Wortley Top Forge


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018262

Date first listed: 30-Jul-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Jan-1999


Ordnance survey map of Wortley Top Forge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1018262 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 12-Dec-2018 at 15:14:56.


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

District: Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Hunshelf

District: Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Thurgoland

National Grid Reference: SE 29341 00035


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Wortley Top Forge is a complex of great importance and demonstrates continuity in the production of iron from at least the early 18th century. The adaptation of a finery forge to secondary wrought iron working is rare and its survival unique. The buildings, machinery, and water management system will add greatly to our understanding of the iron industry in this part of the country. The physical remains, combined with the documentary evidence of leases and accounts, provides evidence of the technological developments in the industry and how these were accommodated and administered within the works. The survival of the workshops, the former office and cottages enhances the importance of the complex by providing evidence for the domestic arrangement of those who worked within it.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the standing and below ground remains of Wortley Top Forge and its associated water management system. The monument is situated in a bend of the River Don approximately 14.4km north west of Sheffield. It is the only survivor of a group of water-powered works which utilised the natural water supply of the upper reaches of the River Don. Originally the Wortley ironworks comprised the Low Forge, which was situated lower down the river and is now derelict, and the Top Forge which survives today. The Green Moor quarries, a few hundred metres to the west, may have provided building stone for the complex. Charcoal for fuel was available from the surrounding woodland and pig iron was bought in from furnaces at Barnby and Bank, a few kilometres to the north. The forge is now a monument preserved by voluntary groups. Iron-making in this area is suggested as early as 1379 when it is known that there were four `smythes' and a `master' in Wortley. Although records dating to 1621 mention a bloomery in Wortley, the first clear reference to the forge as a finery comes in a lease of 1658. A finery forge was a specialised forge in which pig iron was re-melted in oxidising conditions to produce wrought iron. At this time, and until the mid-18th century, Wortley Forge was administered by the Spencer Partnership which operated a group of eight blast furnaces and 11 iron forges in South Yorkshire. Wortley was particularly active in the first quarter of the 18th century, a period when the buildings underwent extensive alterations. The surviving buildings are mainly early 17th century with later alterations. The forge building retains a date stone of 1713 and includes the initials `MW', a reference to the manager at the time, Matthew Wilson. The forge may, however, also retain some 17th century fabric. In 1746 the lease was taken over by the Cockshutt family, with John Cockshutt the younger taking on the lease in 1793. The Cockshutt family were responsible for introducing a variety of new machines and processes to Wortley Top. They were aware of new processes which allowed wrought iron to be produced on a large and economical scale for the first time. Their introduction of a new rolling mill, mentioned in a lease of 1793, was the first with grooves to be introduced in Yorkshire. It is also thought that one of the Cockshutts made steel by the cementation process at Wortley in the late 18th century. Less is known of the history of the forge in the early years of the 19th century, although it is known that the production of railway axles began about 1850. Wortley became renowned for the quality of its products during this period. This reputation was particularly enhanced by Thomas Andrews Junior who was a noted a metallurgist in the last years of the 19th century. This was the peak of the forge's history. When Thomas Andrews died in 1907 the works were taken over by the Wortley Iron Company under J and B Birdsell. Top Forge was finally closed in 1908 but the lower forge remained in operation until 1929. In its present form, Wortley Top Forge represents continuity in iron production from at least the early 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and has experienced several different processes of manufacture. The earliest, the bloomery, or direct reduction process, produced wrought iron for the smith direct from the ore. However, none of the surviving structures relate to this period, although bloomery cinder can be found at Top Forge. The introduction of the `Walloon' process, in which pig iron was converted to wrought iron, determined the principal layout of the forge from which the present arrangements have derived. The extensive alterations of 1713 would accommodate finery hearths in which pigs of cast iron would be remelted. The iron from the finery would then be forged by water powered hammers, with a chafery hearth used to reheat the bloom during the forging process. The axle making activities after 1850 required bundles of wrought iron bars (typically 16) called faggots to be heated in furnaces for welding under the tilt hammers. The furnaces were placed to the west of the forge with draught provided by three chimneys, now gone. The monument survives both as standing and below ground remains. The main forge building, which is Listed Grade I, is mainly early 18th century in date but retains evidence of different phases of construction. Structural alterations were probably carried out as technological changes dictated but the surviving functional layout is mainly mid-19th century in date. The stone building is rectangular in plan with a continuous outshut (an extension running along the length of the building under a lean-to roof), and housing for the blower wheel, along the west side of the building. Along the length of the west wall are four segmental arches with brick voussoirs. Adjacent to the outshut is a small rectangular room which was used as a foreman's office. Adjacent, but bonded to the eastern wall of the forge building, are two pits which house water wheels; Wheel 1 at the northern end of the wall and Wheel 2 in the centre. The east wall has a large rounded, arched opening for each wheel with a single, square headed smaller doorway to the south of each. Above the level of the arched wheel openings, and spaced along the length of the wall, are three square windows. At the southern end of the east wall, and slightly set back, is a two bay arcade with brick voussoirs supported on two round cast iron columns. The date stone is set in the northern pier of this opening. Originally the building was covered by a stone roof but during alterations around 1880, when part of the roof was raised to allow greater ventilation over the furnaces, only the best stone was kept and slate was used to make up the difference. Now the upper roof is of welsh slate and the lower roof of stone. A considerable amount of machinery remains in situ in the forge building. Wheel 1, a one piece iron casting with modern wooden paddles, is 3.6m in diameter, breast shot and with a cast iron axle. This probably replaced an earlier wooden wheel. Wheel 2, which is also breast shot, was installed in the mid-19th century. It is cast iron, 4.1m in diameter, with separate felloes and later wooden paddles. The blower wheel is again cast iron, with wooden buckets, and is fed by a cast iron pentrough (dated 1850), which is situated above the wheel. A shuttlemouth beneath the pentrough directed the water on to the top of the wheel which then drove the bellows to provide the blast for the forge furnaces. Although the blower itself is now missing, its position is evident from the stone bed plates which lie immediately to the east of the blower wheel. Wheels 1 and 2 were used to drive the two belly helve hammers (hammers which are lifted by a cam operating upon the underside of the hammer beam, or helve). The hammer driven by Wheel 1, is provided with a spring beam, a naturally curved tree trunk which acts as a spring to give a heavier blow. This hammer, although altered by the addition of cast iron parts, still has a massive timber framework of uprights and beams, is of 18th century type, and in essential layout dates from the finery period of the forge. The second hammer is a later free fall hammer and is all iron in a cast iron frame. The axle making activities after 1850 required welding under the hammers and both of the hammers are fitted with heads and anvils of a suitable shape but hammer 2 is of a size and type more appropriate for heavy work. Four cranes were in use at the forge and these survive. Two cranes close to the hammers were used to help the furnacemen place faggots into the furnace and then to withdraw them after heating. The cranes also supported the white hot faggots as they were being manipulated under the hammers. Two cranes at the entrance to the forge were used to move the axles out of the forge. The smaller crane loaded axles on to the weighing machine while the yard crane loaded them on to the flat bedded waggons known as `iron wains'. At the southern end of the forge building is a reverberatory furnace with a counter balanced lift door. The firebrick lined interior consists of two inter connected chambers. At the side is the firebox, fitted with cast iron fire grate bars upon which the coal fire burned. This furnace was moved from a Sheffield steelworks and is similar to those used during the period of axle production. A forced air blast was not provided for this type of furnace, a natural draught being generated by means of a chimney stack and controlled by a damper on top of the chimney. To the south of, but attached to, the main forge building are two cottages which are Listed Grade II. The cottages date to the early 17th century but were later altered, probably in the 18th century at the time when the forge underwent rebuilding. The cottages are of coursed rubble stone with a slate and stone roof. They were once inhabited by workers of the forge but are now used for display purposes as part of the museum and are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. To the south west of the main forge building, and at right angles to it, lies the blacksmith and foundry building. This building, including the joiners shop, is also now used for display purposes as part of the museum and is excluded from the scheduling together with the machinery and the exhibits on display, although the ground beneath is included. A small roofed structure attached to the west end of the foundry building is believed to be the housing for a cementation furnace and is included in the scheduling. It is thought that during the 18th century, while under lease to the Cockshutt family, steel was produced at the Top Forge using the cementation process. The former main office of the forge, now known as Forge Cottage, a Grade II Listed Building, lies to the north west of the foundry building and is excluded from the scheduling, although again the ground beneath is included. The remains of the forge yard, the main entrance to the ironworking complex, and the testing ground, all lie beneath the garden of Forge Cottege and are included in the scheduling. The water supply to the forge is provided by a complex water management system which begins with a weir 90m west of Sharp Ford Bridge. The weir is a substantial, stone built construction across the River Don. The head goit (the channel which diverts water from the river to the forge) meets the river immediately south of the weir. Water supply to the goit is controlled by a sluice gate which is still visible at the head of the channel. From here water flows directly to the forge dam although a second sluice gate further south along the goit was also able to control the flow. For most of its course the goit runs along the east side of Cote Lane. The forge dam is small in area, only 2m deep at its maximum and clay lined. Along the head wall of the dam there are three culverts to regulate the supply of water to the three wheels. The overflow on the eastern side of the dam allows surplus water to return to the river. Excess water would have been dangerous as it could damage the water wheels or flood the forge itself. The small size of the dam was recognised some time before 1746 when it was realised that there was insufficient water for the regular running of the works. Consequently a new Back Dam was built using the same head goit. It is possible that the water supply to the new dam was provided by a pipe which ran from approximately half way along the length of the head goit into the west bank of the Back Dam. The pipe is still visible in both the east bank of the goit and the dam, although the middle section was removed during the construction of a new fishing lake. A sluice at the southern end of the Back Dam would have controlled the water supply between the two dams. A sluice on the north east bank of the Back Dam would have acted as an overflow and when opened would return water immediately to the river which runs along the eastern side of the Back Dam. The banks of the dam are lined with clay but on the north and east sides are revetted using dry stone walling. The banks vary slightly in construction, the northern bank is revetted with a vertical wall built of large rectangular stone blocks. The upper courses of this wall have, very recently, been bonded with mortar in order to strengthen the structure. The northern end of the eastern bank is revetted using ironstone rubble at the base and vertical dry stone walling above. Further south the east bank is built as a series of irregular steps rising from the bottom of the dam. Having passed through both wheels 1 and 2 and the blower wheel, two separate tail goits take the water back to the river. The blower tail goit is joined under the forge by another channel, which is thought to be the tail goit of a former wheel a little to the east of the blower wheel. The tail goit from the blower wheel turns sharply to the west just south of the cottages, and continues in an open section of the goit, until it meets the river just east of Forge Bridge. The other tail goit takes a very direct route to the river. It was essential for industry further down the river that the water be returned. A narrow gauge railway runs along the southern edge of the monument and is used for rides when the forge is open to the public. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern fencing, gates, metalled surfaces, the two cottages attached to the south of the forge, the blacksmith and foundry building, Forge Cottage and the derelict building to the south east of the forge, the machinery on display in the blacksmith, foundry and joiners shop, the furnace and the water wheels in the forge, and the narrow gauge railway to the south of the monument, although the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling. The main forge building and the roofed structure housing the cementation furnace are included in the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number: 29920

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Andrews, C R, The Story of Wortley Ironworks, (1975), 1-96
Johnson, , Worrall, , Top Forge Wortley1-24
Crossley, D, 'Archaeological Journal' in Wortley Top Forge, , Vol. 137, (1980), 449-452

End of official listing