NZ5202 : Alum Workings, Carlton Bank

taken 4 years ago, near to Carlton in Cleveland, North Yorkshire, Great Britain

Alum Workings, Carlton Bank
Alum Workings, Carlton Bank
A huge hole in the hillside. A former industrial landscape which only now, after 150 years and with a little bit of help, nature is beginning to claim back. For over 120 years Carlton Bank was the site an intensive alum production. Alum is a double salt on aluminium sulphate and either ammonium or potassium sulphate. It was important as a mordant in the dying of textiles and as a tanning curing agent. The Roman Pliny refers to it in his writings. The Egyptians were known to have used it.

Because the chemical process wasn’t understood the manufacture of alum was surrounded by mystery and intrigue. It is made by first roasting the Jurassic shales slowly over many months. The residue then is seeped in water in which the aluminium sulphate dissolves. Next an alkali is added, traditionally stale urine, this forms the double sulphate which is left to crystallise. The densities of the liquors at each stage of production needed to be precise and their corrosive nature all led to a long and laborious process.

Up until Tudor times the supply of alum was in Papal control but with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII an English source was needed. Slowly by trial and error and the bringing in of experienced Dutch and German workers the trade secrets were revealed. By the early 19c the chemical process was understood which lead to the synthesising of alum.

In the 1980s the bare sterile slopes were stabilised by covering with matting and the planting of ground cover. As can be seen this has only been partially successful. I notice some erosion has continued to occur as large steel stakes used to hold down the matting now protrude 6 inches or so. A serious trip hazard if you venture off the paths.

In the photo can be seen the village of Carlton. Now tranquil it must have been a dirty, smoky place when the alum was in full production.

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NZ5202, 34 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 9 September, 2015   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 16 September, 2015
Geographical Context
Uplands  Quarrying, Mining  Derelict, Disused 
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NZ 5205 0275 [10m precision]
WGS84: 54:25.0523N 1:11.9651W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NZ 5209 0269
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Other Tags
Alum Quarrying Site  Former Alum Workings  Heather  Moorland 

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