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Owing to Stokesley fair being held this week the meeting was transferred at short notice to Stokesley Methodist Chapel meeting room, which was found to be a suitable venue.

 Alan Richardson  ‘Ironstone Mining at Skinningrove’.

Mr Richardson joined the Skinningrove Ironstone mine in 1952 as an apprentice fitter & worked there until it closed.  He subsequently worked as a mining engineer at Boulby Potash mine.  His talk was deeply informative & he brought photographs & artefacts from ironstone mining.

In 1847 ironstone was found at Skinningrove and the first ironstone  drift mine was built. The mine was owned by industrialists Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan. The iron ore was transported from Skinningrove to the blast furnaces on the River Tyne for smelting. In 1850 John Vaughan and a geologist from Darlington called John Marley discovered a main seam of ironstone in the Eston Hills. In 1851 the railway network was extended to transport the iron ore from Skinningrove to Middlesbrough for smelting.  The mine was bought & developed by Quaker mine owners Pease & Partners & the village grew from an isolated hamlet into a model industrial township, the remains of which are still visible today.   About 850 people were employed at Skinningrove mine.

Mining was a hard & dangerous occupation.  The only light available initially was from candles but these were superseded by acetylene lamps fuelled by calcium carbide Holes in the rock were drilled by hand for blasting using gunpowder.  The miners wore only cloth caps for protection but these were eventually replaced by helmets made from papier-mâché.  Continuous pumping was required to keep the mine dry.

Methane was released from seams of jet within the ironstone layers. From 1848 to 1956 there were no explosions in the mine because the unscreened lamps, which were used extensively in the mine, ignited the methane before it could accumulate. After the introduction of safety lamps some 17 ironstone miners were killed in the years 1957 to 1959 from explosions where methane had reached a dangerous concentration.

The miners worked piece-work in small teams with each miner placing his tally in his skip as he filled it. At the surface the skip was weighed & payment credited to the tally owner. The aggregated ore was examined & rock removed, for which the miners were collectively fined. To ensure fairness, the weighing of skips & rejected rock was supervised not only by the mining company but by the  miner’s union.

Skinningrove mine finally closed in the late nineteen fifties when imported ore from South Africa & Australia was not only cheaper but had a higher iron content.   Thus, more than one hundred years of ironstone mining at Skinningrove came to an end.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Dick Hawking