The New Drift, Eston Ironstone Mine

Woke up to rain again and with more rain forecast, it was a hard choice where to go on my morning stroll. Then my notes reminded me that John Marley died this day in 1891. That settled it, I headed for the Eston Hills.

John Marley was born at Middridge Grange near Shildon in 1823. He first started work in the collieries of Durham and then as a surveyor for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. By 1850 he was employed by Bolckow & Vaughan who operated various collieries and mines. It is reported that in that year Marley and his employer John Vaughan were out shooting rabbits in the Eston Hills. In a quarry, previously used for roadstone, Marley tripped down a burrow and he came face to face with the purest ironstone he had ever seen. That discovery was to kickstart the extraction of ironstone in the Eston Hills and transform Middlesbrough from a little backwater to the ‘Ironopolis of the North’. Eston ironstone has been made into steel that has been transported throughout the world. The Sydney Harbour bridge uses ironstone from Eston. The mine was abandoned in 1949 when the lease expired which the lessee, Dorman, Long & Co., decided not to renew. A total of 63 million tons had been extracted in its 99-year history. John Marley died a very wealthy mine-owner and president of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

There were three drifts to Eston Mine. This is the New Drift which dates from 1853. I’ve rendered the photo in black and white as that hides the litter, a sad sight along with the burnt out cars and devastation caused by the off-road drivers made worse by the recent rains. The Eston Hills was a regular lunchtime training run for me in the 1990s during my time at I.C.I. Wilton. I don’t remember it as bad as today.
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