Alum works at Kettleness


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 83322 15969

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 Kettleness is unusually complete and preserves evidence of all procesess associated with the industry including quarrying of the raw material.


The monument includes remains of the Kettleness alum quarries and associated features. It lies on the promontory projecting north into the North Sea, 7.5km north west of Whitby. As well as the quarries, the monument includes an alum house and associated processing features. The alum quarries and works were worked intermittently from 1728 to 1861 and were amongst the last alum works in the region to be opened and the last to close. The works and part of the nearby village were destroyed by a landslip in in 1829 but by 1831 were working again. The quarry was cut into the east and west sides of the promontory, creating a north facing working face of up to 600m in length and 50m in depth, from which the grey alum shale was extracted. The quarrying started at the northen end of the promontory and progressed southwards. As the quarry floor expanded the alum house and processing activities were established on the ever increasing space in the quarry floor. 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 at the base of the quarry face. The next stage was steeping which occurred in stone lined pits, some of which survive on the east side of the quarry floor. The raw liquor produced was sent to the alum house by timber channels known as liquor troughs which ran through a stone tunnel. The alum house stood on a level terrace on the west side of the quarry floor. Stone footings for the alum house and for a set of tanks on the terrace above are visible. Remains of other structures such as culverts, workshops, offices, stores and a laboratory are partly exposed and are also thought to survive below ground level throughout the area of the scheduling. An embanked and partly revetted roadway crosses the monument from east to west. A series of rutways used to guide horse-drawn wagons and post holes from harbour facilities survive in the intertidal area on the west side of the promontory, although these are not included in the scheduling. The bench is 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:
Legacy System:


Cranstone D, EH Alum industry step 1-4 reports, (1997)


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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