Cleveland Ironstone Mine

Cleveland Ironstone Mine, Skinningrove was in the manor of Loftus during the Saxon times and was held by Earl Siward, who Shakespeare immortalised as Macbeth.

The History of Cleveland Ironstone Mine

It passed to Hugh de Abrincis, Earl of Chester after the Norman Conquest but soon after this the land came into the estates of William de Percy who in 1133 erected Handale Priory which is situated approximately 2 miles to the south and was `staffed` by Nuns of the Benedictine Order until the dissolution in 1544. Other landowners have included the Stewart and the Moore families and also Sir Lawrence Dundas, who was an ancestor of the Earl of Zetland.

The locality became prominent in the 17th Century when deposits of Alum were discovered in the area. Alum is a source of aluminium sulphate, which at this time was used in the process of dying cloth, tanning hides and making parchment. There were several sites around the area and it is said that the alum trade was classed as England?s earliest chemical industry. Many workers came to the area from Italy to bring their experience in working and mining alum. The industry thrived from 1615 to c1870 when the mines became uneconomical due to technological advances elsewhere.

History of the mine: Originally, the mine was opened as Skinningrove Ironstone Mine in 1849 following the discovery of a large seam of ironstone by Frederick Okey who had noticed coloured stones on the beach. He was informed by an acquaintance, local landowner, Anthony Lax Maynard that there were similar stone formations on the east side of the valley, at Skinningrove. Oakey leased the land to Messrs Roseby on 23 September 1847 (legend has it that the price paid for the lease was a glass of brandy and water) and less than a year later, the lease changed hands again and was taken over by a professional ironstone company, Blockow and Vaughan who were instrumental in establishing the workings of Skinningrove Ironstone Mine. In 1850, the lease was transferred to a company called Losh, Wilson and Bell who ran the ironworks at Walker on Tyne and in 1865 was taken over yet again by Pease and Partners (a Quaker family company who made huge efforts to provide the miners with decent living conditions). This was also the time that the railway was brought to the area. Pease and Partners reopened the mine as ?The Loftus Mine?.

This period in history was a boom time for the ironstone mining industry in Cleveland, there were a total of 84 mines operating in the area and as a knock on effect numerous ironworks and railway carrier systems were established alongside the mines so that the iron ore could be processed and shipped. Whole new villages sprang up around various iron related operations in Cleveland, however, Skinningrove was already established as a small fishing village, but expanded rapidly with the influx of experienced miners who had been ?head-hunted? from Durham, Staffordshire and Cornwall and also labourers who came mainly from East Anglia and Ireland in a bid to escape the poverty of their respective homelands.

The mine closed in 1958, this was forced by the influx of imported iron from Norway and Australia. The last mine in the area was North Skelton, which closed in 1964.

The mining community in Skinningrove: Housing for the miners was provided by the mine owners and consisted of stone terraced rows. However, they also provided schools, hospitals, chapels and working men?s clubs.

The houses would be of the two up-two down variety and had substantial gardens so that the families could grow vegetables etc. Communities such as these became closely supportive of each other. The whole village would mourn for the death of a miner. When there was a mining accident, the whole population not already down the pit would wait at the entrance of the mine for the victim to be brought to the surface. If he was stretchered up head first, he was still alive but if it was the sight of his boots that first met the waiting crowd, the whole village knew that the injuries had been fatal. Should the man?s injuries be so bad that he was unable to carry on working, he and his family would be expected to leave their colliery house with a month?s notice – a harsh reminder that the mine owners were not benefactors but businessmen.

General hobbies among the miners would include things such as whippet racing, hare coursing, football, quoits, darts, dominos and pigeon keeping. Skinningrove had it?s own Silver Band (same as Brass Bands but instruments were silver). Chapel was attended regularly by all and became a focus for social gatherings and outings as well as the all important religion.

As with most dangerous jobs, miners had their fair share of superstitious beliefs, particularly working far beneath the ground, where it was feared that they were in an uncomfortably close proximity to Hell and the Devil. Whistling underground was strictly taboo – there was always the possibility that it would summon up Satan himself. If a miner encountered a woman with a squint, a wall-eyed (blue eyed) dog or a pig before he went to work, he would turn around and go home (losing his day?s wages) rather than risk the tremendous bad luck and possible injury or death that could befall him should he go down the mine to carry out his shift.

In 1910 there was a train crash when a runaway locomotive hit the buffers at Skinningrove.

During the World War I, the community suffered German Zeppelin raids on Skinningrove Works. Two hits were scored, although the damage was not major. Skinningrove was targeted because the local manufacture of iron was essential to the war effort. During both World Wars the residents of Skinningrove used the drift entrances as air raid shelters. During the wars, production was difficult due to the shortage of labour after men had joined the armed forces.

Origins of Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum: The museum opened in 1982 and was founded by Tom Leonard. Tom grew up within the nearby mining community of Boosbeck and spent his early years working in the offices of the South Skelton Mine and then joined the RAF. On returning to Civvy Street, he began writing articles and covering sport events for the Cleveland Standard and on the basis of this was offered a job as a reporter for the Evening Gazette, a job which he enjoyed until forced to retire through illness.

Tom spent many years collecting items relating to the history of ironstone mining and the social history of the area. It had been his goal to open a museum to give visitors an insight into the way of life in the mines and mining communities in past generations. Eventually, with the help of his friend, Tom Robinson who owned the land where the then deserted Ironstone Mine stood, the collection was moved there with the intention of setting up the Museum. Sadly, Tom died before the Museum opened but his family and friends continued to dedicate their time to turning the derelict buildings into what we see today. The Museum opened its doors in 1983 and since then, it has continued to develop with the aid of volunteers and trustees. The entrance to the North Drift was reopened in 1995 and this was instrumental in giving visitors as near a realistic insight as possible into what it would be like entering the atmosphere of a working mine.

The Museum has received national recognition over the years (including the National Gulbenkian Award for Most Outstanding Achievement with Limited Resources) and due to the hard work of everyone involved in its maintenance and development, has also won funding which helps the work to go on.

The Haunted History of Cleveland Ironstone Mine

There are reports of a number of the locations at the Cleveland Ironstone Mine being highly active.

In the North Drift – it is said that a number of people on the daily tours have reported the sighting of a man that walks left to right across the tunnel near to the entrance. This apparition has appeared not only in daylight to the museums visitors but also by other groups who have investigated the site.

A number of animal sounds have been heard around the mine and a cat has been heard on numerous occasions in the drift.

In the Experience, numerous sounds have been heard. For instance, footsteps walking on pavement stones have been heard above the furthest part of the the Experience although for years it has been covered by about 12 foot of mud. Sounds from below the experience – in mines now cut off and blocked off for safety reasons – have also been heard, particularly the sound of something being dragged across gravel.

In the sound-room next to the Experience audibles have been heard. Crying and moaning, a litte boy saying hello and tapping sounds have all been recorded at times.

In the Ambulance room a spirit is said to reside and numerous people have reported seeing the shadow of a man moving around within the Ambulance room and the blacksmiths that is attached to it. Upon investigation, no-one has been in the room.

This room, it is said, also produces a loud rumbling sound that has been picked up on a cameras microphone when the room had previously locked off – no source for the noise had ever been found.

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