Duddon Bridge Ironworks and associated leats and Duddon Bridge Bobbin Mill and associated leats 370m north west of Duddon Bridge


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Duddon Bridge Ironworks and associated leats and Duddon Bridge Bobbin Mill and associated leats 370m north west of Duddon Bridge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Copeland (District Authority)
Millom Without
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SD 19664 88348

Reasons for Designation

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques, including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and features at extraction sites. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small, relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge, but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to more sophisticated types of furnaces. A comprehensive survey of the iron and steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of sites of national importance that represent the industry's chronological range, technological breadth and regional diversity.

Bobbin mills were largely constructed during the 19th century originally in response to the demand for wooden bobbins and reels for the growing cotton trade predominantly based in Lancashire. Many of these mills were founded in the valleys of south Lakeland where raw material for the production of bobbins - water to power the machinery and wood for coppicing - were availible in profusion. Such was the demand that corn mills and even iron furnaces were converted to bobbin manufacture and at the height of production in the late 19th century there were over 60 mills in operation in Cumberland, Westmorland and north Lancashire. The mills were originally water powered but steam engines, turbines, and latterly electric motors became the chief sources of power to drive the machines which sawed, bored, dried, sculptured and polished the bobbins and the variety of other wooden objects such as handles, shafts, rollers, pulleys, poles and dowels which were also manufactured. The main components of a bobbin mill comprised ponds from which water was channeled to power the waterwheel, a wheelpit, coppice barns where the wood was stored and dried prior to use, sawing sheds, drying rooms, lathe sheds, engine rooms, a blacksmith's room, and storage sheds where the finished components could be housed prior to transportation away from the site. Since the mid-20th century the virtual disappearance of the Lancashire textile industry and the use of cheaper plastic in place of wood has reduced demand to the extent that virtually all the bobbin mills have now closed.

Duddon Bridge Ironworks and the adjacent bobbin mill is a rare example of the juxtaposition of both iron and bobbin production. The ironworks and its associated features is considered to be the most complete surviving example of an 18th century charcoal-fired blast furnace in England. Additionally buried remains of part of the adjacent bobbin mill will survive as does the surface remains of the mill's water management system.


The monument includes the earthworks and upstanding and buried remains of Duddon Bridge Ironworks together with the earthworks and buried remains of an adjacent bobbin mill. The ironworks are located about 370m north west of Duddon Bridge on rising ground to the west of a minor road leading to Corney Fell, while the remains of the bobbin mill are located nearby to the east between the minor road and the River Duddon. The ironworks includes the blast furnace and its adjacent buildings, an iron ore store, two charcoal stores, a charcoal loading platform, a bridge, three slag heaps, a pitstead, a head-race or leat, the wheelpit, and a tail-race along which used water was channeled into the river. The remains of the bobbin mill include a building platform, on which the mill and an associated structure stood, together with the head-race, tail-race and buried remains of the wheelpit. The blast furnace and charcoal barns are Listed Buildings Grade II* and II respectively. Construction of Duddon Bridge Ironworks began in 1736 by Edward Hall and Company (also known as the Cunsey Company). The furnace had a relatively long life with production continuing until 1867. It was used to cast, smelt or make pig iron, or any other sort of iron or cast metal. The fuel used was charcoal, and iron of excellent quality was produced using the rich local iron ore haematite. Initially the blast to the furnace was provided by leather bellows, however, during the late 18th century these were replaced by a system employing cast iron open-topped cylinders. These cylinder bellows were driven by a water-wheel which was supplied by water from the River Duddon which flowed along a head-race. During World War I the furnace complex was stripped of its machinery and any ore that remained was also removed. The exact date when the bobbin mill was built is unknown but a letter of 1889 to the town clerk of Barrow-in-Furness indicates that the mill had been in operation for `upwards of 100 years'. It had latterly been concerned with brushstock and handle production but ended its days towards the end of the 19th century as a sawmill. The water-powered charcoal-fired blast furnace is a stone rubble construction located at SD19678830. The furnace stack is a tower-like structure, square in plan, with sloping battered lower walls to give solidity and resist distortion from heat. It has wide round-headed openings in two adjacent walls, one the blowing arch the other the casting arch. The furnace shaft within the stack has a square base which originally contained the hearth and crucible into which the molten iron and slag settled as the blast proceeded. The shaft above this area is lined with firebricks. Attached to the west side of the furnace stack is a roofless two-storey structure known as the bridge house, so named because it spanned from ground level to a high level on the furnace stack. It contained stores on the ground floor while the first floor was occupied by the charge house, whose sloping timber floor led up to a door near the top of the furnace from where iron ore, charcoal and flux required for the charge were cast into the furnace mouth. Attached to the south side of this building is a roofless two storey structure which functioned as an office and smithy. To the east of the furnace stack are the lower courses of the blowing house within which were located cylinders for providing the air blast for the furnace. These cylinders were driven by a waterwheel attached to the north side of the blowing house. Water to drive the wheel was taken from the River Duddon about 650m north of the furnace and channeled along a leat flowing through woodland and beneath the minor road. This arrangement superceded an earlier waterwheel which was powered by water channeled along a short launder or timber channel from the stream flowing downhill to the north of the charcoal stores. This waterwheel powered a pair of bellows which supplied the air blast to the furnace. The used water was then channeled along a tail-race and beneath the minor road to join the tail-race flowing from the bobbin mill back into the river. To the south of the furnace stack are the lower courses of the casting house where the molten iron was cast into a casting pit which ran parallel to the building's west wall. In the angle between the casting house and the blowing house are the remains of a square building which functioned as the worker's tea room. Three slag heaps lie to the east of the furnace. The closest is an oval mound approximately 2m high which also served as an access ramp to a stone bridge across the tail-race. This bridge provided access to another slag heap, now largely carted away, which lay between the end of the bridge and the minor road. The third slag heap lies to the south of the modern car park and consists of a 1m high finger-shaped mound of slag and firebrick lining. To the south west of the furnace lies the iron ore store, not the original one but an early 19th century rebuild which was re-roofed in the 1980's. Haematite from the mines at Lindal and Dalton was tipped from carts into this building. To the north west lies the early charcoal store, used to hold the large amounts of fuel demanded by the casting process. It was subsequently heightened to increase capacity. Iron ore staining on the wall to the right of the entrance shows evidence of a small lean-to store. Attached to the western end of this building is a later charcoal store originally constructed during the 18th century with a 19th century rebuild at its southern end. Charcoal was loaded into this store from a platform at the rear of the building via openings in the store's internally buttressed west wall. A small store has been added to the east wall of this charcoal store. At SD19608823, in woodland a short distance south west of these buildings, there is an oval-shaped pitstead or charcoal burning platform up to 11m wide which is thought to be contemporary with the iron furnace. Adjacent to the pitstead are traces of a walled enclosure with remains of a small outbuilding of uncertain function. The site of part of the bobbin mill complex is represented by a platform of spread stone rubble marking the location of the mill and an associated dwellinghouse. The stone spread also appears to cover the site of the mill's wheelpit. Water to power the mill was taken from the River Duddon about 200m to the north and channeled along a leat which was augmented by additional water from a short leat tapped off the iron furnace's head-race. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are all fences and fenceposts, all gates and gateposts, all safety rails and posts, all modern timber doors to the furnace stack and the iron ore store, all modern metal grills protecting the windows of the iron ore store, a timber bridge in the former charging house, an information board and its stone plinth, the surface of the minor road leading to Corney Fell and the surfaces of the car park and access tracks. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

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.

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Books and journals
Bowder, M (ed), Furness Iron, (2000), 50-8
Bowder, M (ed), Furness Iron, (2000), 22-3
Bowder, M (ed), Furness Iron, (2000)
Dunn, C, Duddon Bridge Ironworks, Cumbria. An Archaeological Field Survey, (1998), 4,11-12
Dunn, C, Duddon Bridge Ironworks, Cumbria. An Archaeological Field Survey, (1998), 1-21
Dunn, C, Duddon Bridge Ironworks, Cumbria. An Archaeological Field Survey, (1998), 5
Dunn, C, Duddon Bridge Ironworks, Cumbria. An Archaeological Field Survey, (1998), 1-21
Dunn, C, Duddon Bridge Ironworks, Cumbria. An Archaeological Field Survey, (1998), 4,11-12


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.

End of official listing

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