Powerhouse, office and substation at Skelton Park disused iron mine


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1115787

Date first listed: 07-Sep-1987

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Sep-2014

Location Description: Powerhouse with attached office, and an former electricity substation at Skelton Park disused iron mine, centred at NZ 6443518048


Ordnance survey map of Powerhouse, office and substation at Skelton Park disused iron mine
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Location Description: Powerhouse with attached office, and an former electricity substation at Skelton Park disused iron mine, centred at NZ 6443518048

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

District: Redcar and Cleveland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Skelton and Brotton

National Grid Reference: NZ6443518048


Power generation building (1876) for compressed-air rock-drilling equipment, latterly used to house electric generators. Attached to the building is a time office circa 1900. Also included in the designation is an electricity substation of 1910. All part of a wider complex of buildings and structures forming Skelton Park iron mine.

Reasons for Designation

* Survival: the powerhouse is the best preserved building at Skelton Park iron mine; * Historical: Skelton Park was one of the main iron mines established by Bell Brothers, a leading firm in the Cleveland iron industry which saw Middlesbrough become the centre of the international iron market in the late C19; * Technology: the powerhouse and electricity substation illustrate how Bell Brothers were early adopters of new technology, firstly with compressed air drilling in 1881 and then electrical power in 1910. In contrast most collieries only adopted underground powered equipment after the First World War; * Architecture: the powerhouse, for a utilitarian industrial building, has an unusually high degree of architectural elaboration and detailing; * Group value: in addition there are five further listings which include the other buildings of Skelton Park Mine, together forming an exceptionally complete mine complex, thought to be the best survival nationally for an iron mine.


Shaft sinking at Skelton Park Pit started in 1870, and marked the northernmost entry to the Skelton ironstone mines developed from 1862 by three brothers (Isaac Lowthian, Thomas and John Bell) to supply their ironworks at Port Clarence on the north bank of the River Tees. The mineral rights and land was leased from Mr Wharton of Skelton Castle. Park Pit worked the Cleveland Main Seam of iron stone which here was some 3.1m thick, over 115m below the surface, with an iron content of about 32%, being about the highest concentration of iron found within Cleveland ironstone. Southwards, this seam became closer to the surface where it was worked by Bell Brothers via the associated Skelton Shaft and Spa Mines (the latter mine sold in 1872). The Cleveland Main Seam, first exploited at Eston by Bolckow and Vaughan from the 1850s, prompted the rapid development of the Teeside iron industry, making Middlesbrough the centre of the world's iron market in the late C19. The Bell Brothers company was a leading player in the Cleveland iron industry, with Park Pit being their most significant mine.

Sinking the two shafts at Park Pit was completed in 1872 at a cost of £50,602, the mine producing 176,238 tons of ironstone in 1873. In 1876, mechanical drilling using compressed air was introduced at the mine, using Walker mechanical drills patented in 1875. In 1881 these drills and the automated underground haulage system (also utilising compressed air) was exhibited to the North of England Mining Institute. The following year a steam driven Schiele fan was installed at the top of the upcast shaft and costings were obtained to install underground electric lighting (although it is not known if this lighting was installed at this very early date). In 1899 Bell Brothers became a public company with controlling interest passing to Dorman Long (which became the principal iron mining company in Cleveland in the C20). 1906 saw the modernisation of the steam boiler plant with the replacement of the original four Elephant or French boilers with a pair of Lancashire boilers. In 1909-10, Park Pit was connected to the public electricity supply allowing the replacement of compressed air drills and other machinery with electrically powered equipment, although winding and pumping in the drawing, downcast shaft continued to be steam powered. A detailed catalogue of equipment at Park Pit survives for 1929, by which time production was declining. Park Pit finally closed in 1938 having produced 18,555,000 tons of ironstone.

In 1987 the five principal buildings at Skelton Park Pit were Listed at grade II. In 1995, Skelton Park Pit was included in a national survey of iron mining sites for English Heritage's Monuments Protection Programme. It was described as being "by far the best iron mining site nationally".

The powerhouse was built in circa 1876 following the construction of the railway line serving the pit. It was constructed to house a large air compressor with its associated steam engine installed to power the Walker drilling machines and the underground haulage engine. In the early C20, this large compressor was replaced by three smaller compressors, two electrically driven, one stream driven, the building also housing two DC electric generators. The attached time office was constructed around 1900. The nearby electricity substation was built circa 1910 when Park Pit was connected to the local public electricity supply.


Powerhouse circa 1876, for Bell Brothers' Skelton Park iron mine.

MATERIALS: red brick in English bond, rock-faced and margined sandstone quoins and other dressings; red, corrugated tile roof; timber bargeboards with decorative finials and pendants.

LAYOUT: single storey with basement, built into the hillside so that the basement is at ground level on the north west side.

EXTERIOR: the building is gabled, the entrance being via double doors set in a round arched opening central to the north-eastern gable end. The south-western gable end has three tall, round arched windows. The side elevations each have six, evenly spaced round arched windows, formerly with sliding sashes. All of these openings have stone cills and arches. The basement is unlit, but has a single doorway next to the ironwork remains of a piece of equipment attached to the north western wall. The exterior also has three round openings for large diameter pipes formed with fire brick headers.

INTERIOR: forms a single room above the basement which is mainly taken up by substantial brick piers forming engine-beds.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: Time Office: attached to the south western gable of the power house. This is a single storey hipped roof building now missing most of its roof covering. Double entrance doors and window on the south west side, the north east side (facing the pit yard) being almost entirely of windows except for a doorway to a separate room on the north side, this is thought to have been a garage for a horse drawn ambulance.

Electricity substation: is sited across the road east of the power house. It is a two storey brick building with a flat concrete roof topped by two brick built ventilators. The tall ground floor is divided into two chambers for transformers. The room above, formerly accessed via an external staircase, was for switch-gear.


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

Legacy System number: 351267

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Chapman, S, Skelton Park Ironstone Mine, (1999)

End of official listing