The Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum was founded in 1983 by a group of volunteers acutely aware that the remains of the ironstone mining industry, which had once formed the basis of Cleveland’s growth & prosperity, were rapidly being lost, forgotten or destroyed and who set out to celebrate the heritage of that industry by the preservation, conservation and display of artifacts, photographs and documents relating to it.
The original basis of the Museum was the collection of mining relics accumulated by local journalist Tom Leonard, but this has been supplemented & added to over the years as facilities have been improved and the site expanded, culminating in a large scale refurbishment during the winter of 2008/09 which saw the addition of an improved shop and reception area, a small cinema and a fully equipped first floor learning and meeting room (the Tom Leonard Gallery). The Gallery is available for hire for meetings, lectures and classes – please contact the Museum if you would like further details or to make a booking.
The history of ironstone mining in Skinningrove as depicted by the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum is of local, regional, national and arguably even international importance – the Sydney Harbour Bridge was fabricated on Teesside from steel produced at Skinningrove and every arch has the word Skinningrove stamped on it.
The discovery of the Main Seam of Cleveland Ironstone at Skinningrove in 1847 was the key that unlocked the industrial potential of Teesside. Over the next 20 years men flocked to Cleveland from the four corners of the United Kingdom, as one after another a further 80 mines opened – coalminers from Durham, Northumberland & Scotland, tin miners from Cornwall and farm labourers from Norfolk joined forces to make Cleveland the most important ironstone mining district in Victorian & Edwardian England responsible for one third of UK iron output.
Villages that previously had numbered their populations in handfuls counted them in thousands. Middlesbrough itself, described by William Gladstone himself as an “infant Hercules”, expanded from 7600 inhabitants in 1851 to almost 40,000 in 1871 and over 90,000 in 1901 as a direct consequence of the expansion of the iron & steel industry.
Many visitors come to the Museum seeking information about family members who may once have worked here or in one of the other local mines, and we do our best to help, although in most cases information is limited, unless the individual concerned had the misfortune to have an accident.