The History of the Cleveland Mines - South Skelton Pit

South Skelton Pit, or what remains of it, lies just outside Boosbeck village on the road to Charltons. It is marked only by a narrow lane which led to the old mine. As you drive along the road, nothing much indicates the existence of the pit. The two Overmen’s houses mark the entrance from the main road and the Mine Manager’s house, the stables and the ‘winding house’ are also still visible if you know where to look.
‘Van’s Pit’, as South Skelton was known by the miners, was opened around 1870 by Thomas Vaughan, the land being leased from the Wharton family. It was positioned right next to the main railway line that ran from a branch line at Hutton Gate then below the ‘rifle ranges’ in front of Guisborough Hall, over the viaduct in Spa Wood continuing on behind what is now the Fox & Hounds at Slapewath and on to Boosbeck Station and beyond.
As you walk down the lane you pass private houses on your right. Continue further and you will see the Manager’s house, a large brick building standing alone just on your right. On your left you will find the ‘powder house’ which is set on the hillside. Further down to your left you come to the stables, two buildings still in good condition today, of brick and wood construction with a cobbled yard. Continue on and you come to a white shed-size building, its use unknown. In front is the main part of the pit.
Several structures still remain and are used today as farm buildings, the biggest being the winding house for the ‘up shaft’. The ‘down shaft’ winding house has been demolished along with the head gear. In front of the remaining winding house you will find one of the three capped shafts. Each has a plaque situated on a concrete lid, two read, “Unfilled mine shaft, depth 65 metres, diameter 5.1 metres, cover fitted 1985.” The caps have air vents through which the air can be heard escaping.
The third shaft is almost in the village of Boosbeck, on the playing fields near Queens Street, marked only with a small stone and plaque which reads, “Filled mineshaft, depth 90 metres, diameter 3.4 metres, shaft filled and capped 1986”. This shaft had been an air and rescue shaft but was originally one of the two main shafts to the Boosbeck Mine, known locally as ‘Stevenson’s’ or ‘Stivvie’s Pit’ which was opened in 1870 producing its first load in 1872.
The workings run under Skelton Green and Boosbeck, and after the mines were closed down, water in the workings caused a great deal of subsidence in Boosbeck making a large number of people homeless. The site today has been reclaimed and is now a school. Boosbeck Mine was incorporated into South Skelton around the turn of the century. Nothing remains of the pit, some of the locals didn’t know it even existed.
South Skelton Pit was taken over around 1900 by Clay Lane Iron Co, then by Dorman Long just before 1930 until its closure in 1954 due to the import of cheaper, better ore from Australia. In its heyday it employed a workforce of nearly 400 men and boys.
A large spoil heap next to the pits marks the site of a nature reserve and a large pond has appeared, again due to subsidence. The valley in which South Skelton was built was a heavily mined area – between Guisborough and Boosbeck there were a total of 7 pits and with a local brickworks and other related industries, the villages of Boosbeck, Charltons and Margrove Park were established.
If you wish to visit the pit, please remember it is private land and permission should be sought from the owner at the old manager’s house.

Stuart McMillan

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