TODAY’S Object of the Week is a medal to commemorate the unveiling of a statue to a man who helped to transform a small town into the centre of ironmaking in Britain.

John Vaughan was born in Worcester on December 21, 1799. His parents were Welsh and as a young man John worked at the Dowlais iron and steelworks, near Merthyr Tydfil, firstly in the scrap mill and then as a roller.

He worked his way up within the iron industry, meeting his lifelong friend and business partner Henry Bolckow in 1839 and opening their own ironworks in Middlesbrough in 1841.

Vaughan wanted a good and cheap supply of ironstone closer to Middlesbrough and his ironworks than the existing Loftus ironstone mine and those in the North York Moors.

On June 8, 1850, John and his mining engineer, John Marley, walked the Cleveland Hills looking for the rich ‘main seam’ in the Eston Hills, triggering the growth of the iron industry along the Tees.

Men and their families came in their thousands looking to make their fortunes and Middlesbrough’s population went from 154 in 1831 to 19,000 by 1861.

John Vaughan died on September 16, 1868 – however, it was nearly 16 years before his statue was unveiled.

His friend and business partner Sir Joseph Pease unveiled it in its original home in Exchange Square, Middlesbrough, on Whit Monday, June 2, 1884.

The statue was commissioned from GA Lawson, a London based artist, by the Vaughan Memorial Committee to commemorate his part in the story of Middlesbrough – Vaughan was also one of Middleborough’s first town councillors and its third mayor.

The inscription on the statue reads: “John Vaughan 1799 – 1868 Mayor of Middlesbrough 1855 discovered ironstone in the Cleveland hills founder of the iron trade in Middlesbrough. Partner of Bolckow, Vaughan & Co. who built one of the first iron works in Middlesbrough in 1840.”

The Northern Echo: The reverse of the medal to John Vaughan, best known for his discovery of ironstone in the Cleveland Hills

This medal within the collection of the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum was cast to commemorate the unveiling of the statue and would have been given to the workforce.

* Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, in Skinningrove, is the only museum in the world dedicated to Britain’s ironstone mining heritage on the site of an ironstone mine. The museum is currently undergoing a period of growth with a £2.3 million extension, which will include an exhibition space, education space, and an environmentally controlled object store and archive.

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