The North York Moors might not be the first place you think of when it comes to coal mining, but it was actually a thriving industry at the end of the 18th century. Most of the mining areas were located along the high watershed to the south of the Esk valley, like Rudland Rigg and Blakey Moor, but there were also some workings near Danby and Goathland, as well as here in upper Baysdale.
The coal seams were thin, discontinuous, and of poor quality, so they were mainly used for local domestic purposes and lime burning. Armouth Wath is a very isolated location far up Baysdale, where the Flagged Road crosses the Black Hagg Beck. There isn’t much documentation about the enterprise, but a sales notice appeared in the York Courant in March 1803 advertising the sale by auction of the “MANOR and DEMESNE of BASEDALE ABBEY,” which included “a COALMINE supposed very considerable,” suggesting that it was active from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries.
Although three boreholes were put down to find the coal, no coal was recorded. Some speculate that this was done deliberately to keep things confidential, rather than because no coal was actually found. If no coal was discovered, the venture would not have lasted long, but the building of the pannier-men’s tracks, the Ingleby Coal Road and The Flagged Road, show that coal was indeed carried away, implying that the business prospered.
Today, the most visible features of the site are the ruins of four stone-built single-storey colliers’ cottages. There is also a loading bay, a bridge, the spoil heaps of several pits, and at least one adit. There is also another building, which was thought to have been a smithy but lacked any trace of slag or cinders. The quality of the stonework also seems too good for a smithy, so it is speculated this may have originally been a cell for Baysdale Abbey.
- Gill, M.C. “THE NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS COALFIELDS (YORKSHIRE’S OTHER FORGOTTEN COALFIELDS)”. Mining History: The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Volume 17, No. 6, Winter 2010.
- Goldring, Denis. “Along the Esk”. Published by Peter Tufts.