning Tow Law was like a post-Apocalyptic film set.

From the meeting place at the original site of Rowley Station we moved to Castleside picnic site (NZ078484) which is on the site of a lead smelting mill, only part of the sharply-curved flue of which remains on the hillside above. From here we walked along a track to Dene Howl and the site of Healeyfield lead mine (NZ068486), at one time a very extensive site of mining and mineral processing and now a farmstead. First we climbed onto a linear spoil heap which led us to a single-storey building which was apparently the office originally then later a cottage. Now very derelict but at least the roof was intact. Extensive clearance of the mine site over the years has left only the winding house and a few scattered remnants of what was once a very productive site with a shaft about 400 feet deep.

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The winding house at Healeyfield.

The winding house is square in plan, built of stone with brick details, and retains quite a good corrugated sheet roof. It appears to have been much altered during its life working for the mine but is still in reasonable condition although empty and disused with no remains of engine foundations. Judging from the blocked openings in the front wall it may have both wound and pumped the shaft originally.

Nothing could be seen of the infilled shaft, Cornish pumping engine, blacksmith’s shop or even the Horse Level.

Walking further on, passing a couple of metal detecting enthusiasts, we followed the road down into a narrow valley where a sharp bend on the hillside is supported by a well-conserved limekiln. Eventually leaving the road to follow a track into the wood we found an old leat which we followed downstream to a suitable sheltered place for lunch while Dave scouted ahead by traversing across a cliff face above the raging torrent of the local stream.

And so we came to Hisehope Groove (NZ054487) which has been a pumping shaft for the southern end of the Silvertongue vein. Clinging to the steep valley side is a pit for a water wheel which has operated a rocking beam driving spear rods in an adjoining shaft now some 100 feet deep but covered by a steel grill. The shaft is dry although only a few yards from the stream and possibly the water was lifted into a drainage adit which may be the one now outflowing near the afore-mentioned limekiln.

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Hisehope Groove pumping shaft. Wheel pit to left, support for rocking beam in middle, grated shaft to right.

As Dave was with us some modest pruning of obscuring vegetation took place to permit improved photography of this well preserved and interesting site. Presumably because of the restricted nature of the site the pit is in line with the shaft so to allow the rocking beam to align correctly it has been set at a distinct angle in plan, its pivot point being a most interesting structure at one end of the pit which has been partly curved to accommodate the water wheel.

The outline of a nearby ruined building was associated with the site, and some distance away is a stone pier and wall either side of the stream which may be part of it as well, or not as the case may be.

P1380580Silvertongue Mine. The two shafts and the platform with possible water wheel pit at upper left. Ore chute and second water wheel behind the intrepid explorer on the right.

From here we next headed north down a path and over a footbridge past a hovel in a clearing, complete with “Beamish Museum” landrover outside. Eventually we found Silvertongue Mine (NZ057492), a most intriguing and extensive site on the south bank of the River Derwent and well off the beaten track. Ruined stone buildings with a leat water wheel pit occupy the east end of the site from which a level route heads west along the narrow river bank below the steep valley side. The mining site comprises a stone platform perched high up the hillside next to a shaft covered with a steel grill although it appears run-in. Below the platform appears to be a small wheel pit then lower down another and larger run-in shaft. Nearby is a possible ore chute then another and larger wheel pit beside the river, possibly used for winding and crushing. Between the two main parts of the site are several small rectangular pits which may indicate determined efforts made to recover as much of the mineral as possible as the vein had a high silver content. There are also retaining walls and a couple of potential bouse teems but altogether an inconclusive site worth much more investigation. Apparently there is an adit here but we didn’t find it.

After a lengthy trek back to Castleside we drove through re-vitalised Consett, its dirty and grimy industry replaced by clean and shiny shopping malls, to reach Stony Heap (NZ147515) with its fanhouse and minewater treatment lagoons. A shaft, 160 feet deep, was sunk here in 1938 to enable working of the Main Coal seam from Eden Colliery. It was expanded to become a man-riding, pumping and ventilation shaft while coal was raised via the original site dating from 1844. Closure came in 1980 since when the buildings were all demolished and lagoons built to treat minewater flowing out of a drift; 14 coal seams were worked here and ironstone too. But bats took over the large concrete fanhouse which was left intact, apart from the motor room. The fan was a single-inlet Sirocco of which the outer casing at least still remains, and its massive concrete house had airflow reversal capability.

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Stony Heap fanhouse. Capped shaft to left beneath green pole. Fan casing is the green curved metalwork to right. Motor room has been demolished. Fanhouse said to be infested with bats which is why it remains.

As twilight darkened we found the big block of lime kilns at Bantling (NZ151519) built by the Stanhope and Tyne Railroad Co. in 1835. These are large and built of a superior design and construction as befitted a premier railway company, as it thought of itself at the time. Recently conserved, the kilns can be admired from a viewing platform complete with iron seats and explanatory signs among abandoned ironstone mining heaps lining the hillside.
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Bantling lime kilns.
The final three members then graced “Charlie’s Chippy” with their presence in Annfield Plain before a moonlit journey home.

Simon Chapman

Hon. Sec.

CMHS.

50th Anniversary of the end of Cleveland Ironstone Mining

On the 17th January 1964 North Skelton, the last Cleveland Ironstone mine, closed for the last time. This was commemorated in the film ‘End of an Era

Simon Chapman of CMHS will be giving a talk on Saturday 1st February at 2pm at the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum at Skinningrove entitled ‘Foggo’s Place in Cleveland Ironstone History.’

Also on Monday February 24th at 7:00pm at The Bull, North Skelton
There will be a screening of End of an Era plus speakers

Tony Nicholson
Local historian and former University Lecturer
who has made a life’s study of local mining communities

Peter Appleby
Skelton History Group

Craig Hornby
Maker of the film ‘A Century in Stone’

Eston Mines 1864

Teesdale Mercury 11 May 1864. ESTON MINES, CLEVELAND.

Three or four miles from Middlesbrough lie the Eston mines, worked by the great ironmakers, Bolckow and Vaughan. Here is the commencement of that Cleveland district which has added 1,700,000 tons annually to the iron wealth of the country. Here the eve can easily pick out from most points of approach the well-known Eston Nab, the beacon tower of the old invasion days, which marks the rise of the Cleveland hills in these parts. At the foot lie massive Cyclopian works, where the famous initials, “B and V” rival in their way the celebrated “W. B.” of Allenheads. Other works also lie adjacent. Here the railway line is flanked by prodigious mountains of scoria and ironstone piled up by Messrs Bolckow and Vaughan. Here is an instance of the grandeur of outline which might be effected by thought in the disposition of the scoria. The immense boulders of slag which, lifted up to any altitude by hydraulic or pneumatic hoists with the greatest ease, enable them to make any disposition they please of ore and scoria. Indeed, ironworks, which on every hand except the Messrs Bell’s, bear the appearance of slovenly craturism, or volcanic action, might, at comparatively small cost, be made to wear the aspect of huge fortresses of industry, flanked as the Romans were never able to flank their military erections. These ironmasters might build walls which no China wall could rival, and which could form places of defence against which no French Armstrong guns could prevail, and far more impregnable than any upon which Lord Palmerston is expending the wealth of the nation to create. The first part of the mine you enter runs a few fathoms under the Eston Nab. Those who enter this passage will find it to lie over a muddy tramway, in which you will be told to step carefully within, but as you cannot see it, you probably won’t; and as you slip over, the old man who is following you arrives at you, and with untimely momentum, propels you into a bed of clay, which a spring has softened for your reception. Not noticing your disappearance, he exclaims, ”That’s the way, sir, keep straight on.” At the end of the passage, whenever you arrive there, you find two vast fires blazing under arches, that have exactly the appearance of two ovens large enough to bake all the bread in Cleveland. These are the mouths of the airshaft, and the fires are devised to stimulate a current for the preservation of the miners. When you return you go down one of the entrances to the great mine. The passage is wide, lofty, and the ground firm, and for a mile or more brilliant gas-lights burn on either side. Middlesbrough is not half so well lighted. The mine is a sort of city in the interior of the mountain. The air is pure, and the man of taste would rather take a house there than in the town, did houses exist there. Where the tramway occupies all the path, refuge recesses are cut at every twenty yards, into which persons passing can step while the carriages of ore go by. These were made by order of an Act of Parliament, but they have been whitewashed by the proprietors, which gives them a light and cheerful appearance. Farther in the mine, where the gas ceases, you travel by lanterns. The deep excavations on either side are supported by stout pillars of wood, and in other places short blocks of four pieces at right angles are laid one upon another until they meet the roof of the mine, and constitute supports of prodigious strength. The pillars, composed of these layers, extend in places so far and so deep that they present the appearance of a dense Norwegian forest. Notwithstanding these precautions, the lofty roof of the mine in many places presents ugly bulges, threatening a dangerous descent. In some holds men are pecking their way with prodigious vigour. Fathoms deeper in the mine you come upon vast corridors which present a majestic appearance, looking exactly like the huge and solemn crypts of some enormous cathedral. The bed of ironstone being seventeen feet thick, it enables the engineer to excavate fourteen, and in some places you enter a passage as lofty and as beautiful in its grim way as the nave of York Minster. In one of them two miners were at work in either corner of one of these vast halls of stone, and as their candles burnt against the wall where they stood plying their tremendous boring chisels, as long and massive as spears, they appeared in the distance like two saints worshipping, or like the Roman soldiers in the tomb of Christ, or guarding some sacred charge below. Lead-miners seem to work in a confined orifice, pitmen will peck in an eighteen-inch seam; here in this well-ordered ironstone the men work in caverns as imposing as an Indian temple. Four hundred and eighty men work in the Eston mines; they consume a ton of powder a week in blasting, and send out 2,800 tons a-day of iron ore. They perforate the rock for blasting, not by holding the chisel and a man driving it by striking it with a hammer as blacksmiths strike at a forge in the way lead-miners do, but the iron-miners propel it by personal force, making a triangular channel from three to four feet in depth, which they fill with powder and blast. Fifty fathoms below the ground you find the rock embedded with countless sea shells, and all the wonders of the earlier world are there disclosed to sight. What myriads of years must have elapsed since these little creatures crept into their adamantine and subterranean beds! If any one would study the wonders of geology, let him go into the heart of a mine to do it. All the facts of books, of lectures, and diagrams are poor, pale, tame, and second-hand compared with the impressions he will receive there.—The Colliery Guardian.

CMHS goes caving

As CMHS is a BCA registered club , we can apply for access to certain sites via the Council of Northern Caving Clubs, so permit in hand we descended on Stump Cross caverns to visit Mongo Gill.  As we intended to do a through-trip we first located both Shockle Shaft and North Shaft and rigged them. The group descended Shockle Shaft which clearly showed drill marks where miners had entered.WD 012

We made our way through Ladder Cavern and 1792 Cavern before reaching areas that have been enlarged by lead miners, these passages contained stacked deads and occasional remains of supports. After Judsons Cavern we made a short detour into ‘Initials Passage’ although whether the names burned on the roof were from the miners or later exploration I don’t know. After a spot of lunch in J.J. Cavern we came across the challenge of a low squeeze through water (as most trip reports do the trip the opposite way, it was with some relief we confirmed we were in the correct place and wouldn’t have to go back through again) The impressive natural formations in this part of the cave were photographed by John Dale
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The last section was within the Jamie mine and again there was much evidence of mining activity as we entered the Luckstone Level. North Shaft was eventually located, sadly our rope was found to be 4m from the bottom of the pitch on a ledge, but luckily we had a good climber to retrieve it. So then it was just a matter of everyone getting out, de-rigging and checking out back at Stump Cross caverns.

mongo

Here’s Aaron in his SRT kit, so thats one new addition to the rope-ready CMHS members list.