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Ayton Banks alum works

A Scheduled Monument in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4889 / 54°29'20"N

Longitude: -1.0924 / 1°5'32"W

OS Eastings: 458888.120388

OS Northings: 510777.315267

OS Grid: NZ588107

Mapcode National: GBR NJTJ.8M

Mapcode Global: WHF8L.6F1K

Entry Name: Ayton Banks alum works

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020347

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31343

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Great Ayton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Great Ayton Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes the remains of the alum quarries and associated features
in the west face of Cockshaw Hill. As well as the quarries, the monument also
includes structures used for the initial processing and transportation of the
The Ayton Banks works was of short lived duration with a working period
documented between 1765 and 1771. The works closed when more profitable alum
deposits were exploited along the north east coast.
The alum was extracted from shales lying beneath a sandstone overburden. The
first stage of extraction was to remove the sandstone, revealing the alum
shales which were then quarried in a series of terraces. As the workings
expanded the quarry face retreated eastward leaving a broad quarry floor.
The initial processing of the alum took place on the quarry floor. Here piles
of alum shale were burnt in what was known as a calcination clamp. The remains
of at least one such clamp survives on the quarry floor as a mound of partly
burnt shale up to 4m in height. Further down the slope to the west are
earthwork remains of other processing activities, including steeping pits and
a channel known as a liqour trough, which carried processed alum as a liquid
from the quarry to the alum house located outside the monument to the west.
The remains of two trackways which linked different areas of the works also
survive. Further remains of structures such as workshops, stores and a
laboratory are thought to survive below ground level in the quarry floor.
The monument lies in a wider area of industrial activity which includes
remains of mining of both jet and ironstone.
A brick water tank is not included in the scheduling, although the ground
beneath it is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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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 works at Ayton Banks survive well and significant archaeological
remains are preserved. As a relatively short lived inland alum works, the
monument offers scope for the study of early technological processes of the

Source: Historic England


Title: Ordnance Survey 1st Edition 6"
Source Date: 1853

Source: Historic England

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