Discovery Story

Two Glasses of Brandy & Water

Skinningrove occupies a unique place in the history of ironstone mining. It was here on August 7th 1848, that the very first mine in Cleveland was opened, producing ironstone for shipment by sea to Bolckow and Vaughan’s Witton Park ironworks in County Durham.  An account of the events leading up to that mine opening appeared in a letter to the Northern Echo written by Mr Samuel Frederick Okey, one of the principal figures involved, almost 40 years later.

Samuel Okey Letter

As a footnote to this story, the following year,1848 James Burlinson agreed to sell his agreement and when asked to name his price replied “a glass of brandy & water” Subsequently this was increased to two glasses.

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 were opened. Villages that had previously numbered their populations in handfuls now counted them in thousands as 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 the total UK iron output.