Cleveland Salt Company – Middlesbrough

Cleveland Salt Company – Vulcan Street

In 1859 a borehole was started at Bolkow and Vaughans’ Middlesbrough Ironworks in search of a clean water supply for use in their boilers, instead of dirty water from the Tees. By 1862 at a depth of 1200ft a bed of rock salt was discovered that was almost 100ft thick.

The Cleveland Salt Company was formed in 1887 to exploit this resource for the fledgling chemical industry, Carl Bolckow nephew of Henry was one of the first board members, fresh water was pumped down into the salt bed which it dissolved, brine was then pumped out and evaporated in large pans to drive off the water and extract the salt.

The six original pans were initially fired by waste hot gas from the Middlesbrough Ironworks blast furnaces, this was expanded to thirteen pans in 1889. In 1920 the blast furnaces were blown out and the pans had to be converted to run on coal.
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A total of four wells existed in the companies’ lifetime, The original No.1 was abandoned in 1893 due to a roof fall, No.2 and No.3 from 1888 and 1893 respectively operated until around 1938 when they started to become choked. So No.4 which had been an incomplete well started in 1896 was re-started, but was not completed until 1941 due to drilling problems and the outbreak of the Second World War.
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In 1945 and 1946 there were roof falls in the remaining No.4 well after which the evaporation pans were never restarted. The company wound up in 1947 having produced 879,972 ton of salt in 59 years.
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Making a few calculations that suggests a volume of over 400,000 cubic meters, or 165 Olympic Swimming Pools. It’s an interesting thought that there must now remain a huge water-filled void under the area, most likely under the river and Transporter Bridge !
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Today all that remains is the impressive red brick boundary wall on Vulcan Street dating from 1887. This became a listed building in 1988, however it’s not totally original as it was rebuilt from other interesting sections of the original building by the Cleveland Community Task Force, Middlesbrough Council and the Davy Corporation in 1982.
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Waldridge Boilers, Port Mulgrave

The Waldridge was a British steamship, built in Sunderland in 1868. She was owned by Edwin Robert Dix, of Sunderland.

Many thanks to Wayne Martin for the photos.

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Wreck Report for ‘Waldridge’
This vessel left the Tyne about 4 p.m. on the 30th January 1895 with a crew of fifteen hands all told and a cargo of about 900 tons, of which 180 tons were bricks and the remainder coal, bound for Boulogne.

At about 2 a.m. on the 31st January, the vessel then being about six or seven miles from Whitby, the second engineer, who had had charge of the engines since midnight, finding that the ship was making water, put on the donkey-engine and called the chief engineer, who on going down into the engine-room and seeing the condition of things at once put on the bilge injection, but notwithstanding these efforts he failed to reduce the water and it gained on him; he then sent for the captain, who immediately came down into the engine-room, the water at this time washing up the stoke-hole plates and threatening to extinguish the fires. After consultation with the chief officer and chief engineer the master determined to put back to Hartlepool, and with that view put the helm hard-a-port and wore the ship round.

Shortly after this the lower fire was extinguished, and the water continuing to gain. the steam went back and the engines finally stopped at about 5 a.m. Attempts had been made to light the fire of the donkey-boiler on deck, but the constant washing of the seas prevented this being done. in the meantime signals of distress were made and the port lifeboat cleared away, but in consequence of the breaking of a belaying pin to which the after fall was attached the boat fell into the water and was smashed. The ship at this time was perfectly helpless, the wind having backed to the E.N.E., with heavy seas constantly breaking over her. The stay sails were set with a view to help her on to the shore, the master fearing the vessel would founder.

At about 8 a.m. the vessel took the ground about 200 yards north of Port Mulgrave, a mile and a half to the southward of Staithes, it being then about an hour after high water and daylight coming on. The ship swung round with her head to the southward, whereupon the starboard lifeboat was cleared away; two men got into her, but none of the others would follow, the master stating that it was his intention to stay by the ship for the present. The men in the lifeboat then cut the painter, and the boat drifted ashore and the men were saved.

Shortly after this the carpenter, Peter Haysom, who was a good swimmer and had a lifebelt on, determined (against the advice of the master) to attempt to swim ashore, but he was drowned when 40 or 50 yards from the ship.

After the ship had been on shore about half an hour the rocket apparatus from Staithes arrived at the top of the cliff, which is 350 ft. high. Two rockets and the breeches buoy were taken down to the beach, and the first rocket fired fell across the quarter, but the line caught in a rock and broke; the second rocket fell short. A third rocket was sent for and fired, which fell right across the vessel’s bows. She had then parted amidships, and it was decided to attempt to land the crew with the whip alone, as it was thought the hawser would not reach the vessel, and there being no place at that time on which the triangle could be fixed. The first man to leave the ship in the breeches buoy was James Clarke, A.B., who was unfortunately drowned before reaching the shore in consequence of a piece of canvas getting into the block and the rope having fouled a rock. In the meantime, the body of the carpenter had washed ashore, and efforts were made by Dr. Laverick, the local secretary of the Staithes Lifeboat Institution, to restore animation, but without success.

The tide having by this time receded considerably, it was found that the triangle could be fixed, and, the hawser would reach the ship; this was successfully accomplished, and the remainder of the crew were landed in safety, the last man to leave the ship being the master.