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.

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