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The development of ironstone mining in Cleveland in the second half of the 19th century resulted in a population explosion, as men, many accompanied by their families, flocked into the district from almost every corner of Great Britain, eager to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. Villages which had previously numbered their inhabitants in hundreds, now counted them in thousands.

The provision of housing for this vast influx of people was an urgent necessity.

In some cases building was undertaken by the mine owners themselves. In Skinningrove for example, by 1872, Pease & Partners owners of the Loftus Mine, had erected a ‘model village’ of some 150 cottages each built to a standard plan with a kitchen 18 feet square, a room behind measuring 9½ feet by 11 feet and 3 bedrooms upstairs.

Water was provided by one pump for every 10 houses and an earth closet, emptied fortnightly by company scavengers, was shared by groups of dwellings. Rent was 3/6(17½p) per week.

In Brotton by contrast, many of the houses were erected by speculative builders on land bought or leased from local farmers, then sublet to the men. One such was Robert Abbey of Kilton who in 1871 leased 18 cottages in Railway Terrace to Bell Brothers, owners of Huntcliff Mine, for £153.

Described in 1872 as a “little pestilential place”, in wet weather the streets were ankle deep in mud. Overcrowding was rife throughout the village with many single men living in lodgings, often in households of 11 or 12. Sanitary arrangements were defective and the water supply to 50 houses belonging to Messrs Morrison & Co., owners of the Brotton Mine, came from just 2 pumps.

Rules & Regulation to be observed by tenants living in Morrison’s houses were strict with leaving the Company’s employment leading to automatic immediate eviction. On the plus side, however, anyone meeting with an accident “in the proper discharge of his duties at work” was permitted to remain in his house rent free until he was able to return to work.