|Until 1999 the museum was called ‘The Tom Leonard Mining Museum’. The museum gallery is now named the Tom Leonard Gallery. Born at Charltons, a small mining village, in 1922, Tom was educated at the neighbouring village of Boosbeck, before starting work in the South Skelton Mines offices. He continued his education at evening classes, and developed an interest in writing.
Tom served in the Royal Air Force, and on his return to civilian life he took up his old job at the mine offices. He also started writing articles and covering sporting events for the now defunct Cleveland Standard.
He was offered a job with the Evening Gazette, and until his illness he wrote as a District Reporter covering all aspects of life in the area.
Outside his work Tom was involved in local football; a trophy for sportsmanship being named after him. He was also an active member of the Lifeboat Committee.
It was Tom Leonard’s dream to open a museum to preserve, display and interpret this important part of local history to visitors. As a result of this he started collecting tools and memorabilia associated with the mining industry of Cleveland as the mines in the area closed.
For a number of years the collection was on display in the Gun Room at Gisborough Hall. However, a chance conversation between Tom Leonard and his old friend Tom Robinson (who owned the land where the old Loftus Mine was sited) brought the collection to its current location, the mine where ironstone was first mined in Cleveland. It took some five years work by a team of interested people to clear and prepare the Loftus Mine site, which had stood derelict since the last tubs of ore had been removed in September 1958.
Sadly Tom Leonard died before the Museum opened in Skinningrove in 1983.
The Regiment also provided the pall-bearers and sounded the last post at his funeral in 1981, a great honour for a man who had never actually served with the regiment.