Park plans to save industrial heritage of Yorkshire’s Moors

A project is being launched in one of Yorkshire’s national parks to conserve its industrial heritage following a railway revolution that coincided with a boom in mining for iron ore.

Senior officials at the North York Moors National Park Authority have unveiled plans for the scheme to preserve a series of former mines which provide an insight into the area’s ironstone industry dating from the 19th century.

The initiative will also outline the growth of the railways which coincided with the arrival of the ironstone mining in the 1830s.

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The project has an added resonance as the national park faces up to the biggest challenges in its 60-year history from a wave of new developments aimed at exploiting gas and mineral reserves.

It is hoped the move to highlight the industrial heritage from more than 170 years ago will help widen the public’s understanding of its importance while also conserving former mining sites.

The national park authority’s director of projects, Julie Lawrence, said: “The North York Moors has a long imprint of human activity that has shaped the landscape over the years including alum, jet and coal mining.

“However, the speed and scale of the exploitation of ironstone in the 19th century must surely have been one of the most dramatic transformations as relatively remote farming communities were turned into bustling sites of industry almost overnight.

“Signs of this industrial heritage are still scattered through the national park but work is needed to ensure that they are appreciated and will remain here for future generations.”

The mining industry helped fuel the industrial revolution in the north of England after the first ironstone was discovered in 1836 at Grosmont. The operations spread throughout the Esk Valley, Rosedale, Grosmont, Goathland, Ingleby Greenhow and Kildale areas, and the landscapes were changed dramatically by the extraction, processing and transportation of the ironstone.

The growth of the industry coincided with the arrival of the horse-drawn Whitby to Pickering railway. The line was designed by George Stephenson and was used to transport the ironstone to Whitby and then on to Wearside and Tyneside.

The railway was upgraded in the 1840s to accommodate steam trains which further aided the transportation of ironstone.

An industrial heritage project was first mooted in the late 1990s, although the latest plans have been drawn up over the past six months.

The exact details of the scheme, which has a working title of This Exploited Land, have yet to be finalised, but it is hoped it will increase conservation and provide training for local communities.

Public drop-in sessions are being organised, the first of which will be at Rosedale Reading Room on March 19 from 5pm to 8pm.

Other events will be held in Grosmont, Lealholm, Ingleby Greenhow, Goathland and Danby throughout March and April.

The project has been unveiled as the North York Moors National Park is faced with potential mining schemes to exploit its natural reserves in the 21st century.

The biggest proposed development would see a potash mine created which could employ up to 5,000 people.

Three separate gas projects are also being considered for Thornton-le-Dale, Westerdale and Hackness.