The Middlesbrough Meteorite

During the past year a very beautiful specimen of a meteorite fell near Middlesbrough, in Yorkshire. It struck the earth at a spot called Pennyman’s Siding* on the North-Eastern Railway Company’s branch line from Middlesbrough to Guisbrought about one mile and three-quarters from the former town. Its descent was witnessed by W. Ellinor and three platelayers, who heard a whizzing or rushing noise in the air followed in a second or two by a sudden blow of a body striking the ground not far from them the spot was found to be 48 yards from where they stood.


The fall took place on the 14th March, 1881, at 3:35 p.m. The wind was from the north-east, and it was a clear and bright but rather cold afternoon. At more distant places, as Northallerton and four miles to the eastward, the sound resembled the boom of a gun; no luminous or cloud-forming phenomena are reported.

The character of the hole, according to Professor Alexander Herschel, who at once visited the spot, points to the fall having been vertical or nearly so. The stone was “new milk warm” when found, and weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz. ; the dark surface is entirely fused and crusted, and has scarcely suffered by the fall. The stone forms a low pyramid, slightly scolloped, 6 inches in length, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches in height. The rounded summit and sloping sides are scored and grooved deeply with a polish like black lead, in waving furrows running to the base, showing that this side came foremost during the fusing action of the atmosphere which the meteorite underwent in its flight. The rear or base is equally fused or branded by heat, but is rough, dull brown in colour, and not scored or furrowed.

The meteorite penetrated the soil to a depth of 11 inches, and the penetration line apparently slopes about 10° from the vertical from the S.S.E. ; it passed through 7 or 8 inches of coke- ballast, and thereafter brick-earth or coarse clay to the remaining depth. From experiments made by Professor Herschel on the power of penetration of a cast-iron model of the meteorite, it is calculated that the actual velocity of fall with which the stone struck the ground must have been 412 feet per second, As it would acquire this velocity by falling freely through half-a-mile, it is clear how little of the original planetary speed with which it entered the atmosphere can have remained to affect its fall.Middlesbrough_meteorite_-_20080625

The interior of the stone has a greyish- white appearance, and is evidently for the most part composed of silicates : frequent bright metallic granules are to be seen, and they appear to be entirely or almost entirely granules of nickel-iron. The rocky portion varies from grey to pure white, of which there are patches, and while the greater part appears to be homogeneous in structure, there are many enclosed chondra of large size and of a darker grey than the body of the stone.

In the well-developed markings of the exterior of the stone it bears a close resemblance, as Professor Herschel points out, to the meteorite of Karakol (Kirgis Steppe, May 9th, 1840), of which Professor Goebel gives a figure in his paper of 1866 in the ‘ Melanges physiques et chimiques de academie Imperiale de St. Petersbourg/ vii., 318-324.

The railway company, who at the time this notice was written retained possession of the stone, kindly permitted a few fragments to be removed for examination. It has since been presented to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and is now preserved in the museum at York.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 1882


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Here But Not Here: Lost Histories of the Tees – A film by David Bates

‘Here But Not Here: Lost Histories of the Tees’ is a short documentary film by David Bates with music by The Kara Sea. The film was essentially a product of three years of walking up and down the River Tees on hot, sunny summer days with my small Panasonic camcorder; enthused and inspired by seeing Patrick Keiller’s ‘Robinson’ trilogy several years ago, my aims were to capture the elation I felt in exploring that strange, beautiful landscape, and to explore something of the history, culture and identity of the river and its people. The film was first shown at ‘Undisciplining: Conversations from the Edges’ at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in June 2018.

David Bates

In Moor

To celebrate the summer solstice I decided to head over to Purse Moor to try and find a carved rock that was discovered in 2000. After much searching I failed to find the rock so walked over to In Moor to have a look at a site that was first described in the late 1940’s after aerial survey of the area. I first came across a reference to it in Hayes & Rutter’s research report on Wade’s Causeway.

An oval-shaped enclosure bounded by ruined stone walls and measuring 488 feet NE-SW and 230 feet NW-SE. Containing 25 small cairns usually 12-15 feet in diameter. Iron slag and flint flakes found on surface. Date and purpose unknown.

In late 2009 a large fire broke out on the moor revealing the site. I visited shortly after and took these photos.

On returning, the moor has regenerated and the site has once again has disappeared into the heather. It can still be seen on aerial photographs.



Wade’s Causeway by R.H. Hayes & J. G. Rutter. Scarborough & District Archaeological Society Research Report No. 4  1964


Yorkshire Rock Art



Ernaldsti, the ancient route runs through Westerdale joining the ridge route at Ralphs Cross.
Base path

Heading west into Baysdale, the track helps keep the bracken at bay.

Base cup

A large slab of rock sits buried in the bracken below the track. I have stopped here many times, it is a perfect place to sit and gaze across to the hidden valley of the Great Hograh Beck.


The slab has a single cup mark at its centre, it is difficult to say whether or not it is prehistoric in origin, there are also carved initials on the stone.  In the 1960s Rowland Close reported a prehistoric carved stone at the head of the Great Hograh Beck valley on Holiday Hill.


On returning to the path I find a single grey flint.


The repairs of the field walls echo the prehistoric walling of the surrounding moor tops.

Barn i

The fields have been abandoned, the farmhouse and barn derelict.

Base barn

Baysdale YN [Basdale c 1200 YCh 564]. ‘Valley with a Cow-shed’ (ON bass).


The hillside sheep scrapes are filled with tiny yellow flowers, my friend Barry has identified them as climbing corydalis (Ceratocapnos clavicular).

sheep double dare

On the moor top I stop for a chat with the keeper. He tells me that he has just returned from a week in Ibiza with the lads.


Roadside litter – a short memory


Ekwall does not mention Hograh, perhaps his definition below gives a clue to the etymology.

OE hoh ‘heel; projecting ridge of land’, dial. hoe, heugh ‘crag, cliff, precipice, a height ending abruptly’. In pl. ns. the meaning varies from ‘steep ridge’ to ‘slight rise’. The OE inflexion was hoh, gen. hos, dat. ho plur. hos, gen. ho, dat. hom. Later were formed gen.  hoges, dat. hoge, plur. hoas, hogas &c.

An alternative etymology by Margaret Gelling

hangra OE ‘sloping wood’. This term is well evidenced in the boundary surveys of charters but is not otherwise recorded in OE. It is usually translated ‘wood on a steep slope’, which is the sense in which hanger is recored in the 18th century..


Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors. Paul M Brown & Graeme Chappell. 2005

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1959

Place-Names in the Landscape. Margaret Gelling. 1984