Saturday 14 June 2014


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

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.