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Guibal fanhouse at Skelton Shaft iron mine

A Grade II Listed Building in Skelton and Brotton, Redcar and Cleveland

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Latitude: 54.5433 / 54°32'35"N

Longitude: -1.0166 / 1°0'59"W

OS Eastings: 463719

OS Northings: 516895

OS Grid: NZ637168

Mapcode National: GBR PHBX.Q4

Mapcode Global: WHF8F.C25C

Entry Name: Guibal fanhouse at Skelton Shaft iron mine

Listing Date: 29 September 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1420051

Location: Skelton and Brotton, Redcar and Cleveland, TS14

County: Redcar and Cleveland

Civil Parish: Skelton and Brotton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Skelton with Upleatham All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York

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Fanhouse for mine ventilation, originally designed for an 1870 Guibal fan, for Bell Brothers Skelton Shaft iron mine, and adapted for a Sirocco fan in 1930.


Former Guibal fanhouse, 1870, for Bell Brothers' Skelton Shaft iron mine, adapted 1930 for a Sirocco fan for Dorman Long Limited.

MATERIALS: concrete with some brick detailing.

PLAN: the engine house forms the northern room of the building, with the large fan compartment adjacent to the south opening to the ventilation chimney on the east side. Extending to the south are the collapsed remains of the airlock building over the uncapped shaft.

DESCRIPTION: the fan compartment is sized to accommodate the original Guibal fan, extended upwards for a gabled roof (roof no longer extant). The adjacent engine compartment is slightly lower, with remains of a hipped, lean-to roof. All of its openings are at first floor level, the doorway being in the north wall, in line with the axis of the fan. This door is flanked by window openings, with a further window opening in each end wall, all openings having segmental heads with their joinery missing. On the north wall is the scar line of the original external staircase. The ventilation chimney stands to full height, retaining a simple stepped cornice which matches the stepped projecting eaves course to the engine compartment. The airlock building covering the shaft to the south of the fan compartment has largely collapsed, being outlined by substantial buttresses that still stand. The interior of the building was not inspected, although features in the walling (including some pieces of ironwork) can be observed which give an indication of the former arrangement of machinery.


In 1858 three brothers (Isaac Lowthian, Thomas and John Bell) signed a lease with Mr Wharton of Skelton Castle to extract ironstone to supply their ironworks at Port Clarence on the north bank of the River Tees. This ironstone was the Cleveland Main Seam, which had been first exploited at Eston by Bolckow and Vaughan from the 1850s, with its wider exploitation prompting the rapid development of the Teeside iron industry, making Middlesbrough the centre of the world's iron market in the late C19. The Bell Brothers company was a leading player in the Cleveland iron industry, with their Skelton mines being their most significant undertakings. Skelton Shaft Mine was the first shaft (as opposed to horizontal drift) mine to be opened in the Cleveland field, first producing in 1862, averaging an output of 400-500 tons a day in 1863. However Skelton Shaft's output was generally less than the associated Skelton Park Pit which opened in 1870 just over 1km to the north east. Skelton Shaft Mine closed in 1923 shortly after Bell Brothers was completely bought out by the Dorman Long Company. It was reopened in 1930 to work out the ironstone left around the base of the shaft (the shaft protection pillar), finally closing in 1939.

The fanhouse was built in about 1870 to replace (or possibly supplement) a ventilation furnace at the base of the airshaft 60m to the NNE. The fan was of the design developed by Guibal, a Belgian engineer in 1859: Guibal fans were the most common design employed for mine ventilation in the C19. The example at Skelton was 30 feet in diameter and 10 feet wide (approximately 9m by 3m), rotating at 51 r.p.m. powered by two steam engines; in 1875 it was recorded as drawing 110,000 cubic feet of air a minute (over 3.1 million litres). After the 1923 closure, the fan and steam engines were removed. When the mine was reopened in 1930, the fan house was reused and modified for a smaller, high speed electrically driven Sirocco fan.

Reasons for Listing

The Guibal fanhouse at Skelton Shaft iron mine is listed at grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: as a relatively well preserved example of a Guibal fanhouse (the most common form of mechanical mine ventilator of the C19 with few examples remaining recognisable) comparable to the slightly later example at Huntcliffe which is designated as a scheduled monument;
* Technology: the adaption of the fanhouse to allow a reversal of the air flow, and then for the installation of a Sirocco Fan adds additional interest;
* Group value: with the associated and well preserved listed buildings of the mine complex at Skelton Park to the north.

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