1603 ~ 1642


In the Skelton area Alum production began from about this time.
The first profitable site in Yorkshire was opened in 1603 at Spring Bank, Slapewath, which was then part of Skelton – See here.
This was the project of John Atherton, joint owner by marriage of a third part of the Skelton Estate.
Britain at this time was an Agricultural nation and Wool was its chief export.
Alum was used in the dyeing process as the setting agent and was also needed in the tanning of hides.
It was therefore a highly valued product, which up to this time had been imported.
Rich rewards seemed to beckon those who could create a home industry.
The process was complex.
The alum bearing rock was quarried, broken up and ‘calcined’ – [built into large clamps with alternating layers of wood and these piles would be ignited and a controlled burning would last for weeks.]
It needed many tons of shale to produce 1 ton of alum.

1930’s photograph. The track leading off first right is Stackgarth Lane from old sand stone quarry.
Local folk lore has it that the extensive quarries and the round mounds seen above Skelton High St show that alum having been processed here. The regular mounds appear man-made, but there is no other evidence and it seems unlikely

The burnt, ‘calcined’, shale was then steeped in water-filled stone troughs until a certain specific gravity had been reached.
[Tested for, the story goes, by floating an egg in the liquid].
The liquid was then run off and boiled in large pans heated by coal for 24 hours and mixed with an alkali, obtained from urine or seaweed.
Thomas Chaloner of Guisborough is reputed to have sold his personal urine for one penny a Firkin, which was about 8 gallons. How often he earned or spent a penny or earned one is not recorded.
History shows that we have had many odd names for imperial measures, pecks and gills etc.
A ‘Firkin a Fortnight’ for pee must surely qualify as the most alliterative, if not, in my humble opinion, the firkin best.
Next the mixture was transferred to small coolers to crystallize, the resulting crystals of alum being further boiled and condensed to get rid of impurities. Many legends survive, but it is not known how this long and involved chemical process was discovered in these times, when people believed in alchemy and the modern science of Chemistry was a mystery.
It is reported that the workers suffered terrible conditions – the heaps of shale gave off poisonous sulphorous fumes and at times their wages of 6 pence a day were often withheld or ‘given in half rotten meat and corn.’
The alum workers were described at one point as:-
‘poor snakes, tattered and naked, ready to starve for want of food and clothes.’
Other Alum mines were eventually opened by the Skelton Estate, notably at Coombe Bank, Boosbeck and Selby Hagg between Skelton and Brotton and were worked on and off during the next two centuries.
The Selby Hagg works were located to the east of Hagg Farm, near Skelton-in-Cleveland, and would seem to have had three distinct periods of operation.
During the first of these, from about 1617 to 1643, the Alum house may have been located within the quarry.
The second phase ran from 1670 to 1685, and the third from 1765 to 1775. The alum houses for these latter two phases were located at Saltburn.
Most successful were the ones on the coast which did not have the cost of transporting fuel and the finished product for shipment.
The Alum workings at Hummersea, Loftus were worked well into the 19th Century.

‘Recusants’ were people who refused the sacraments of the Church of England:-
 William Milner and Allison his wife.
Agnes, the wife of Robert Allenbye.
Jane, the wife of Robert Nelson.
Alice, the wife of John Staynhous.
Robert Sawer. Elizabeth Staynhous. Recusants 8 or 9 yeares, but poore laborers.
Robert Trotter Esquier, Margaret his wife ; noncommunicants this last yeare.
Private baptisme “Xpofer Burdon” husbandman had a childe secretly baptised, where and by whome they know not. “
Robert Allanbye,
Joan, the wife of William Nelson.
Jane, the wife of Richard Locke.
Jebbs widowe Burton widowe r Averell wife of Xpofer Burdon, John Staynehous. Thomas Staynhous, Richard Staynhous.
Poore labouring people which came to church before the xxvth of Marche 1603 & since are become Recusantes.


Everyone knows the story of how the rotten spoil sports prevented Guy Fawkes from lighting the fuse to his 36 big bangers and thereby blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I was present.
What is less known is that “Remember Remember the 5th of November” was made compulsory by the “Observance of 5th November 1605 Act” or “Thanksgiving Act” of the following January.
It remained in force until its repeal on the 25th March 1859.
A new form of service was added to the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, for use on the 5th Nov.
Although the Catholic Gunpowder Plotters were actually betrayed by a secret letter, religion had such power over minds at this time that it was thought that there must have been some Divine intervention to save the King’s life.
An entry appeared each subsequent year in the Skelton Churchwardens’ Accounts for “Gunpowder Treason” with an expenditure of around 5 shillings.
It seems that this amount paid more sensibly for drink, rather than fireworks in the Churchyard, but the day was marked henceforth, nationwide, with anti-Catholic sentiments and the burning of effigies, including the Pope.


ALUM NATIONALISED – James I made Alum production a monopoly of the Crown.

The Poor Laws had made Parishes responsible for their own paupers and they were concerned not to to pay for immigrant vagrants.

Begging was made a crime.
When seven people were found guilty of being “rogues and vagabonds” at the Richmond, N Yorks quarter sessions in this year, the women were whipped and the men were branded with a letter R.

Stone in Skelton Old Church. Death of Robert Trotter 1611.


34 years after buying one third of the Skelton Estate.
A stone has been preserved in Skelton Old Church, which recorded his passing:-
It reads in the different and variable spelling of the day:-

He was succeeded by his son Henry, who was married to Catharine, the daughter of Anthony Witham of Cliffe, Yorks.
They had 4 children, George, Mary, Robert and Elizabeth.

Skelton recusants were listed for this year as the Roman Catholics:-
Christopher Lowick, a petty chapman [an itinerant seller of goods], Margery his wife, Christopher. his son, and Mary his daughter.
William Milner, a Labourer, and Ellis his wife.
Robert Allanby, a Glover, Anne his wife, and John his son.
Margaret, the wife of John Porter.


April –
At the Quarter Sessions held at Thirsk Robert Tose [Toes], Curate of Skelton in Cleveland, was charged with:-
keeping an alehouse there, contrarie to the statute in such case made and provided”.

“Langbargh Wapentak” in 1616. Website collage taken from John Speed’s map of the North Riding of Yorkshire.


ALUM production began at Selby Hagg, near Hagg Farm, Skelton around this date.
It is said that ships anchored off Saltburn to transport the finished product.
They brought with them casks of urine, which was mixed with the liquid that had been obtained from the calcined shale.
It is not presently known where this process was carried out initially, as later in the century it was done in an Alum House sited near Cat Nab in Saltburn.
The shale liquid ran from Selby Hagg by gravity down a trough that followed the course of Millholme Beck.


DEATH OF JOHN ATHERTON. He was the husband of Katharine Conyers, who owned one third of the Skelton estate

James I


DEATH OF JAMES I and accession of Charles I.

DEATH OF KATHARINE ATHERTON – wife of John Atherton.
Her only son had been called John Skelton [to distinguish him from a half brother] and he had pre-deceased Katharine in 1613 leaving a 4 year old daughter, Anne.
So Katharine’s heir was this Anne, who in 1625, though only 16, was married to Sir William Pennyman, Baronet.
Eventually in 1656 the whole Skelton Estate was acquired by the Trotter family.

DEATH OF HENRY TROTTER, 14 years after inheriting one third part of the Skelton estate.
He was succeeded by his son George, who was married firstly to Ursula, daughter of Sir Richard Chomley of Whitby and secondly to Mary, daughter of Sir Edward Boyce of Fredvil, Kent.
With Mary he had 3 children, Edward, Hugh and Mary.

Charles I


WAR WITH SPAIN – Charles I asked his subjects to donate to his treasury for conducting a war.
The Justices of the County of York replied:-
The inhabitants within the liberties of Langbaurgh in the N Riding are poor farmers at racked rents, their Landlords not dwelling amongst them, whereby the country is disappointed out of the money which issueth out of it.
The place is a very straight and narrow part of the country, hemmed in by the sea on one side and a great vast moor on the other.
For two years past the inhabitants have been charged with the continuous watch of the beacons, and training of soldiers”.


OLDEST GRAVESTONE IN SKELTON. – The oldest grave-stone found in the old Church yard at Skelton was placed in September of this year – commemorating John Slater.

The Emerson Family Tomb in old Skelton Church grounds.
[Photograph and Inquisition information kindly contributed by Josie Bland of Skelton, shown here, a descendant of the Emersons]


The Will of William Emerson’s father, Philip is on the webpage for 1583.
William died intestate and the Law required that an Inquisition be held to establish the right of his son, William E Emerson to inherit.10 Charles. I. p22, n. 150.
Inquisition taken at Stokesley, in the County of York, 5th July, 1634 before John Batte, esq, escheator, after the death of William Emerson, late of Skelton, by the oath of Joseph Rogers, etc, etc, who say that William E. was seised in his demesne 
[recognised as legal owner] as of fee [but held of a feudal superior, i.e. the King.]
1 messuage [dwelling house], 1 croft [land around it to grow produce], 1 bovate [about 15 acres], meadow and pasture, in Skelton.
1 bovate of land, meadow and pasture there, purchased of Rowland Wilson and John Havelocke.
1 messuage, 1 croft, 1 bovate of land, meadow and pasture, there, to the late dissolved monastery of Gisbroughe belonging.
1 messuage, 1 close containing 1 a. adn 2 bovates of land, meadow and pasture there, lately purchased of Janie Westland.
1 messuage, 1 toft [land around it], 1 croft and 1 bovate of land, meadow and pasture, lately purchased of Thomas Darcy and Conyers Darcy.
1 rood of pasture lying in a large close called the Mildeltes, within the lordship of “Upletham”, and pasture for 18 beasts in the said close.
All the said premises in Skelton, except those purchased of the Darcys, are held of the King as of his manor of East Greenwich, in the County of Kent, in free socage, and not in chief, and are worth per annum, clear, 15 shillings.
The said excepted premises are held of the King in chief by knights service, and are worth per annum, clear, 4 shillings.
The premises in the said pasture, called Mildeltes are held of the heirs of the late Lord Conyers as of his manor of Marske by knights service and are worth per annum, clear, 2 shillings.
William E died 29th September last past. William E. is his sone and next heir and was then aged 34 years.
At this time legal documents were still written in Latin.


ORDERS OF THE NORTH RIDING QUARTER SESSIONS – Anyone alleged to have committed an offence in Skelton would be sent for trial at the Quarter Sessions.The Court of Quarter Sessions met at the chief towns of the North Riding and the justices, with juries drawn originally from the gentry and yeomen, tried criminal offences below very serious ones, which were sent to the Assize Courts at York.They also dealt with highways, prisons, licensing, vagrancy and non-conformity throughout the N Riding.Sitting at Thirsk this year they ordered that:-‘No person within the North Riding shal be lycenced to keepe an alehouse but by the Justices assigned to performe the services concerninge alehouses within the division wherein the said person shall dwell, and that all other lycences granted by any other Justices otherwise shal be voyde:All liscenced persons further to be bound with two suertyes, neither of them being alehouseskeepers, the principal in £5 and the sureties in 50s each. (The prescribed form of licence then follows, the licensee being bound) to allow no unlawful games – playing att tables, dice, cards, shoveboard, bowles – in his house;to allow no persons of bad character, no vagrants or sturdy beggars to be received;to keep a supply of good beer or ale, or both, and to sell at the statute rate;to be careful that no drink or victual be supplied on the Sabboth day in time of Divine Service;to report all seditious or defamatory language used in his house to the Justices;to reveal any suspicion he may entertain of evil done or intended, and also to suffer no meetings, assemblies, or feasts in his house on Sundays at any time of the day.It was also ordered for the better performance of the good and necessary lawes and statutes made for the reliefe of the poore, and for the punishinge of such persons as are declared to be rogues, vagabondes, and sturdy beggars, and for the keeping of order in alehouses, that Constables, Churchwardens, and Ale-conners within every parish shall make particular monthly certificates in manner following:That they have none amongst them that do brew, drink, or sell without lycence, or doe take above one penny for an ale quart of their best drink, or if they have they must sett down their names and the tymes of the offence committed.That they know of noe person that hath sitten tippling in any alehouse contrarie unto the law, or if they have…That they know of noe vagrant begger that hath passed through their parish without punishment or if the have…
That they have noe poore that doe want any parte of their relief or if they have…That all apprentecyes lately bound by the Overseers within the parish are inhabiting with their masters, mistresses or dames or alse they must certify the names….


BIRTH OF EDWARD TROTTER – who succeeded to Skelton estate on the death of George Trotter.

Next Page – 1642 to 1660.
Previous Page – 1539 TO 1603.
Contents Page.