Fanhouse and associated structures at Skelton Park disused iron mine


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1115823

Date first listed: 07-Sep-1987

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Sep-2014

Location Description: Fanhouse and attached structures at Skelton Park disused iron mine centred at NZ 6439818053


Ordnance survey map of Fanhouse and associated structures at Skelton Park disused iron mine
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Location Description: Fanhouse and attached structures at Skelton Park disused iron mine centred at NZ 6439818053

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: NZ6439818053


Fanhouse of 1882 and structures associated with the upcast shaft at Skelton Park iron mine.

Reasons for Designation

* Survival: although roofless and missing equipment, this is a nationally rare and well preserved example of a mining fanhouse, particularly as it was for a Schiele fan; * 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. The Schiele fanhouse is an illustration of the way that the firm was an early adopter of new technology; * Technology: the survival of the airlock building and evidence of the alterations made to meet the requirements of new legislation adds to the building's special interest; * 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".

Skelton Park Pit was originally ventilated using a furnace at the bottom of the upcast shaft. In 1882 a steam powered Schiele fan was installed at the top of the shaft, the total installation (machinery, fan house and modifications to the shaft) costing £2382. The Schiele fan design was invented in 1863 and was the first of the fast rotating, small diameter fans that came to predominate mine ventilation by the early C20. When first installed it could draw 200,000 cubic ft air per min. (over 5.6 million litres) through the mine with the 12 feet (3.7m) diameter fan running at 159 rpm. In circa 1910 the fan was converted to electrical power (a 60hp motor fan motor being included in the 1929 inventory). This may have occurred at the same time as the fanhouse was modified to allow the air flow to be reversed, which became a requirement with the 1911 Coal Mines Act. From at least circa 1910, the upcast shaft (which provided a secondary means of access to the mine) was also used for winding, being used to take timber and horse feed into the mine.


Fanhouse, 1882, for Bell Brother's Skelton Park iron mine.

MATERIALS: brick shaft with sandstone lacing bands; concrete fan room and évasée and air lock room; rendered brick engine rooms.

PLAN: the fan room is sited on the northern side of the shaft with its engine rooms to the east and évasée (a squat square chimney through which the spent air was expelled) to the north. The airlock room, providing access to the shaft, wraps around the south and western sides of the shaft.

DESCRIPTION: the circular, brick-walled extension to the top of the shaft stands to nearly 10m tall and 4.5m in diameter. The fan room is a tall, windowless room that is now roofless. It is has a large opening into the shaft and to its évasée, A low bricked-up opening in the western wall is thought to have been the air intake which would have allowed the air flow to be reversed in the event of a fire in the downcast shaft. The opening through the northern wall of the évasée was for the winding ropes between the top of the shaft and the Secondary Winding House.

The airlock room is a single-storey building, well lit by large window openings. It has a set of double doors in the western wall directly opposite a now blocked opening into the shaft, with a second blocked opening between the room and the shaft on the southern side. The flat roof of the room is now largely missing.

The fan engine was housed in a single-storey pent-roofed building that has lost most of its slate roof covering. Originally a single room, this was divided into two and extended to the north with a further room when the fan was converted to electricity. The structure retains its engine-bed and blocked openings to the fan room.


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

Legacy System number: 351262

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Chapman, S, Skelton Park Ironstone Mine, (1999)
Chapman, N A, 'Industrial Archaeology Review' in Ventilation of Mines, (1992)

End of official listing