Peak alum works


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018146

Date first listed: 29-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Peak alum works
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Dec-2018 at 11:01:35.


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

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Fylingdales

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Stainton Dale


National Grid Reference: NZ 97311 02180


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 works at Peak survive well and significant archaeological remains are preserved. The site has a long history of alum production and 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 the standing and buried remains of an alum works located on the top of the coastal cliff on a level terrace formed by a gill to the north and south. The remains of a wide range of processing activities survive as buried remains, structures exposed through archaeological excavation and standing buildings. The first alum works was established in c.1650 and work continued there until 1862 although this was not a period of continuous activity. The bulk of the visible remains are from the later periods of alum production in the 19th century and represent the most sophisticated technology. This later alum works included a range of buildings arranged north to south located on a lower platform at the east of the site in which boiling, cooling and roaching took place to produce the purified alum. To the west of these buildings were reservoirs and a cistern for storing raw alum liqour (alum shale was processed at the quarry face and the resultant material brought to the works was known as alum liqour). On the higher ground to the west are the remains of a grinding mill and an engine house which housed a steam engine used to power an incline which provided access down the cliff to the shore line. There was also a range of further service buildings to the west of the boiling house, some of which survive as standing buildings. These include a joiners shop, a plumbers shop, smithy and laboratory as well some accommodation for the workforce. At the north east of the monument part of the original access causeway to the shoreline survives as a stone trackway extending down to the cliff edge. The alum was produced from shale quarried from the hillside to the south of the works. All fences, gates, stiles and signs are excluded from the scheduling, 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: 29550

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Marshall, G, The Ravenscar Alum Works, (1991)

End of official listing