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OUT & ABOUT


Forging history


a place in


Right on our doorstep in our glorious county of South Yorkshire lies another hidden treasure, one that is over 350 years old.


Dating back to around 1640, Wortley


Top Forge is now the only surviving water powered wrought iron forge which retains its original features - testimony to the commitment of hard-working volunteers. Today, the site forms an industrial museum that will fuel intrigue into the true art of early iron-making and forging in Wortley and the significance it had on the industry. Built by Sir Francis Wortley, of


Wortley Hall, before the English Civil War, Top Forge uses purely water from the River Don to power waterwheels that once worked huge hammers forging wrought iron.


The site was the perfect location


for Sir Francis; in close proximity to his estate and woods and on the banks of the river, the forge was guaranteed an endless supply of charcoal and water to operate a successful bloomery furnace. Following the death of Sir Francis, the forge continued to play a pivotal role in the successes of local iron making. Between 1660 and 1760 the forge was leased to the Spencer family of Cannon


30 aroundtownmagazine.co.uk


Hall, ironmasters who dominated the industry in South Yorkshire during that period.


Around 1740, John Cockshutt leased the forge and, with his sons James and John Jr, placed it at the cutting edge of iron technology in Britain. He introduced a key process at Wortley named ‘puddling’, which allowed wrought iron to be produced from pig iron on a larger scale. In Victorian times, the Andrews family forged wrought iron axles for the expanding railway industry which the site became renowned for. Eventually, wrought iron was replaced by cheaper mild steel and operations ceased at Wortley Top Forge in 1908, with site management ending in 1929. Following over two decades of neglect and deterioration, South Yorkshire Industrial History Society purchased the semi-derelict site in 1953 and since then have been restoring the forge buildings and its three waterwheels to their former working glory in order to open as a visitor attraction. It is now the only heavy iron forge in the country to retain its original buildings, waterwheels, hammers and cranes.


Wentworth Woodhouse, Conisbrough Castle and Monk Bretton Priory are all notable Grade I listed buildings, but have you heard of Wortley Top Forge?


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