Wortley Top Forge and the other Wortley ironworks are site of unique
importance for the history of the iron industry in Britain. Top Forge is
one of the few finery forges that has standing buildings that were in use
when iron was made by the traditional (pre-Industrial Revolution) finery
process, though the present remains are essentially those of the forge
making iron axles.
Wortley was probably also a forge where puddling was adopted at a
particularly early date for that process. The evidence for this comes from
a lease of the tinmill site, rather than from Top Forge. The works at this
period belonged to the Cockshutt family. However James Cockshutt was a
partner with Richard Crawshay at Cyfarthfa at Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales
until September 1791. When the lease of the tinmill was renewed in 1793,
it was described as formerly a tin mill. An ironworks list of 1790 however
lists it as a tinplate works. Accordingly it would appear that after James
Cockshutt left Merthyr Tydfil, he came home and converted the tinmill from
rolling tinplate to rolling blooms form Cort's puddling process.
On the other hand, I have not seen any evidence to convince me that any part
of the Wortley Works is quite as early as 1600. Top and Bottom Forges
certainly predate the Civil War, but it is not clear by how much. R.A.
Mott sought to link the wiremills with divers iron smithies in Thurgoland,
Dodworth and Silkstone that were relet in 1621, but this reference is
inconsistent with what is known of the ownership of the wire mills (though
they were in Thurgoland). Furthermore wiremills were within the monopoly of
the Company of Mineral and Battery Works, who were zealous in pursuing
those infringing their patent rights at that period. Mott's case is
further confused by his introduction of the 'Old Mill', a corn mill in
Wortley, and lease of land where there had been smithies (i.e. bloomery
forges), when the leases are completely silent as to their existence.
Nevertheless, Wortley is an important site, and I hope Sheffield Trades
Historical Society have every success in raising money to put the forge on a
sound footing, preferably as a heritage attraction that can afford to
employ staff and be open more than one day per week (and at other times by
49, Stourbridge Road,
----- Original Message -----
From: Dr. Chris Morley <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: 13 July 2002 07:49
Subject: WORTLEY TOP FORGE
The South Yorkshire Industrial History Society was founded in 1933, as the
Society for the Preservation of Old Sheffield Trades and later known as The
Sheffield Trades Historical Society, therefore, next year, 2003, we
commemorate the 70th. anniversary of our foundation. The year also sees the
50th. anniversary of the purchase and taking into care by the Society of the
Wortley Top Forge.
The latter was the derelict site of a wrought iron forge operated by
water-wheel driven forging hammers and furnace blast-making equipment that
had, since its closure as a forge in 1908, been used as a storage area, a
stable, and for various other purposes. The buildings were in great
and tumbledown. The heavy forging hammers were, although still recognisable,
overgrown and unworkable. The water wheels were rotten and silted up, as
the leats and water courses from the river Don and associated dams.
However, members of the Society recognised the importance of the site as
being probably the last remnant of a once great industry, and that the
remains of the equipment were irreplaceable relics. Money was raised to
initially lease the site, and then to purchase it, and work commenced, by
volunteers and dedicated - what we now call - conservationists to renovate
and preserve the buildings, the water wheels, the hammers, and other
equipment. Examples of railway wheels and axles were begged from owners such
as the National Railway Museum in order to be able to demonstrate the last
use of the forge before its closure - the manufacture of Wortley railway
It should be said that the Top Forge was the only one of six works that
straggled the valley of the river Don to form the Wortley Iron Works that
could be preserved. In total the Iron Works consisted, in 1888, of two wire
works, a tilt and slitting mill, the Top Forge, the Low Forge rolling mill,
and an erstwhile Tin Mill with a sheet rolling mill, the earliest of which
was founded in 1600.
The Wortley Top Forge is situated about ten miles north of Sheffield
following the A61 out of the City and by then following the A629 towards
Huddersfield. Go through Wortley village and turn left at the traffic lights
in the village of Thurgoland. The Forge lies on the left after passing under
the disused railway bridge. We open the Forge to visitors on every Sunday
between the hours of ten am. and four pm. except in January when we close
Much work and money, equivalent to almost £1,000,000, has been spent upon
preservation of the Top Forge. The site now forms a very unique, true, and
'working' restored heavy iron forge housed in period buildings with attached
workshops, workmen's cottages, water courses, and dam.
The aims of the Society, and the Trust that is responsible for its
management, is to preserve the Forge, install and preserve examples of later
forging techniques and machinery, and to enable the site to become an
educational and heritage centre for an old South Yorkshire industry and
associated Sheffield trades. In March 1994 the Institution of Mechanical
Engineers presented a Heritage Hallmark Plaque to Wortley Top Forge.
We are conscious that the site lacks the modern amenities required by a
century Museum Site of importance. Toilets are antiquated, a visitor centre
and refreshment facilities are now a 'must'. Improved, and discreet
explanation and interpretation boards are necessary. And these must be paid
for. We are, therefore appealing for funds and donations.
But, more importantly, volunteers are also desperately needed, to act as
guides, to dismantle, renovate, and rebuild donated equipment, operate
machine tools, do some bricklaying and other building work for maintenance.
Attendance is required for several fixed Sundays a year, or for every Sunday
if people could spare the time. Skills are not necessary in every case,
although people with specialist skills and knowledge will be more than
welcome. Heavy lifting equipment and carrying vehicles are available on site
and these are maintained and insured, as, indeed are all our visitors and
volunteers. Volunteers are also invited to carry out an ecological
investigation of the site, its surrounding woodland, its field, dam, and
water courses. The last one undertaken was held more than twenty years ago
a local naturalist but his records have been mislaid.
We currently have just over 2000 visitors a year the majority of whom are
ordinary people, two or three hundred come as organised trips from learned
and interested bodies and societies, and we hope to attract more, especially
children and teenagers from local schools and colleges.
What we are looking for is publicity, especially in the run-up to our
jubilee's year We are a volunteer organization looking after an
internationally recognised Heritage site and an important industrial relic.
Please can you help us?
Yours very sincerely,
Christopher C. Morley
President, South Yorkshire Industrial Hstory Society.