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How Eston's mines changed history
The last shift at Eston Mines. Picture: Images North East
The last shift at Eston Mines. Picture: Images North East

In a series of radio programmes, BBC Tees' Diane Youdale was joined by established history and heritage author Paul Menzies, as she tried to rediscover Teesside and County Durham.

Paul aimed to reignite a love for our area, and the outdoors in us all.

They visited sites of old photos and took a new snapshot, to compare the past with the present.

During their travels, they found themselves in Eston...

Paul Menzies talks about Eston

Whether you live or just visit here, the Eston Hills are impossible to miss.

They are a wonderful scenic border along the southern edge of Teesside, in stark contrast to the industry in the valley below.

About Paul
Paul is the author of a series of books made up of old pictures from around the area
The series of books are called 'Images of England'
BBC Tees' Diane Youdale has been out and about with Paul, finding out the history of our area

Yet how many people know that the Eston Hills were once an industrial site themselves?

John Vaughan

The story goes that in June 1850 when John Marley, mining engineer and John Vaughan, wealthy industrialist, took a walk into the hills where they came upon an outcrop of iron ore.

Whatever the truth, this discovery changed history in our region.

Now on a damp autumn afternoon, Diane and I were following in their footsteps to discover more about Teesside's own 'Gold Rush'!

Events at Eston moved fast.

Eight weeks later iron ore was being quarried and sent to iron works throughout the region.

Eston Mines, 2009.
Eston Mines, 2009. Picture: Images North East

Within 20 years new iron works stretched along the south bank of the Tees, creating new communities like South Bank and Grangetown as well as halting the economic decline then facing the new town of Middlesbrough.

Housing crisis

Thousands of workers attracted by the prospect of employment, arrived in the area.

At Eston the housing crisis meant that miners obtained lodgings wherever they could, even in barns on local farms.

Others slept rough or in tents.

To ease the situation new cottages were built east of the old hamlet of Eston. The settlement was called California in recognition of the 1849 Gold Rush in America!

New mines, Trustee and New Bank soon opened up. The hillsides were transformed with tubs of stone continuously sent down the inclines every day.

'Around Cleveland'

Up to 1600 men were employed and the underground workings stretched three miles, almost to Guisbrough. By 1881 Cleveland was one of the world's major iron and now steel producing areas.

Reaching one of the entrances to the old mine we thought about the miners, surely the true legends in this story.

Knocked up at quarter to five each morning, they walked up into the hills, collected their explosive before entering a mine where it was so dark it took some time to adjust their eyes.

It was hot, it was dangerous - 375 deaths occurred in the ninety nine years the mines were open, the youngest aged only eleven.

Eston Mines helped change the history of Teesside but at a price!

A look back at Stockton's history
15 Dec 09 |  History
Rediscovering Saltburn's history
15 Dec 09 |  History
Diane Youdale takes in Teesside
15 Sep 09 |  Nature & Outdoors
Presenter Profile: Diane Youdale
16 Jul 09 |  TV & Radio
In pictures: 'Around Cleveland'
15 Dec 09 |  People & Places


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