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SITE HISTORY

 
An Estate of Lords, a Queen, a Baronet, an MP and many Sirs!
The Lazenby Bank site forms part of the what was once the Wilton Castle estate. It was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "being held by Nigel on behalf of Robert Earl of Morton". At the end of 11th century, the Bulmer family became "lords of a wooden manor at Wilton". In 1210, the manor was fortified with stone and became the original Wilton Castle. In 1558, Queen Mary I granted the estate to the Cornwallis family. They sold it in the early 1700s to Sir Stephen Fox whose son sold it in 1748 to Sir James Lowther MP & 1st Earl of Lonsdale. In 1806, it was bought by his cousin, Sir John Lowther Bart, and the following year he demolished the old castle which was a ruin by this time. In 1810, he had a grand new mansion house built to a design by architect Sir Robert Smirke. In 1887, his son, Sir Charles Hugh Lowther developed it into the Wilton Castle that we recognise today. And this was financed by the incredible fortuity that befell the estate in the Summer of 1850.
 
Eureka !
On the 8th of June, ironmaster John Vaughan and mining engineer John Marley of the Middlesbrough iron-making firm Bolckow & Vaughan walked up theLazenby Bank cart road (aka the path beside the present golf course) in search of 'rusty gold' aka ironstone. The discovery made that day would change profoundly not only Eston hills but the course of history for the whole of Cleveland! In recognising the Lazenby bank stone as the same stone that they had been mining for two years at Skinningrove, Bolckow and Vaughan were convinced that a great orefield or 'main seam' stretched far and wide under Cleveland.
 
Iron Rush !
And so it proved and the great "Iron Rush" to Cleveland ensued with gusto! Ironmasters, mining companies and workers poured in from all corners of Britain and Ireland. Bolckow & Vaughan were mining on Eston hills within months. Quarrying and drift-mining tore across the escarpment from Bankfields to Wilton. Within 20 years, Cleveland was the iron-producing capital of the world with over forty pits operating and over a hundred furnaces blazing along the Tees. By 1879, Eston was yeilding over a million tons annually from its vast maze of tunnels. At this time, the drifts along the Northern scarp had connected with the workings of Upsall and Chaloner near Guisborough. This created effectively one single mine and the biggest ironstone mine in the world.
 
 
Eastern Front
In 1915, the underground link between Eston and Chaloner was severed when stone removal began along the main wagonway. Chaloner stone was now removed via 3 drifts and a new surface tramway running around the eastern scarp of the hills, passing under Wilton Lane and linking up with the existing surface tramway to New Bank. Production had been falling since 1900, and by the late 1930s, the drifts and quarries across the Wilton estate (Wilton Clay Drift, Lovell Hill, North Drift, Stable Drift, Quarry Siding, Agar's Drift, Lowthers Drift and New Bank) were all exhausted. The last wagons from Chaloner rattled round to New Bank just before war was declared in 1939. Mining operations on Lazenby Bank were at an end. Only Trustee Drift at Eston remained and that passed into history a decade later. A century of blood, sweat and toil had yielded over 63 million tons of ironstone. 375 men and boys lost their lives in the process and many hundreds more suffered appalling injuries, lost limbs and died before their time.


After The Iron Rush
It was fortuitous and ironic, that as one great industrial tradition came to an end, another very modern one was just beginning. Within days of finishing in the pit, many miners were shocked to find themselves at the futuristic new plant of ICI Wilton doing "no graft at all for twice the money". ICI had bought the entire estate from Col. John Lowther in 1945 and developed the biggest chemical plant in Europe. The majestic country estate that had stretched out for centuries in front of The Castle was gone forever. The Castle was hastily converted by ICI into offices but it was given a Grade-II listing in 1952. The grounds were turned into a golf course and Lazenby Bank, although silent from the clatter of ironstone wagons, was now bequeathed round the clock with strange new hums and hisses and not infrequently some very noxious smells! In the 1950s/60s, ICI carried out a major planting of broadleaved and conifer trees across Lazenby Bank. Thankfully they were never harvested and 50 years later they form a rare green legacy of ICI.
 

£1 a year !
In the mid-1980s, Cleveland County Council entered into a lease at a peppercorn rent with ICI to carry out a substantial conservation programme on Lazenby Bank. The old school in Wilton village became a field-centre as well as a base for a team of new site wardens. When Cleveland County Council was dissolved in 1998, the lease was transferred to the borough council. Sadly, under Redcar & Cleveland, the conservation work was not continued. The lease expired and the site has suffered great neglect over the past 15 years.
 
21st Century...
By the turn of the millennium, the great ICI empire was no more. Wilton Castle was sold off and converted into luxury apartments and the remainder of the estate including Lazenby Bank was sold to an investment company. In 2004, It was sold on again to another private owner and in 2013, it was back on the market and this time something began to stir among the people...


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