For the history of the alum industry see "The Earliest Chemical Industry"
Charles singer, Folio Society, London, 1948
----- Original Message -----
From: Mike Stallybrass <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2001 10:32 PM
Subject: Alum working near SALTBURN
Message text written by Mark Simmons
>A problem with linking the origins of the name "Saltburn" with alum is
there is no evidence for alum working near to Saltburn Beck at such an
date as the 13th Century. This would leave you to conclude that either
was, but the place name is the only evidence for it, or (more likely) that
the name originates with "salt-" due to another factor.
The earliest archaeologically visable Alum workings near to Saltburn are at
Guisborough (approx. 5 miles to the south of Saltburn), on the hill
alongside the A171 near the village of Charltons. These mainly 16/17th
Century, and were dug by workers for the Chaloner (_spelling ?_) Family,
are supposed to be earlier...
I've been told that the Priory at Guisborough had alum workings (presumably
the ones at Charltons), which were stimulated by war with France
the 100 Year War) when Alum imports were stopped from the continent (alum
being important as the major mordant in dyeing cloth). However, I'm not
sure if this story about Guisborough being a medieval suppiler of alum is
Anyone know about where alum supplies came from the medieval period ?
If I recall correctly the principal source during most of the mediaeval
period for alum was Italy where it was a papal monopoly. It was quarried
as shale and the method of extraction was a closely guarded secret, making
it an extremely valuable commodity.
In Scandinavia there is a tradition of extracting alum from clubmoss
species that take up exceptionally high amounts of aluminium from the soil,
and environmental evidence from Viking levels at Coppergate, York suggest
that this was practiced here as well, probably with clubmoss imported for
the purpose from Norway as there is no evidence for these species being
native to Yorkshire.