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The Miner’s Bait Table sculpture on the Cleveland Way at Boulby

A few weeks back whilst walking a stretch of the Cleveland Way with my dog, I came across a strange piece of land art in the shadow of Boulby Mine just outside Staithes.

The sculpture was of a miner sitting at a table. On further inspection I found out that the artwork was titled The Miner’s Bait Table, commissioned by ICL Ltd the owners of Boulby Mine to celebrate the history of the mine and its 50 years of existence.

The mine originally mined Potash, a potassium rich salt formed in underground deposits from evaporated sea beds from 250 million years ago. It was valuable as a fertiliser and Boulby Mine functioned as a potash mine until 3 years ago when potash mining stopped. The mine still functions but now solely produced polyhalite another salt used as a fertiliser but one which contains calcium and magnesium as well as potassium.

ICL commissioned local artist Katy Ventress to design and produce the piece which she did at her local studio in Hinderwell.

Her inspiration for the piece was the “bait tables” where miners would eat their snacks or lunch whilst underground. Each table contained a communications board with phone and they were mobile, being able to be moved around as required.

Katie’s sculpture features a life-size miner in galvanised steel sitting at the bench carrying the equipment such as helmet and lamp, they would have done in the early days of the Boulby mine. The piece is functional and walkers can sit down and eat their pack ups and spend a short while taking in the stunning coastal views.

The bait table itself is laser cut stainless steel and also contains a map showing how far the mine stretched beneath the ground as well as further information about the history of the mine.

The elaborate picnic-style bench took just over three months to produce, after which it was sent to the galvanizer for careful processing. Galvanizing was essential to protect the sculpture from the outside elements and limit need for maintenance bearing in mind its position on the top of the cliffs on the coast. After galvanizing Katie Ventress also applied acid etching to create striking highlight effects.

It’s definitely worth a visit to sit and think about the hundreds of miners who have worked below ground where you are siting, over the 50 year history of the mine. There are also great views back to Staithes.

As an interesting footnote about the mine but nothing to do with the sculpture… Beneath the ground at Boulby Mine is an Underground Science Laboratory, where scientific experiments into Dark Matter can be carried out, as the mine is so deep that experiments are sheltered from the cosmic radiation which constantly bombards our planet.


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