Chris Scott Wilson                   Writer                                             

©2010 C.J.S.Wilson




Before John Vaughan's discovery, Cleveland ironstone had never been fully exploited. From 1745 J. Cookson's Whitehill blast furnace at Chester-le-Street had been using ironstone from Robin Hood's Bay, and the Tyne Iron Co. from 1800 used stone from the beaches between Saltburn and Whitby. The ironmasters regarded Cleveland ore as dubious, but welcome when available.

    In 1811 William Ward Jackson of Normanby Hall sent six cartloads of stone from Upsall for testing at Lemington and was told it was worthless, then a year later nobody would look at a seam opened by Thomas Jackson at Lackenby Bank. Later cheap Scottish 'Black Band' pig iron precluded the need for a local source until the Witton Park furnaces needed supplies close to home. Bolckow & Vaughan's first move was to buy Skinningrove mines which gave a better yield per ton than Whitby ore.

    Still seeking a cheaper alternative, Vaughan ordered trial drifts in Upleatham Hills but his mining engineer, John Marley, uncovered only the irregular top seam. Vaughan accepted Marley's advice that Eston Hills would be a better prospect. After a refusal by George Jackson for permission to survey his land, the two men walked the hills on 8 June 1850, starting on Lady Hewley's property. To the east on Sir J. H. Lowther's estate they found a naked wall of ironstone sixteen feet thick which could easily be followed. Vaughan wasted no time. On 13 August a trial drift was begun, then three weeks later the first seven tons of ore were run down a temporary tramway to the roadside, carted to Cargo Fleet then sent by rail to Witton Park. When the quality was proved he immediately negotiated royalty agreements with the landowners at 2d (0.8p) per ton, a hard bargain.

    The final solution to Bolckow & Vaughan's problems was building three the first three blast furnaces at Middlesbrough in 1832, quickly followed by six at Eston the next year, only two miles from the mines which were estimated to hold more ironstone than could ever be used. The company's subsequent growth was miraculous. They eventually owned Cleveland, Eston and Middlesbrough ironworks plus a steelworks at Manchester, hematite mines in Spain, Africa and Portugal plus a steamer line to ferry the ore, collieries as well as ironstone mines, farmed several thousand acres of land, made engines, wagons, firebricks and gas, even selling salt hit upon when boring for water at their Middlesbrough works. The fifteen years following the ironstone discovery saw the company's capital rise to £2½  million.

    Bolckow & Vaughan's example was not ignored. Within a year of Eston mines opening, other companies flooded the area, quickly buying up mineral rights and erecting blast furnaces until stacks bristled along both banks of the Tees. By 1865 there were 48 and by 1875 numbered 94. Using open tops, the sky over Teesside glowed red 24 hours a day.

    Middlesbrough expanded to house the incoming workers and their families, builders buying land from the Owners Of The Middlesbrough Estate who continued acquiring acreage further south, ready for future demand.

    In 1853 the town became incorporated, Henry Bolckow becoming first mayor and first president of the Chamber of Commerce. John Vaughan followed his footsteps into the mayor's chair in 1855 and later accepted the Deputy Lieutenancy of Yorkshire. Both men gave time to sit in the courts as magistrates and both were responsible for improvements made to the Tees as members of the Conservancy.

    When acting as mayor, John Vaughan said, “I think it will be allowed that I and my partner have contributed in some measure the welfare of the town and neighbourhood by the establishment of our works.”

    An understatement, but Bolckow and Vaughan were to give much more.


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Gunnergate Hall

between Tollesby and Marton.

John Vaughan's later residence


High Lodge on Tollesby Lane

A reminder of Gunnergate Hall

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