Anhydrite Mine at Billingham c1952

Keith Robinson (my family relative) shown taking a break at the anhydrite mine in Billingham. Previously, he had worked at John Tinsley Limited in Darlington. Any information on the machinery shown would be appreciated. These images were gratefully received from Lyn his daughter.

Courtesy of Michael Hymer.

12 thoughts on “Anhydrite Mine at Billingham c1952

  1. All new messenger boys, during their induction were treated to a trip down the mine. I remember it well. I looked up at the ceiling & my hard hat fell off. lost points for that. However I did lead my team to victory, we won the top team award for that intake


  2. The British Film Institute have a number of ICI film unit productions on their website

    They date from 1935 to 1966, one of the films is a safety film filmed in the Anhydrite mine, it is dated 1947 and shows the primitive working conditions at that time.

    The BFI site has been updated and it is now difficult to find these films, the best access is to Google for Britain On Film, this generally finds the location map.

    I was under the impression that it was a drift mine and didn’t use winding gear.

    In the 1950s when I was growing up in Billingham we often felt the blasting in the mine, crockery rattled and ornaments on the mantelpiece would shuffle about, does anybody else remember this?.

    The machinery looks as if it may be processing equipment, hammer mills, ball mills or crushers, I have carried out maintenance on this type of equipment over many years, there are many different styles of this equipment but they all have large metal chambers where the action takes place.


    • Bruce, Certainly not a drift mine, it had two sets of Winding gear one for passengers down to 800 feet and the Stone Shaft deeper again. My first job coming out of the ICI estimating course, (Two months at Norton House Hartburn then four months following an established estimator), was to Go with Frank Canny down the mine shaft on top of the cage. They lowered the cage for us to get on the roof we fastened safety lines to the Cable then down we went examining the shaft walls one side then up again to examine the other sides. Frank knew me and trusted me to make the examination otherwise it would have meant two trips up and down, my next job that day was to estimate the job to cover Franks bonus, my lucky day, they knew the danger so no questions asked. Frank remained a friend.

      Later in charge of an emergency squad I had men working down the mine. It was down in the cage onto the Bus service to the job along a dual carriageway check the job safe to work on then dash back to the cage. They would not activate it for one man so I often spent time in the dead man gallery, every vehicle that had ever worked in the mine was dumped in there. I was in my element among machines and trucks from the first opening of the mine just as they had been left at the end of their last shift.
      We would run down to the crushers at the bottom of the stone shaft in Land Rovers the big trucks bringing the stone from the working face tipped the stone into hoppers it was fed in to the crusher then lifted up the stone shaft to the surface, noisy dusty and hot.

      The mine was a pillar mine, the shaft was cut 20 feet square leaving a pillar holding the roof up although the roof had to be drilled and pinned in places it was a very safe way of cutting into hard rock. The dual carriageways had self opening doors, opened as vehicles approached and closed behind them to keep the pressure in the mine constant.
      I hope this answers some of your question.


      • “Sorry” That should have been Gallery’s are 20 feet square. Shafts are vertical, Gallery’s Horizontal.
        Everything was taken into the mine down the lifts in bits, large sections down the Stone lift smaller ones in the Cage, that exited into the Cathedral the largest underground space I had ever seen. That contained Workshops Canteens Rest Area’s and Stores. Vehicles and Machinery would be assembled in the mine and at the end of its life ended up in the Dead Man area.
        We had short cuts through the old workings to some parts, they were narrow tunnels unlit, we used our Helmet lights and hand lamps to cut through, if you stood still and switched off your lamps it was the darkest place you would ever be, no sound no light no reference to anything, not a comfortable feeling.
        I could never have worked all my life in the mine as so many did. At the end of an eight hour shift they came up and sat in rows outside taking in the fresh air.
        My Relatives were Coal Miners and I was often told by them Keep out of the Mines, I understood why after a few trips into the Anhydrite Mine at Billingham.


        • Norton House was a large House Standing in its own grounds on Darlington Lane Hartburn as you headed out of the Village towards Darlington.
          It was knocked down and several houses built on the site, I think a Cul De Sac with only one exit on to Darlington Lane.
          We used to play Croquet on the lawns after meal breaks very up market, the catering was on the premises and we were a mix of ICI, Shell and other Chemical firms from across the UK.
          I also did courses at Norton House Hardwick another large house knocked down and then built on I believe a Care Home and some Houses again a Cul De Sac.
          We also did 26 weeks at Middlesbrough College University in later years plus several in house courses at the ICI Complex.
          High School, Army Education, ICI, plus further education doing Wood work and Cookery, not too bad a Portfolio.


    • From elsewhere…
      “Shaft sinking began in September 1926 and bottomed 14 months later at a depth of 850 ft. By 1953 the mine incorporated 200 miles of underground roadways and one square mile of workings. Production ceased in 1971 and the mine closed in 1978 when the shaft was capped.”

      See the head of shaft no 1 here:

      It looks like there was other winding machinery in use at the bottom of the mine too:


  3. As a Apprentice Fitter I worked on the surface but, went down the mine many times. I can’t imagine working in a mine all my working life. On the surface there was Ammonium Nitrate all over the ground. It was used as the primary explosive down below.


  4. I suspect that the photos were taken by my father, Norma Hardwick or one of his colleagues at the ICI film unit. He worked in ICI Labs during the war and film unit until 1970.


  5. It looks to me very much like the pit head winding gear that raised and lowered the mine cage. However I could well be wrong and I’m looking forward to being corrected.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.