Loftus Iron Company established two blast furnaces on the cliff top above Skinningrove, initially for the purpose of producing pig iron. A railway line connecting to Teesside was in place nearby and goods were transported by this means.
Skinningrove Iron Co Ltd acquired the iron works. During this period the main output was foundry iron and the principal market was in Scotland. Transportation by rail was eating into SICo’s profits so plans for a jetty were developed, with Grangemouth on the River Forth as a destination for transport by sea.
Preparation of an incline started in order to connect SICo’s works with the proposed jetty construction The location of the planned jetty proved to be difficult and several years and substantial resources were spent on this project.
Shipments of iron started from the jetty using a chartered vessel, the SS Runswick.The tides allowed only a brief period for ships to be loaded so work proceeded at a furious rate.
Difficult conditions at the jetty led to the addition of an extra forty feet to its length. Despatch of iron began in earnest in this year with the arrival of two rail cranes. The charter agreement for SS Runswick was terminated and this led to SICo purchasing SS Skinningrove in 1891. Other ships, such as SS Cattersty and SS Hummersea, were also acquired later in the 1890s.
A combination of wartime restrictions and increasing use of iron for the developing steel industry at Skinningrove resulted in the jetty being little used and SICo sold its fleet.
As regular activity resumed, SICo acquired a small fleet of vessels to despatch pig iron from the jetty via the railway incline. shipments were to Grangemouth, with occasional trips to the continent.
Significant amounts of iron continued to be shipped from the jetty in the first half of the decade. However, the sale of SICo’s remaining vessel marked the end of most pig iron shipments and it appears there was little use of the jetty by ships after 1936. By 1939 it was reported that only scrap iron was being brought in by water.
Attempts were made by the Royal Engineers to blow up part of the jetty in order to prevent enemy invasion but they succeeded only in boring a small hole in the side.
This last episode attests to the resilience of a structure that has also been hit by vessels – for example in 1901 and 1933 – and withstood tides, extreme weather and an inhospitable location since the 1880s.
Please note that there was an earlier, wooden jetty on the shore to the east of the present one. This was built to take ironstone from Skinningrove mine by sea to Teesside. It ceased use in about 1860.
Source: Skinningrove Iron and Steel Works by Cliff Shepherd, Industrial Railway Society 2012