Minutes of the 340th meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday 15th March 2016: Speaker – Peter Appleton ‘Our Northern Heritage’
Peter Appleton retired early and has since led a very active life researching local history, as
a member of Saltburn Photographic Society and as a past Chairman of the North East Audio
Visual Society. All four of his grandfathers came to Cleveland to work in the ironstone mines.
Last October, he published his first book – ‘My grandfather was a Felon’. Peter gave very
entertaining audio visual presentations showing different aspects of our heritage.
The first of eight of these covered the remains of the ironstone industry which existed from
1848 until 1964. A series of photographs of ruins at South Skelton, Kilton, Lumpsey, and
Stanghow, together with images from the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, had pictures
of miners superimposed. Most were Cornish, who moved to the area when there was a
downturn in tin mining. This was presented with background music of Elgar’s Nimrod.
The next was photographs of Fountains Abbey, including of beautiful sandstone and
outstanding workmanship in the construction. Peter explained that he had heard a voice on
this trip encouraging him to take closer photographs of a wooden cross. This was an
emotional moment for him after losing his job of 30 years and he is still moved by the
experience today. The background music was Quanta Qualia by Patrick Hawes.
To the sounds of ‘Puffing Billy’ and ‘Coronation Scot’, we saw pictures and videos of the
North York Moors Railway. This sequence featured both images of trains hauled by steam
locomotives from the LNER, GWR and British Railways eras and of buildings, including loco
sheds, the coaling station, old water tanks and of the handover of the single line token.
Farndale, the ‘Daffy Dale’ was the subject of the fourth sequence. In the floodplain of the
river Dove, daffodils bloom in late March and early April. Peter showed pictures of the
stunning landscape, to the music of Ernest Tomlinson’s ‘Little Serenade’.
To the music of Tempus Vernum by Enya, Peter showed a series of photographs of the
mediaeval Pickering Castle. These featured the stonework of the castle with its gothic
arches and slits for the archers to defend it. They also showed wildflowers, saplings and
lichens in the surrounding grounds.
A feature on a stately home showed Beningbrough Hall in spring. He included pictures of the
walled garden and the orangerie. Those of flowers were particularly striking and included
tulips, magnolia and other blossom.
At Beamish, Peter’s subjects contrasted features from the end of Georgian period including
the waggonway with others from the 20th century including advertisements for Lyons tea and
Spillers Winalot. Many of the more recent features were reminiscent of Peter’s childhood
(and of his audience’s). Among pieces of background music was the ‘Doctor Who’ theme.
The final piece was on the history of the first chemical industry in Yorkshire. Alum was used
for fixing dyes and was manufactured from 1600 to 1870. Manufacturing was a long process
and involved quarrying shale by hand, moving by wheelbarrow and laying in beds with gorse
and broom. After prolonged controlled firing of the shale/wood layers in a 'clamp', the
resulting 'red rock' is steeped in water to produce a liquor. Urine is added to the liquor, as a
source of ammonia, to form alum which is further purified by recrystallisation. After the
discovery of aniline dyes, the need for fixing disappeared and brought production to an end.
In reply to questions, Peter said that he had used Photoshop to adjust the aspect ratio of his
photographs. The remaining ironstone mine buildings are deteriorating quite rapidly. South
Skelton can be seen on a walk between the Fox & Hounds at Slapewath and Boosbeck and
Skelton Park from the sharp bend on the A173 between Guisborough and Skelton.