Roseberry Ironstone Mine
Iron production lay at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution and Roseberry Ironstone Mine is a valuable reminder of the former importance of the Cleveland ironstone industry. It shaped the lives of local people, while iron mined from the surrounding hills helped transform the world in the boom years of the nineteenth century.
Two interpretation panels explain the significance of the mine and of the associated mineral tramway, built to service the mine in the 1880s. The account below is taken from the panels – you can see them in situ at grid references NZ 580 124 (mine) and NZ 579 119 (tramway).
The search for ironstone
By the early 19th century the search was on to find local sources of ironstone to feed the expanding forges and foundries of the northeast. In 1850 the lucrative Main Seam was identified, outcropping nearby at Eston, prompting a spate of new mines across the Cleveland Hills. Roseberry Ironstone Mine was founded in the 1870s although the first phase of production from 1881 was short-lived.
On paper the site seemed ideal: the gently sloping Main Seam lay close to the surface, enabling good access and drainage, and a tramway link was built to the Great Ayton branch railway, a mile to the west. However, a series of setbacks plagued the venture and the mine ceased production in 1883.
Boom and bust
Reopened in 1907, the mine initially prospered, becoming the largest of the three ironstone mines in the Roseberry area. In 1917 it produced 203,594 tons of ore for the blast furnaces of Teesside and by 1919 employed a workforce of 386. However, the global recession of the 1920s brought a slump in iron prices and the mine closed again in 1924, before being abandoned a few years later.
What can you see at the mine site?
The deep tramway cutting which leads to the eastern drift is clearly visible, as is the old powder house where explosives were stored, well clear of the mine buildings. There are also surviving stone engine beds and stable flooring, together with spoil tips and tramway beds.
The Roseberry Tramway
Mine owner and local entrepreneur Hugh Chaytor recognised that success depended on establishing a reliable way to transport ironstone in bulk away from the mine. A branch line from the North Eastern Railway through to Great Ayton had already opened in 1864 and Chaytor set about constructing a tramway from the mine to sidings at Great Ayton.
A line (or ‘’rake’) of two-ton wagons (tubs) was hauled along the tramway by a small locomotive. The loaded tubs were docked at the incline exchange at Cliff Ridge, and then lowered down the steep hill by a cable on a self-acting incline. The weight of the full wagons provided the power to return the empty wagons back up to the top.
The mine closed in 1883, after only two years of production, and the tramline was removed. When the mine re-opened in 1907, a new narrow-gauge line was laid along the old tramway route. As the locomotive had been sold off, instead the tubs were hauled by a ‘main and tail’ rope system from a stationary engine up at the mine. The wagons must have looked like they were moving across the field by themselves – a sight to puzzle anyone watching from Roseberry Topping!
Please note – the mine lies on private property and there is no public access to the site itself.
Roseberry Ironstone Mine, Documentary Survey and Interpretative Topographic Survey (pdf).
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