Winlaton Mill ironworks, south east of Winlaton Mill village


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Gateshead (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
NZ 18483 60370

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.

Winlaton Mill was a large integrated ironworks, forming a precursor of the Industrial Revolution. Archaeological recording in the 1990s has demonstrated good sub-surface preservation, and evidence relating to an exceptional range of processes will be preserved.

The importance of the site is enhanced by the survival of very extensive documentation. The dam also retains an important `horizontal-arch' weir.


The monument includes the extensive structural, earthwork and stratigraphic remains of the Winlaton Mill ironworks and its associated water supply and housing. It is situated alongside the River Derwent, which provided an abundant power supply for the range of works at the site. The sites of the earlier corn and fulling mills are also included.

Development at the ironworks commenced in 1691 when Ambrose Crowley II, the leading supplier of ironwork to the Royal Navy, took over a pre-existing corn and fulling mill. The mill works were rapidly expanded into a major integrated ironworks, including a finery/chafery forge, plating forge, slitting mill, cementation steel furnace, blade-grinding mills, anvil shop, hardening shop and nailmakers' and filemakers' workshops, together with warehouses, offices and housing. The main water-powered mills and forges were located at the north east end of the complex, with the nailmakers' workshops, warehouses and offices around two squares to the west, and the housing along the base of the hillside to the west and south of the squares.

The south west part of the site was occupied by successive leats to the millponds, fed by a large multi-phase dam and weir on the River Derwent. The river weir allowed water to be drawn off the river towards the dam complex, where it could be routed according to needs. The dam complex is known to have had at least three phases, with the latest of these incorporating an early and unusual `horizontal arch' design with a curved weir and spillway, the latter angled against the current and supplying water to the southern millpond. A stone-lined leat 3.6m wide carried water from the dam complex to the northern pool (Great Pool) that served the ironworks. This leat had at least two phases of construction and examination suggests that the silting deposits surviving at the base of the leat will hold important archaeological and environmental evidence. The larger millpond occupied much of the central part of the site, and the smaller, square millpond to the south (located just south west of a modern footbridge) served a blade mill on the site of the earlier corn and fulling mills.

The ironworks saw only limited further development from the 1720s, and began to run down after the 1780s, when the Crowley family involvement ended. It finally closed in 1863. In the mid-20th century, much of the site was progressively buried by waste from a nearby cokeworks. This was removed under archaeological supervision in 1991-2, and the well-preserved remains were reburied and the area landscaped.

The main visible features of the ironworks are therefore the remains of the dam at the south west end, and ruins and earthworks of the workers' housing along the west side. The remainder of the works site is landscaped as a public park, but the below-ground structures and deposits of the ironworks survive beneath this.

Winlaton Mill is exceptional for a number of reasons. The Crowleys were a leading family of ironmasters from the Midlands, who acquired the Winlaton site because of its potential for integrated works on a massive scale. They brought with them much of the cumulative knowledge of the Midlands ironmasters, but also supplemented this with their own innovative ideas on iron manufacture. The works is also an important early example of the factory system of production, with the site integrating iron making, manufacturing, offices, storage and housing. The area of the monument includes the entire complex, where archaeological work has confirmed the presence of extensive stratigraphic and structural remains that can provide a wealth of further detail about the site. The site also has important documentary evidence surviving, particularly a map of 1718, which records the layout and function of each of the structures at the site. The works is also famous for the set of laws that Crowley introduced, to cover the workers' daily lives and to ensure the smooth running of production. The social welfare elements of this system were in place at Winlaton some two centuries before such things were available nationally.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: modern fencing, electricity and telegraph poles, signboards, the abutment of the `Butterfly Bridge' across the river, the abutment of the stone bridge at the south east corner of the monument, the metalled surfaces of all tracks and paths, the boulders along the north side of the pond at the southern edge of the monument and a brick and breeze-block building to the west of the trackway in the north west corner of the monument; however, the ground beneath all these features is 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Flinn, M W, Men of Iron: The Crowleys in the early Iron Industry, (1962)
Flinn, M W, Men of Iron: The Crowleys in the early Iron Industry, (1962), 219f
Smith, N, A History of Dams, (1972), 166-8
Ponsford, , 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Post-Medieval Britain in 1991, , Vol. 26, (1921), 151
Cranstone, David , Winlaton Mill: Archaeological Investigations, 1991-2, 1992, Unpublished report to Gateshead MBC
Cranstone, David , Winlaton Mill: Archaeological Investigations, 1991-2, 1992, Unpublished report to Gateshead MBC
Tyne & Wear Archives Serv, DX 104/1, Anon, A Draft of Winlaton Mill and Swalwell, (1718)


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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