Coke ovens at Inkerman Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Coke ovens at Inkerman Farm
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This copy shows the entry on 13-Nov-2019 at 01:37:01.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
County Durham (Unitary Authority)
Tow Law
National Grid Reference:
NZ 11516 39943

Reasons for Designation

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000 coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry, have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity. Coking is the process by which coal is heated or part burnt to remove volatile impurities and leave lumps of carbon known as coke. Originally this was conducted in open heaps, sometimes arranged on stone bases, but from the mid- 18th century purpose built ovens were employed. By the mid-19th century two main forms of coking oven had developed, the beehive and long oven, which are thought to have been operationally similar, differing only in shape. Coke ovens were typically built as long banks with many tens of ovens arranged in single or back to back rows, although stand alone ovens and short banks are also known. They typically survive as stone or brick structures, but earth- covered examples also exist. Later examples may also include remains of associated chimneys, condensers and tanks used to collect by-products. Coke ovens are most frequently found directly associated with coal mining sites, although they also occur at ironworks or next to transport features such as canal basins. Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. All surviving pre- 1815 ovens are considered to be of national importance and merit protection, as do all surviving examples of later non-beehive ovens. The survival of beehive ovens is more common nationally and a selection of the better preserved examples demonstrating the range of organisational layouts and regional spread is considered to merit protection.

The spread of railed transport and the increasing demand for coke in iron production from the mid-19th century led to the establishment of numerous coke works at colliery sites in the North East Coalfield. The Inkerman colliery coke works is typical of this movement. The development of the coke industry in County Durham led to innovations in the methods of production and oven design, and led to the widespread introduction of the beehive oven. This design was pioneered in, and became characteristic of, the North East Coalfield. The coke ovens at Inkerman illustrate this design, and are now one of only a small number of sites nationally where examples of the beehive oven survives in a complete state.


The monument is situated within a modern coal yard and an adjacent field to the south east of Inkerman Farm, and includes the ruins and buried remains of part of the Inkerman coke works, including two virtually intact beehive coke ovens. It forms part of what was once a far more extensive coal mining landscape which is now largely cleared and landscaped. The remains of a separate double bank of 21 beehive coke ovens run parallel on the west side of the two virtually intact ovens. These range in condition from nearly complete to fragmentary but are also included in the scheduling. The Weardale Iron and Coal Company opened the Inkerman colliery in 1853 and immediately began coke production from 20 ovens built at that time. In 1875 the number was increased to 50 ovens built in two rows. After 1880 the site was operated by a succession of companies. The coke ovens were used for brick production in their later years, but had become disused before World War I. Following closure in 1969 the colliery, including most of the ovens, was cleared and landscaped. The beehive coke oven was a design developed in, and once typical of, the Durham coalfield. It was technologically intermediate between burning coal in heaps and the modern by-product oven. The ovens consist of brick built domes measuring 3.35m in diameter by 2.29m high internally. The retaining wall and part of the earthen insulation has been removed from some of the ovens revealing their construction. The remains of small top central holes and back flue openings survive particularly well and provide evidence of the technological process involved in coke production using the beehive oven design. Part of the front retaining wall and doorways, which are of dressed masonry construction, survive. The surviving south frontage of the two well preserved ovens has been used as one side of a later rectangular building. The building is poorly preserved and its function and relationship to the ovens is unclear. It is not, therefore, included in the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Tow Law Local History Society, Storey, R,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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