ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

Saturday, 14 June 2014

SIL HOWE: ABANDONED WHINSTONE MINE



The Cleveland dyke is an intrusion of dark, hard rock which runs in a more or less straight line from the valley of the Tees near Eaglescliffe station for 31 miles as far as Fylingdales Moor near Robin Hood's Bay. The dyke consists of whinstone, an igneous rocks formed by the solidification of molten material. It supposedly gets its name from the sound it makes when hit by a hammer.

The dyke has been dated to 26 million years old, meaning it was formed in the Miocene period geologically speaking. Whinstone has been mined near Beck Hole since the early 1800s. Its usage was mainly as roadstone, although some was also utilised for building work. The dyke is between 30 to 40 feet wide, extremely deep and bounded by about 3 to 6 feet of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, in this case sandstone transformed by heat into what the miners called 'China rock' because of its white appearance.

Driving along toward Beck Hole from the Goathland turn off of the A169, the huge scar of the whinstone quarries in the dyke can be seen to the right of the road. Hidden away to the left in the heather is a small, ruined building and beside it is a tunnel. This is the entrance to an adit which leads 1770 feet and meets the dyke deep beneath the moors, at which point the mine workings are around 140 feet below the quarry floor. The mine was known as Sil
Howe.

The entrance to the adit, dated 1940
When operating, this tunnel was laid with a 42" gauge track on which the mined stone was transported from the workings to a crushing plant above Goathland station. The track was graded so that normally the trucks would run by themselves downhill. The empty trucks were hauled back into the mine by horses. The mechanical crusher at Goathland was powered by a steam engine for most of its working lifetime.

The crushing plant above Goathland station
Under the window of the ruined mine offices the motto 'LEAD THOU ME ON' can be seen carved into the stone. The date 1899 can also be found nearby. However, the entrance to the tunnel is dated 1940. The mystery of the discrepancy between these two dates can be solved by a quick glance around the site. A round bomb crater, now filled with water, shows that damage was caused here. During wartime lights were set on the moors to draw enemy attention away from the large centres of industry at Teesside. This may well be the reason for the bomb crater.

The miner's motto 'LEAD THOU ME ON'
The ruined mine offices and the bomb crater
 The mine had ceased working by 1951, although interest in it from cavers and industrial archaeology enthusiasts has increased. It seems in the early 1990s it was possible to enter the mine, but now it is stoved in about 5m from the entrance. York Caving Club have recently applied to work on the adit to make it accessible once again, indeed a vertical access shaft has already been created and capped off by a locked lid.

The photograph below shows the mine in 1920. You can just pick out three miners and the railway track coming out of the tunnel. It gives some idea of scale.


The source for most of this article was Peter Wainright's excellent booklet The Mines and Miners of Goathland, Beckhole and Greenend. Peter goes into details of mine ownership, the fates of individual miners and anecdotes and newspaper reports concerning Sil Howe. It can be purchased from Whitby Bookshop.


6 comments:

Marnie said...

Fascinating, as always. Never heard of whinstone before. That mine entrance can't be where the horses pull the carts out? - it looks so small! Is there any danger in the area of collapsing ground from unstable subterranean shafts now? They're finding that a bit over here at the moment - not sure why they're all of a sudden being disturbed and collapsing. Maybe ground shift? I'm sure something like that mine would be a caver's dream!

Chris said...

Hello Marnie.

I've added a photo to the blog showing the mine in 1920. Apart from anything else it gives some idea of scale with regard to getting pit ponies etc inside.

It's a very grainy image, but if you squint a bit you can see three blokes standing outside the entrance

Rosemary Bailey said...

That is an awe-aspiring bit of history there. Its timeline can be epic, stretching across generations and social configurations, in which the constant variable is technology. It will be interesting to track the mining se-tups from when it was founded, then perhaps laid out and analyzed and readjusted for newer landscape set-ups and new equipments in tow. Just to see what else we can draw from its history. Thanks for sharing that! All the best!

Rosemary Bailey @ Wabi Iron & Steel Corp

Jim Hands said...

I have spent many hours in this old mine and would love to get back in there. The duchy of Lancaster owns the land I believe and will not allow access and ordered the entrance filled or blocked to stop people gaining access.

The main mine is an amazing place to explore but will warn anyone that does get in there that you should not venture to the left at the end of the entrance tunnel as it is very unstable.

If you would like to know more contact me.

Jim

eddystaples said...

Hi. I am Eddy Staples the Apprentice Supervisor for the North York Moors Northern Apprentice team. The team and I recently finished installing some steps at Goathland station next to the old stone crushing site and I wondered if it would be possible to use your picture on a Facebook post to show how the old site was?

Kind regards,
Eddy.

David Perry said...

Chris
I've been in that mine several times during the 1980's. Parts of it are huge as you probably know - a double decker bus would have no problem in some parts. I was lucky enough to find one corner of the mine had a small recess and there were some old cigarette cards, damp and marked left on a shelf. They were left there. I regret not taking any photographs - it was always going to be; "the next time".