Friday, 23 October 2009

Lawbreakers or Steelmakers?

This part of the world has some fantastic scenery, but for over four hundred years we have been supplying Britain with many of its Chemicals, and for nearly two hundred years much of its iron and steel, so we also have some ugly structures. Most of the disused mining and quarrying sites have gone back to nature, but because of our present heavy industries the “Green Valley Brigade” are reluctant to promote stories about out industrial heritage. (Its better we are seen to be descended from law breaking smugglers than hard working steelworkers.) In 2003 English Heritage carried out an archaeological field survey and investigation of the old Loftus Alum Works and produced a book called Loftus Alum Works, Redcar and Cleveland, a few weeks ago I tried to borrow a copy from the local library, but despite the name been in the title I was told there were no copies of the book available within Redcar and Cleveland Libraries, there were, I was told, copies of the book in libraries outside the borough and I would have to pay £2 of the £8 it would cost to bring the book into the borough, and then presumably it would be sent back to the region that was interested in our heritage. I bought a book for £15 from English Heritage.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Letter in the local Paper

Dear Editor,
For years I have been complaining about the way the history of this region is been distorted, now that Teesside is been dropped, in favour of the more upmarket Tees Valley, it is even more important that museums in this region tell the story of our industrial heritage. Our steel and chemical industries are in trouble, the last of hundreds of blast furnaces is in danger of closing, just three miles away is Kirkleatham Museum, subsidised by thousands of people linked to our heavy industries. The only signs of the steel industry at the museum is an unnamed blast furnace tub near the entrance and an old steel ladle, covered in moss and ivy, behind the staff car park, the chemical industry across the road fairs even worse. Two years ago rare Saxon jewels were found in a field near Loftus, a few hundred yards away is an abandoned quarry, there are several similar ones in our region, where for 270 years men and woman, with little understanding of chemistry, worked in dangerous conditions to turn stone into crystallised alum, important for Britain’s wool industry. The museum that wants to buy and display the Loftus Saxon jewels makes no mention of Britain’s first chemical industry. Kirkleatham Museum does have a room telling the story of our ironstone industry, but a free museum shouldn’t be competing with volunteers from the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum and ignoring our other heavy industries. John Lawson

Friday, 3 July 2009

My Nameless County

Thirty-five years ago I was one the few people to support the boundary changes to my region, the communities north and south of the Tees have far more in common together than they have with Durham or York. For over four hundred years the people of this region has provided Britain with many of its chemicals, and for nearly two hundred years its iron and steel. With a new name and using our important heritage we should have put our new county on the world map, but for thirty-five years the politicians and bureaucrats have made a mess of it. Cleveland is an old English name for steep, hilly terrain, because much of area around Redcar, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool is flat it certainly wasn't correct to call our new county Cleveland, why not a brand new name? In 1996 the name of ancient Cleveland was relegated to below that of a Victorian seaside town, Teesside was dropped in favour of the more upmarket Tees Valley, and now the people who should be trying to protect our industrial heritage are trying to grass over it.