A description of the North Riding of Yorkshire





The Climate

The climate of the North Riding varies in different places, being influenced by local circumstances of position, shelter, rainfall, &c. On the coast it is bleak and cold in the winter, when easterly winds generally prevail, and these effects are intensified on the elevated moorlands, but in the summer the air is bracing. The Vale of Cleveland, open to the cold winds of the north and east, experiences a severe climate. On the western moors, with their greater elevation and heavier rainfall, the temperature is still lower, and the snow lies longer on the ground than in the east. In the Vale of York, the air is mild and temperate, except near the moors; the climate too is drier, the rainfall being much less than on the east moorlands, and scarcely half as much as in those on the west.

Soil and Agriculture

The soil of the North Riding varies in different localities, according to the prevailing strata of the district. In the west, Millstone Grit forms the barren moorlands, and also the summits of the higher mountains. These are covered with a thin poor soil, which brings forth little else than heath. Mountain limestone is also largely developed, and may be seen breaking through into lofty cliffs and scars in the valleys. The soil here is a rich loam, thin on the hillsides, but accumulated to a considerable depth in the neighbourhood of the rivers, which wind through the valleys, producing a sweet, green, and nutritious herbage, on which large numbers of cattle and sheep are reared. Wensleydale has long had a wide-spread reputation for the richness of the cheese there made. The broad band of plain in the middle of the Riding rests on the New Red Sandstone, and contains much excellent land, producing the richest grass, turnips, barley, and other cereals. In the east of the Riding, stretching from the Vale of York to the coast, the soil varies. In the Lias formation, which is co-extensive with the district of Cleveland, the soil is cold and heavy. In allusion to its clayey nature, an old couplet says,
                            "Cleveland in the clay!
Bring us two soles and carry one away."

On the moors are vast tracts of uncultivated land covered with furze, fern, thistles, and coarse grass, and extensive morasses and peat bogs, dangerous and often impassable. In the lower grounds there is a fine arable soil. Ryedale, with its rich alluvial soil, and the vale of the Derwent are extremely fertile, and produce abundant crops of oats.

The farms vary much in size in different parts of the Riding, but taken on an average, they run a little over 58 acres; in the East Riding 81 acres, and in the West Riding 38 acres. Compared with English farms in general, those of the North Riding are about one acre above the average.

The total extent of land in the North Riding under all kinds of crops (exclusive of nursery grounds and woods), bare fallow, and grass in 1888 was 863,506 acres, which were held by 14,703 occupiers. The following table exhibits the extent of land under the various kinds of crops in 1887 and 1888

                                                          1887.    1888.
CORN CROPS. Acres. Acres.
Wheat 38,437 48,352
Barley or Bere 61,367 65,282
Oats 85,554 72,386
Rye 1,353 1,894
Beans 6,235 4,370
Peas 4,900 5,798
Total corn crops 197,846 198,082
Potatoes 11,246 11,659
Turnips and Swedes 58,121 57,413
Mangold 2,379 2,096
Carrots 110 111
Cabbage, kohl, rabi, and rape 3329 3,331
Vetches, &c 3,504 4,333
Total green crops 78,689 78,943
Clover, sainfoin, and grasses under rotation 71,846 70,096
Permanent pasture or grass not broken up in rotation 488,958 492,319
(exclusive of heath and mountain land)
Woods and woodlands 49,106 47,572

Yorkshire holds a distinguished place among the cattle breeding counties of England, and for its horses, both draught and thorough-bred, it stands unrivalled. The fairs are visited by buyers from all parts of this country and the continent; and from the training stables of the North Riding have gone some of the fleetest and finest race horses of modern times. The old Yorkshire stock of cattle and sheep have been almost entirely superseded by the introduction of Tees Water and other shorthorns, and the long wooled Leicester and South Down sheep. The following table shows the number of horses, cattle, &c., in the North Riding. in 1887 and 1888:-
                                                                   1887.    1888.
No. of horses used solely for agricultural purposes 26,026 25,511
No. of unbroken horses and mares kept solely for breeding 14,358 15,043
Total 40,384 40,554
No. of cows and heifers in milk or in calf 54,111 50,600
No. of other cattle above two years 42,527 40,435
" " " " under two years 65,824 62,039
Total 162,462 153,074
No. of sheep one year and above 379,887 368,092
No. of sheep under one year 258,933 249,898
Total 638,320 617,990
No. of pigs (exclusive of those kept in towns and by cottagers) 48,990 51,618

* From Agricultural Returns of Great Britain.

The Minerals

Mineral Wealth. - Engl and owes its commercial supremacy among the nations of the earth to the possession of two minerals - coal and iron. Crœsus possessed immense treasures of gold, but when he displayed them before Solon, the latter remarked, " Sir, if any other come that hath better iron than you, he will be master of all this gold." Of coal, the North Riding possesses only a few seams of very inferior quality, and generally too thin for profitable working, It has been thought that the coal measures of South Durham extend into the North Riding, but Sir Roderick J. Murchison, K.C.B., Director-General of the Geological Survey, has shown that, should such be the case, the coal must lie at so great a depth that it would be impossible to win it. Experimental borings have been made in the neighbourhood of Thirsk without obtaining any indications of the mineral. The total quantity of coal raised in 1887, the last year for which returns are available, was 4,190 tons, of which the average price at the pit's mouth was 6s. 6d. per ton.

Ironstone is abundant in the Cleveland Hills. The area, in which the deposits are found, extends from Ormesby to the coast, and southward to Rosedale and Eskdale. It is little more than forty years since the first mine was opened; but the frequent discovery of iron slag on the hills proves clearly that the ore was worked at a remote period. Mr. I. Lowthian Bell, in a paper on the Manufacture of Iron on the Tyne, Wear, and Tees, read before the British Association, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in 1863, tells us that in the latter half of last century, ironstone was gathered on the coast, at Robin Hood's Bay, and conveyed by water to the Wear, and thence carted to the furnace at Whitehill, near Chester-le-Street. In the early years of the present century, the Tyne Iron Company obtained it, in a similar way, from the beach between Scarborough and Saltburn. It was not, for some time, suspected that these water-worn masses of ironstone had fallen from the cliffs above; but about 1815, the gatherers of the ore began, according to Bewick, to tear up the stone from its bed at different parts of the coast.

The existence of ironstone among the east Moorlands had long been asserted, but its discovery did not take place until 1836, when its position at Grosmont, near Whitby, was pointed out by a Mr. Wilson, a partner in the Tyne Iron Company. The same year an organized system of working the seam was commenced by the Whitby Stone Company, and a year or two later the ore was wrought at Kettleness and Staithes. The seam at Grosmont was 4½ feet thick, and yielded ultimately from 80,000 to 100,000 tons a year.

In 1849, or thereabouts, the massive bed of Cleveland ore was discovered by John Roseby, a practical miner, in the valley of Skinningrove, and from this discovery has resulted a remarkable developement of the district, unparalleled in the history of any British industry. This valuable seam, the richest in England, extends over an area of about 500 square miles, stretching from the Tees to Rosedale and Eskdale, and gradually diminishes in thickness towards the east and south. Its geological position is at the top of the "Middle Lias," or Marlstone rock, above which are the Upper Lias shales, containing beds of alum rock and seams of jet. This main seam is most fully developed at Eston, near Middlesborough, where it varies in thickness from 12 to 17 feet. At the Chaloner mines, near Guisborough, it has a thickness of 13 feet; at the Liverton mines, near Loftus, 9½ feet; and at Ailesbury, near Swainby, 6 feet. It contains numerous well-known fossils, expecially Pecten Æquivalvis, from which it is often designated the Pecten bed.

Above, and separated from the main seam by the Upper Lias or alum shales, is another seam, called the Top Bed or Dogger Bed, which varies in thickness from a few inches to twenty feet. The ore yields a higher percentage of metallic iron than that of the main seam, but the erratic variation in the thickness of the bed renders it of less commercial value. It is, however, worked at a few places, and extensively in Rosedale, where the seam is about 12 feet thick, and supplies ore to the blast furnaces at Grosmont.

The average quantity of ore raised per annum from the various mines of the North Riding is about six million tons, and it has been computed that at the present rate of consumption the main seam will be exhausted in 60 or 70 years.

The ore varies much in richness in different localities, and even in the same locality, as will be seen from the following table, which we extract from the "Coal and Iron Industries of the United Kingdom," by R. Meade

     NAME OF MINE            ANALYST            Metallic Iron
per cent.
Eston Mr. A. Dick 33.62
Normanby Mr. I. L. Bell 31.42
Upleatham Ditto 31.97
Belmont Professor F. A. Abel 32.78
South Bank Ditto 35.46
Hutton Low Cross (a) Mr. W. Crowder 28.84
Ditto (b) Ditto 27.45
Ditto (c) Ditto 34.75
Hutton Low Cross Mr. Richardson 33.09
Cleveland (Raw) Mr. Jno. Pattinson 29.09
Ditto (Calcined) Ditto 40.81
Rosedale (Black Stone) Mr. I. L. Bell 45.43
Ditto (Blue Stone) Ditto 49.20
Ingleby Stone Ditto 36.95
Grosmont (Avicula Bed) Mr. Charles Tookey 25.80
Ditto (Pecten Bed) Ditto 27.21
Dogger Bed (a) Ditto 25.50
Ditto (b) Ditto 17.34
Ditto (c) Ditto 31.71
Spa Wood Thomas Allison 31.00
Kirkham Ditto 34.00
Sleights Bridge Mr. W. Crowder 29.83
Grosmont Tunnel Ditto 28.60

In 1888 there were 36 mines in the Cleveland and Whitby district (exclusive of those permanently closed), which we tabulate, with their owners and managers or agents :-

  NAME OF MINE.      SITUATION.                      PROPRIETORS.              MANAGER OR AGENT
Aysdalegate Guisbro' Exors. of W. Barningham -
Boosbeck Redcar Stevens, Jaques & Co. H. Cuthbertson
Brotton Saltburn, Brotton Morrison & Co. J. Farrow
Carlin How Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Bell Bros., Ltd. A. Varty
Chaloner Guisbro' Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson
Cragg's Hall Saltburn Pease & Partners, Ltd. W. Moore
Eston Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson
Farndale Kirby Moorside Farndale Iron Co. -
Grosmont Grosmont (York) Bagnall & Co. J. F. Lloyd
Huntcliff Saltburn Bell Bros., Ltd. D. W. Dixon
Kilton Saltburn Kilton Ironstone Co. E. Hamilton
Lingdale Guisbro' Pease & Partners, Ltd. C. Heslop
Liverton Loftus Cargo Fleet Iron Co., Ltd. W. Walker
Lofthouse Loftus Pease & Partners, Ltd. W. Moore
Longacres Saltburn Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson
Lumpsey Saltburn Bell Bros., Ltd. A. L. Steavenson
Normanby Middlesbro' Cargo Fleet Iron Co., Ltd. W. Walker
North Loftus Saltburn Skinningrove Iron Co., Ltd. A. Varty
Ormesby Middlesbro' Cargo Fleet Iron Co., Ltd. W. Walker
Park Skelton Bell Bros., Ltd. A. L. Steavenson
Port Mulgrave and Near Saltburn-by-the-Sea Palmers's Shipbuilding A. S. Palmer
Grinkle and Iron Co., Ltd.
Rosedale, East Pickering, York Carlton Iron Co., Ltd. T. Kirk
Rosedale, West Pickering, York Carlton Iron Co., Ltd T. Kirk
Skelton Guisbro' Bell Bros., Ltd. A. L. Steavenson
Skelton, North Saltburn Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson
Slapewath Guisbro' Sir B. Samuelson & Co., Ltd. W. Charlton
Spa Guisbro' Gjers, Mills & Co. F. Tate
Spa Wood Guisbro' Weardale Iron & Coal Co., Ltd. J. R. Crone
Stanghow Saltburn Stanghow Iron Co., Ltd. E. Hamilton
Upleatham Saltburn Pease and Partners, Ltd. C. Heslop
Main Winning Saltburn Pease and Partners, Ltd. C. Heslop
East Side Saltburn Pease and Partners, Ltd. C. Heslop
West Side Saltburn Pease and Partners, Ltd. C. Heslop
Upsal Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson
Wilton Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. J. Thomson

IRON MANUFACTURE. - The discovery of the rich bed of Cleveland ore led to the erection of blast furnaces for the extraction of the metal, and so rapidly did these rise that within five years there were 23 in the district, out of which 21 were in blast, and produced 84,500 tons of pig iron that year. In 1860 the number of furnaces had increased to 33, of which 25 were in blast. The iron made amounted to 248,665 tons. The success which had attended the establishment of these works induced other companies to enter the field of competition, and also stimulated the existing firms to add to the number and capacity of their furnaces. During the next five years 32 furnaces were added to the number previously built, and the pig iron produced by the 53½ furnaces in blast for the year 1865, was 486,421 tons. In 1870 there were 74 furnaces, 67 in blast, and 916,970 tons of pig iron made; in 1875, 87 furnaces, 73 in blast, and the quantity of iron made, 1,240,243 tons. In 1880 there were 72 furnaces out of 91 in operation, and the iron produced amounted to 1,666,156 tons. In 1837, the last year for which Returns are available, there were in the North Riding 19 works, with 91 furnaces (67¾ in blast for the year), at which 1,841,444 tons of pig iron were made.

We append a list of works and owners, with the number of furnaces built and in blast in 1887:-

       NAME OF WORKS.                            OWNERS.                            FURNACES.
Built. In blast
1 Acklam, Middlesbro' Stevenson, Jaques, & Co. 4 4
2 Ayresome, Middlesbro' Gjers, Mills, & Co. 4 4
3 Cargo Fleet, Middlesbro' Cargo Fleet Iron Co., Ltd. 5 3
4 Clay Lane, Eston Junction Clay Lane Iron Co., Ltd. 6 5
5 Cleveland, South Bank, Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan, & Co., Ltd. 8 7
6 Coatham, Middlesbro' Downey & Co. 2 -
7 Eston, South Bank, Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan, & Co., Ltd. 3 2
8 Glaisdale (Yarm) South Cleveland Iron Works Co., Ltd. 3 -
9 Grosmont, (Whitby) Charles & Thomas Bagnall 3 1
10 Lackenby, Middlesbro' Downey & Co. 3 3
11 Linthorpe, Middlesbro' Exors. of the late Ed. Williams 6 4
12 Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan, & Co., Ltd. 2 2
13 Newport, Middlesbro' Sir B. Samuelson & Co. 8 7¾
14 Normanby, Middlesbro' Jones, Dunning, & Co. 3 2
15 Ormesby, Middlesbro' Cochrane & Co. 5 3
16 Redcar, Middlesbro' Walker, Maynard, & Co. 4 3
17 Skinningrove, Carlin Howe Skinningrove Iron Co., Ltd. 2 2
18 South Bank, Middlesbro' Bolckow, Vaughan, & Co., Ltd. 8 6
19 Tees, Middlesbro' Wilsons, Pease, & Co. 5 4
20 Tees Side, Middlesbro' Tees Side Iron & Engine Works Co., Ltd. 4 2
21 Thornaby, Stockton William Whitwell & Co. 3 3
Totals: 91 67¾

FINISHED IRON TRADE. - " The puddling furnace and the rolling mill," says a writer, "inevitably followed in the train of the blast furnace, and as the number of the latter multiplied, so also did the former increase." As early as 1840, Messrs. Bolckow & Vaughan established works at Middlesbro' for the manufacture of bar iron; and, in 1860, there were three firms making the finished iron, having an aggregate of 116 puddling furnaces, and. 16 rolling mills. The following 10 years was a period of unparalleled prosperity in the iron trade, and the puddling furnaces increased to 529, and the rolling mills to 30. The capabilities for production soon outstripped the demand, prices declined, and many firms were utterly ruined.

LEAD. - This metal, which ranks next in commercial importance to iron, occurs in considerable abundance in the mountain and carboniferous limestones of the western moorlands, and is extensively worked in Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, and Wensleydale. In the first named dale lead mines were worked in the reign of Henry VIII., and probably much earlier. For the last few years the market has been very depressed, and there has consequently been a diminished production. The total output of dressed ore in 1887 was 2,850 tons, valued at £19,950, from which 2,030 tons of lead were obtained, worth about £12 17s. in the London market.

A copper mine was wrought at Middleton Tyas, about a century ago, and the metal is also known to exist in the neighbourhood of Richmond, but not in sufficient quantities to be profitably worked. Vast beds of aluminous shale abound on the coast and among the Cleveland hills, from which alum was, formerly extensively manufactured; but this trade is now chiefly carried on in the East and West Ridings. Brine was discovered a few years ago in the neighbourhood of Middlesborough, and is pumped from a considerable depth, and used in the manufacture of white salt and alkali. Jet, a bituminous or mineral coal, is found at several places along the coast in the neighbourhood of Whitby, from which trinkets are largely manufactured in that town.

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Data transcribed from:
Bulmer's North Riding
Scan, OCR and html software by Colin Hinson.
Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.