Building 1, former Elsecar Ironworks casting shed


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Elsecar Heritage Centre, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley, S74 8HJ


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Statutory Address:
Elsecar Heritage Centre, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley, S74 8HJ

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

Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A production building of Elsecar Ironworks, 1860s, where molten iron was cast into moulds to produce cast iron items. In 2020 in use as a workshop for steam locomotives.

Reasons for Designation

The former 1860s casting house at Elsecar Ironworks, Building 1 at Elsecar Heritage Centre, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a nationally rare surviving example of a casting house, retaining evidence of its original use such as the wide arched openings in its side walls which provided access and ventilation for dealing with molten iron and large castings; * as a key surviving building of the scheduled Elsecar Ironworks, being an important part of William and George Dawes’s mid-Victorian modernisation of Elsecar Ironworks.

Group value: * with the other surviving roofed buildings and extensive archaeological remains of Elsecar Ironworks, one of the best surviving C19 ironworks in England; * as part of the complex of buildings which formed Elsecar Central Workshops, this remarkable survival of an early and influential centralised workshop facility which absorbed a number of ironworks buildings after the closure of the ironworks.


Elsecar Ironworks was established in 1795, but was extensively modernised and reordered by William and George Dawes who had taken over the works under a lease from Earl Fitzwilliam in 1849. The casting house was built as part of the extensive redesign of the southern part of the ironworks in the 1860s and is thought to have undergone some modifications before the closure of the ironworks in the mid-1880s, although most modifications to the building are thought to be C20 or later. The building shares design features with the casting houses at Blaenavon Ironworks in Wales, a World Heritage Site, with its wide low arches in the side walls designed to provide access for containers of molten iron for casting into moulds or sand beds within the building. An 1867 map (a plan of Brampton and Bierlow Township which included the ironworks) indicates that the casting house was served along its west side by a siding of the ironwork’s railway system, this linking it to the puddling and refinery furnaces at the north end of the ironworks, and less directly with the blast furnaces just south-east of the casting house. A photograph taken around 1880 shows the northern gable of the casting house without doorways, but with three tall, round arched windows instead, along with the three semi-circular windows high in the gable that are now blocked. Whilst most of the ironworks was demolished in the 1880s, the casting house was one of the buildings retained and absorbed into Earl Fitzwilliam’s Central Workshop complex which had been established just to the north in the 1850s to service the Earl’s collieries and estate. Between 1901 and 1929, a railway siding was laid to enter the building’s northern gable end. Probably shortly after the complex was taken over by the National Coal Board in 1947, certainly by 1956, a second siding was laid into the building and the western lean-to extension was added. The brick-gabled addition to the northern end was added between 1982 and 1991: this is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing. From the mid-1990s the building has been used as a workshop and engine shed for Elsecar Heritage Railway.

Ironworks, alongside collieries, were key drivers of Britain’s industrial development in the C19. Elsecar Ironworks, which is also designated as a Scheduled Monument, is one of the best surviving C19 ironworks nationally because a number of its buildings were absorbed into the Central Workshops complex and have thus survived. Most C19 ironworks in England have been either completely cleared or redeveloped, casting houses very rarely surviving. Elsecar Central Workshops was an early and pioneering industrial complex, prefiguring similar complexes built as the coal mining and other industries became more highly capitalised towards the end of the C19 and into the C20. Henry Hartop (1785-1865), the ironmaster who was employed by the fifth Earl Fitzwilliam, effectively adapted the concept of the model farm to service the industrial needs of the estate. Successive Earl Fitzwilliams, who were influential members within the first rank of society and the British Establishment, took pride in showing off their industrial concerns to visitors. Elsecar is thus thought to have been nationally, perhaps even internationally, influential.


Casting house, 1850s, for the Dawes’ Elsecar Ironworks, subsequently used as a locomotive shed.

MATERIALS: brick, the southern gable incorporating the earlier stone-built ironworks boundary wall as its inner face. Modern sheet metal roofs.

PLAN: originally thought to have been two large spaces divided by a central, transverse wall, accessed via wide archways in the side walls. Now a single, undivided space accessed through the northern gable, with an inserted upper floor and store rooms at the southern end.

EXTERIOR: the western elevation (the original front) has three, broad, arched openings, the southern two being infilled, the northern now being internal to the mid-C20 lean-to extension. This extension is of four bays with large, segmentally-headed iron-framed windows. The eastern elevation has had extensive alterations, but originally appears to have had a series of tall, round arched windows (now blocked). At the southern end there is a wide arched opening (now blocked) similar to those on the west elevation which may be an early alteration. The gable ends both have three original semi-circular openings set high in the gables that are now blocked. The two locomotive entrances in the north gable, the eastern now being internal to the northern extension, are roughly inserted.

INTERIOR: the walls retain evidence of former working arrangements including various alcoves and iron fitments. The various blocked former openings are also visible internally. The roof structure retains timber king-post trusses.


Books and journals
Rimmer, J, Went, D, Jessop, L, The Village of Elsecar, South Yorkshire: Historic Area Assessment. Historic England Research Report 06-2019, (2019)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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