Heartbreak Hill exhibitions

Boosbeck furniture desk

Discover how Jim Pennyman helped unemployed miners in 1930s East Cleveland.

Heartbreak Hill

In 1930 unemployment in East Cleveland reached 90%, higher than the national average. In response to the struggles of the miners and their families Jim and Ruth Pennyman, along with local landowners created land schemes and a way for miners to learn a new skill. The name Heartbreak Hill is for the back breaking work required to work the land.

When a prince came to visit
Jim Pennyman and Prince George standing with the miners
When a prince came to visit

The story of Jim renting land in East Cleveland to give to the miners to grow crops and raise livestock is told in the dining room. The table is set to recreate a meeting hosted by Jim to discuss the land scheme set up.

Durham University are researching sites in North East England affected by the great depression, including that of Heartbreak Hill. In 2018 the archaeology team recorded the site, near Margrove Park, and found artefacts left decades ago. On display in the dining room are some of the artefacts found by the university and drone footage of the site today.

Artefacts are on loan from Durham University.


Heartbreak Hill exhibition in the dining room
A meeting table in the dining room
Heartbreak Hill exhibition in the dining room

Boosbeck Industries

With the mines closed the miners needed a new way to earn income. Jim started a new workshop to teach the miners carpentry. They made furniture, known as Boosbeck furniture and sold it locally, later moving to a showroom in nearby North Ormesby, provided by Jim. The carpentry scheme was funded by Jim and he experienced a loss financially. Ruth organised the wives to form a sewing and knitting group in Boosbeck, paid for by Ruth.

The Boosbeck furniture showroom is replicated in the house, with one of the rooms containing two bedroom sets using original furniture. Here you can learn more about the Boosbeck Industry journey and see how much the furniture cost.

A bedroom furniture set for sale in the boosbeck furniture catalogue
Page from the boosbeck furniture catalogue
A bedroom furniture set for sale in the boosbeck furniture catalogue