Alum quarries and works 800m north of Sandsend Bridge


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

North Yorkshire
Scarborough (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 85770 13250

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 Sandsend 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.


The monument includes remains of the alum quarries and associated features on the coastal cliffs north of Sandsend. As well as the quarries, the monument also includes structures used for initial processing and transport of the alum. There are three discrete quarries within the monument, extending northwards along the coast for 1km. The earliest quarry, which was working from 1733, was the closest to Sandsend at Gaytrees. The other two, at Ness End and Deep Grove, were excavated later as the extraction progressed along the coast. The quarries were cut into the east and north east-facing coastal cliffs where alum bearing shales were exposed. Once the cliffs were cut back, processing of the alum was carried out on the enlarging quarry floors. The first stage of processing was calcination, remains of which survive as areas of burnt shale, particularly on the sea edge of the central quarry. The next stage was steeping which occurred in stone lined pits, some of which survive throughout the quarry floor. A mid-19th century map shows steeping pits located in the Deep Grove quarry. In the later use of the site the raw liquor thus produced was stored and then sent to the nearby alum house by timber channels known as liquor troughs, part of which survive within a stone tunnel. Remains of other structures such as workshops, offices, stores and a laboratory survive on the quarry floor. Remains of other structures are thought to survive below ground level. At the the northern quarry, Deep Grove, cement stone was also extracted from mines and processed at a mill south of Sandsend. Cement stone was mined from 1811 to 1933 and overlapped the last 50 or so years of alum production. A now disused railway line was built through the length of the monument after the quarries went out of use. This was the Middlesborough to Whitby line which was completed in 1883 and closed in 1958. Embankments, cuttings and supporting walls associated with the railway still survive within the monument. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the surface of the old railway line and the trail markers; although the ground beneath these features 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Sandsend Trail, (1996)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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