The most common reminder of East Cleveland’s iron-stone heritage is rows of terraced miners’ cottages. Less obvious are the ironmasters’ houses.
John Bell controlled Bell brothers considerable mining interests, including Saltburn’s Huntcliff and Cliffe pits. He chose a site nearby on the narrow back road between
Skelton and Saltburn to build his house, Rushpool Hall. Built, fittingly of ironstone, construct-ion spread over 1862-1865. Italian artists created a ballroom with arched pillars, a marble staircase, even a suite of rooms complete with a swimming pool below the conservatory where Edward VII is said to have attended bathing parties prior to his coronation. Luxury did not come cheap. The price tag was £100,000.
The Bell family lived there for some years, then Rushpool was leased to Arthur Dorman, later Sir Arthur, of the Dorman-Long Com-pany which dominated much of Teesside's iron & steel business in the first half of the
20th century. In 1893 the hounds of the Cleveland Hunt switched scent lines in the hall’s grounds when a strange animal broke cover. The kill was the sole survivor of three kangaroos Sir Arthur had brought back from Australia in the hope they would adapt to the English climate. Later, Sir Arthur moved to Greytowers at Nunthorpe and the Bell family again took up residence.
On 20th February 1904, fire broke out at 8 pm. A curtain blowing onto a candle in a maid’s room in the west wing was later blamed. While the butler raised the alarm, Mrs Bell was taken by wheelchair to Rigwood House, leaving her daughter Sybil to supervise the removal of furniture to the outhouses.
Saltburn fire brigade could find no pressure in the hydrants. A bucket chain was improvised from the lake 300 to 400 yards away while calls were sent to Brotton, Redcar and Middlesbrough.
Above : Rushpool Hall c.1980 during the Medieval Banquet period before Manxguard renovations.
Below : Caught in the act. The great fire of 1904