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Saltwick Nab alum quarries

A Scheduled Monument in Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4876 / 54°29'15"N

Longitude: -0.5902 / 0°35'24"W

OS Eastings: 491426.52607

OS Northings: 511161.566449

OS Grid: NZ914111

Mapcode National: GBR SJBK.03

Mapcode Global: WHG9Y.XG4M

Entry Name: Saltwick Nab alum quarries

Scheduled Date: 25 February 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017779

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29537

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Hawsker cum Stainsacre All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes remains of the alum quarries and associated features at
the western end of Saltwick Nab, 2km east of Whitby. As well as the quarries,
the monument also includes steeping pits and cisterns used for initial
processing and a slip way lying on the foreshore which was part of the harbour
facilities. The monument is divided into two separate areas, one including
both the quarry face and floor and the other including the slip way.
Alum was first quarried at the west end of Saltwick Bay in 1649, and this
continued intermittently until operations ceased in 1791. The alum was
processed at an alum house which was erected in 1770 to the east of the
monument; previous to this the alum was shipped to South Shields for
processing. The remains of this alum house are not included in the scheduling
as it is being destroyed by coastal erosion and its long term survival cannot
be assured. The quarries were established on promontories at either end of
Saltwick Bay, although only the earlier, western, area is included in the
The quarry was cut into the north slope of the promontory, creating a working
face of up to 180m in length and 35m in depth, the lower 20m of which contains
the grey alum shale. At the foot of the quarry face is a terrace representing
the last stage of quarrying. The first stage of processing was calcination,
remains of which survive as areas of burnt shale. The next stage was steeping
which occurred in stone lined pits, some of which survive on the east side of
the quarry floor. In the later use of the site the raw liqour thus produced
was stored and then sent to the nearby alum house by timber channels known as
liquor troughs. Remains of other structures such as workshops, offices, stores
and a laboratory survive on the quarry floor. Further remains of other
structures are also thought to survive below ground level. On the immediate
foreshore south of the promontory is the remains of a slipway. This is built
of large stone blocks, although it is no longer connected to the land.
There are a series of rutways used to guide horse drawn waggons across the
intertidal area running parallel to each side of the promontory, although
these are not included in the scheduling.
The steps are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Alum is a chemical used principally in the textile industry for fixing dyes.
It is not found in a natural state in Britain but can be manufactured from
some types of shale. During the medieval period in Britain alum was imported,
mostly from Italy. Domestic production began in the north of England in the
early 17th century. The industry flourished in the north for 200 years until
the mid-19th century when it was overtaken by new techniques using shale from
coal mining, whilst after 1880 aluminium sulphate replaced alum for most
industrial purposes. The last English aluminium works (at Goole) closed in
1950. Approximately 50 alum sites have been identified in England. Most were
along the Cleveland and Yorkshire coast. Other early sites are known on the
south coast, particularly in Dorset and Hampshire.
Alum works comprise two main monument types: the quarry where extraction and
initial processing took place, and the alum house where final processing took
place. Alum shale was extracted from quarries sited on steep inland hillsides
or coastal cliffs. Initial processing on the quarry floor consisted of
calcination by burning shale in clamps, and the production in settling pits of
alum liquor. The liquor was transported to processing works in sealed casks or
through wooden channels known as liquor troughs. Larger quarries possessed
inclines and haulage gear and sometimes harbour facilities. Stores, workshops
and laboratories can also survive. Evidence of secondary industries such as
epsom salts and iron silicates production is also preserved at alum works.
The alum industry was the first chemical industry in Britain. Its quarries and
works illustrate the early stages of the industry and the technological
advances through the period known as the Industrial Revolution. The alum
industry also offers important information about wider changes in social and
economic conditions during this period. The large scale of the industry's
workings also mean that its remains are today a major component of coastal
landscapes. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional,
chronological and technological range of this class of monument, is considered
to merit protection.

The alum site at Saltwick Nab preserves important evidence of the quarrying
and processing activities. In addition to the 19th century workings, remains
of the early industry and its development will be preserved. The site offers
important scope for the study of the development of the alum industry.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Marshall, G, Saltwick Alum Works an Archaeological Interpretation, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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