Peak Alum Works
North York Moors National Park
What is it?
A National Trust industrial heritage site which produced a chemical vital to the booming English woollen textiles industry right up until the early 19th century.
Why it is special?
This now peaceful spot was once home to one of Britain’s earliest chemical industries from 1650 to 1862. A chemical called alum, essential to ‘fix’ and brighten dyes in textiles, was made here from locally-mined shale from the nearby cliffs.
The works here were virtually unique in producing alum in Britain. The process was a closely-guarded secret and provided jobs for hundreds of workers and their families.
Producing alum was a long process that could take up to a year. Shale was piled into huge bonfires that smouldered for nine months before being steeped in water to produce alum liquor. At the works this was repeatedly heated and cooled to make the crystals used in the textiles industry.
Tell us something we didn't know
One of the key ingredients in alum-making was ammonia. For this they used human urine, often collected by children from local families who would leave a jar out on their doorstep.
What else can I do there?
The 110-mile trail Cleveland Way passes near the works. It offers spectacular coastal views.
How to get there
Visitors should head to the Ravenscar Coastal Centre, a National Trust visitor centre. Open March to October.
Tel: 01723 870423.
Grid ref: NZ 979 016/
Postcode: YO13 ONE
By car, turn off the A171 for Ravenscar. The nearest railway station is Whitby, approximately 10 miles away. Buses 8A and 115 run from Whitby to Scarborough via Ravenscar.