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.

Local geology

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.

Derrick


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.

Brine Pans


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.

Well section

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.

Well section after collapse


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 !

Vulcan Street

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.

Pre-restoration
Pre-restoration

Athina Livanos at Coatham 1937

The rocks and beach at Redcar have witnessed hundreds of shipwrecks and groundings over the years. So I took a gamble when I purchased an unlabelled photo album at a local auction, hoping that what I was looking at were previously unpublished photographs of one such incident.

Athina Livanos at Coatham 1937

With just the sea in the background, the only clue was some Greek writing visible on the back of the ship. “AΘHNA ΛIBANOY  XIOΣ” which after a little research I was able to translate as “Athina Livanos Chios”

Chios is the fifth largest Greek island and was the birthplace of Greek shipping magnate Stavros Livanos. The ship was named after Athina, his second daughter. Despite the Greek name and ownership, the Athina Livanos was a 4824 ton steamer built by Grays of Hartlepool with a yard number of 1065. The engines came from the Central Marine Engine Works which was also part of Grays. She was launched on 3rd September 1936 and completed during October 1936 at a cost of £75,000.

The beaching at Redcar which was near Tod Point took very soon afterwards on 28th February 1937. It was a major story at the time as a Pathe News clip exists of the incident at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/coatham

Athina Livanos at Coatham 1937

Athina Livanos was just one of a series of ships built by Grays for the Livanos Maritime Company. There were ships named Eugenie Livanos, Evi Livanos, G.S. Livanos, George M. Livanos, Mary Livanos, Michael Livanos and Theofano Livanos after other family members.

The Athina Livanos was lost on 29th November 1943 while carry coal from Lourenco Marques in Mozambique (now known as Maputo) to Beirut and Tripoli. She was torpedoed in the Gulf of Aden by the Japanese submarine I-27, nine sailors and two passengers lost the lives. Submarine I-27 was itself sunk in the Indian Ocean on 12th February 1944 by HMS Paladin and HMS Petard but not before it had attacked and sunk the SS Khedive Ismail killing 1,297 people.

The real-life Athina Livanos went on to be the first wife of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis who later married Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Her second husband was John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. Her final husband, before her death in 1974, was another Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.

I originally wrote this article for the Evening Gazette back in July 2013.