On Thursday January 16th, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, called on the floor of the House of Commons for the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum to be made a ‘National Museum for Ironstone Mining” to mark the 50th anniversary of the last shift at North Skelton mine – the last of the Cleveland ironstone mines.
Tom said “I made this call on the eve of that closure which happened on the 17th January 1964. This was a hugely significant date. In the words of one local paper “Its passing ended a way of life which brought industrial might to Teesside and moulded generations of men of iron” Ironstone mining built Teesside’s industrial pre-eminence in Victorian years, and laid the foundation for our steel industry – still a crucial part of our economic base today”
“The mining villages built in East Cleveland are still alive and the memory of their mining heritage is part of local consciousness. The miners built up the social institutions – from the Co-op to the chapel – that still survive today. Miners, their families and descendants – and I am one of those descendants – also became community leaders and representatives. Indeed, the first Labour MP in my present constituency, Billy Mansfield, was a checkweighman at the Grinkle Mine in Easington.”
“The mining museum at Skinningrove is a valuable and unique repository of that industry, the pitmen and their communities, and that is why I have asked the Leader of the House to mark this anniversary by designating the Skinningrove Museum as a ‘National Museum’; similar to the National Railway Museum in York and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. This would allow for the museum trustees and committee to approach a far wider range of sponsors and funders, based then, as it could be, with a ‘national’ status.”
Commenting later, David Dance, Chair of the Mining Museum’s Trustees said ” This would be a fantastic reward for the enthusiastic volunteers who run the Museum and a fitting tribute to our founder, former Evening Gazette reporter Tom Leonard, whose vision brought about the Museum in 1983. The Museum is unique as it’s on the site of an old ironstone mine and we’d welcome national status not only for us, but for the valley of Skinningrove – birthplace of ironstone mining in Cleveland”.