Industry before the railway
For centuries Great Ayton has possessed its own thriving industry. In 1801, to take one date as an example, there were said to be more workers in the village engaged in trade, manufacture or handicraft than there were in agriculture. This may have been true of any time between then and the closing of the ironstone mines in the 1920s.
Industry after the railway
It was the coming of the railway which really turned Ayton into an industrial village. In 1864 a rail link was opened, for freight traffic only, between Battersby and Nunthorpe, on which the only intermediate station was Great Ayton. The original purpose of this link was to transport ironstone from Rosedale to Teesside by a more direct route than hitherto. However, the railway passed close to several mines and quarries near Ayton, making the transport of local whinstone and ironstone a much more commercial proposition. Not until four years later, in 1868, was a passenger service provided for Ayton.