Saltwick Nab alum quarries


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017779

Date first listed: 25-Feb-1998


Ordnance survey map of Saltwick Nab alum quarries
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This copy shows the entry on 23-Oct-2018 at 02:25:43.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre


National Grid Reference: NZ 91425 11161, NZ 91521 11243


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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 scheduling. 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 included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29537

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing