I'm interested in early industry in the upper Erewash Valley and am finding your site completely absorbing....
I'm very intrigued by a number of references on Robert Bradleys 'History of Mining' site to Benjamin Outram and Company / The Butterley Company in connection with their activities in Kirkby-in-Ashfield in the area of Portland Fields.
There's an entry for Portland Fields under the year header 1760, and another (1954) within the information for the Portland Pits; there are a few others scattered throughout.
In particular there are references to a blast furnace at / near Portland Fields / Lower Portland, with ironstone being mined in the vicinity and delivered directly to the furnace.
I wondered if there might be further information about this, as I would be very interested in following it up; any advice you might be able to give as to sources / references would also be very much appreciated.
Thanking you in anticipation,
First of all I am delighted that there is information in my work relating to the Portland pits that you are interested in. For a time I was a member of the committee, meeting at Jacksdale, and supplied plans and information to the Portland Path Project. Unfortunately I had to resign due to my wife's disability and awkward time schedules for meetings. However a book was produced in 2012 by Martyn Taylor - Cockayne called The Portland Path. ISBN: 978-0-9572416-0-2 which may contain information you require. Martyn lives in Jacksdale, and maybe he is in the phone book. He could help you. Another source is the Derbyshire archives at Matlock. Try them as they have a lot of info for Butterley Co. I hope this is helpful.
Regards, Bob Bradley
Please find attached the article about the 17th century Ironworks at Kirkby and Bulwell from the Transactions of the Thoroton Society. Vol LXIV, p.44-46, 1960.
Also attached is a map of the Portland No. 1 area with the area of ironstone workings referred to as The Voyage. Sorry no date marked on the map.
Dr David Amos
17th CENTURY IRON WORKS AT BULWELL
By R. JOHNSON
DURING the last quarter of the 17th century, Thomas Baskerville, who was making the " Grand Tour” of England, wrote:
"From Nottingham to Mansfield is accounted twelve miles ; the way leads through Shirwood, by a forge driven by water, where with weighty hammers, bigger than men can handle, they knock or beat out long bars of iron when they are made red hot in that great fire or forge blown up by those mighty bellows. In these dams or pools of water that forge the iron, for here are many in this country, are great store of trout. As we rode through this forest we saw many old decayed oaks of which abundance were cut down by the Duke of Newcastle's order to make charcoal. They told me one Mr. Jennings was the chief master or overseer of these charcoal works (H.M.C. Portland Papers, vol. 2, p. 309).
This interesting reference to an industry, which has not received from local historians the attention it merits, prompted the writer to make further investigations, which produced the following information found in the Kerry MSS. in the Derby Borough Reference Library.
From the original Deed in his possession the Rev. Chas. Kerry made the following transcript:
1st April, 1615.
Lancelot Rolleston of Watnall-Chaworth to Sir John Byron the Younger of Builwell Parke.
LEASE for 21 years of Broome Hill in Hucknall Torkard at a rent of £6 per annum.
.... and if the forge called Bulwell Forge and now used and imployed for the makinge and fininge of Iron do at anie time hereafter decaie and be laide downe and not used for the makinge of iron it shall be lawful for the said Lancelot Rolleston to re-enter the said close and have the same ”.
This ancient Bulwell Forge which stood by the River Leen was in all probability the one so vividly described by Baskerville later in the same century. His route from Nottingham to Mansfield was via Bulwell Forest, Papplewick and Larch Farm on the ancient road which followed the east bank of the Leen. The forge stood about 200 yards from the highroad " and ¾ ml. east of Bulwell Parke”, the site being on National Grid Line 67, eight hundred yards E. of 00. (1' O.S.). The “weighty hammers” to which he referred were tilt hammers operated by a water wheel of large diameter. The head of water necessary for the purpose was obtained by constructing a dam or pool, hence the term "hammer-pond”; and the same wheel actuated “those mighty bellows” This forge-mill is said to have been erected as such by the Canons of Newstead and since the day it ceased to function as a forge the mill has been put to varied uses.
We find further mention of ‘Mr. Jennings’ in documents concerning another iron mill.
By Indenture dated the 31st July 1666, the Duke of Newcastle granted to Humphrey Jennens of Erdington, Co. Warwick, “all the wood and underwood now standing, growing or being upon the wastes within the bounds and lands of Kirkby in the Forest of Sherwood, commonly called by the name of Kirkby Wood, with liberty to cut down all and any of the trees, dig up the waste of all dead and decaying trees and make pits for the charcoaling of the same”.
In 1671, Jennens "did erect and build a furnace commonly called Kirkby Furnace, within the parish, precints or territory of Kirkby and also severall other buildings thereunto neere adjoyning for his agents, servants and workmen ", Was it one of these workmen whose marriage is recorded in Kirkby Church Register?
“30th April 1680. Thomas Eyre, faber ferrarius to Catherine Saxton”.
It would appear from a note in the Kerry MSS. that the furnace ceased producing iron at the close of the 17th century. We learn that, "John Jennens, agent to the Duke of Newcastle sold 2034 tons of unrefined cast iron, standing at Kirkby Furnace on the 21st March 1693. Each ton to containe 20 hundreds and each hundred 112 lbs”.
So complete was the demolition of this furnace that its site was forgotten, but the writer believes he discovered evidence of its location a few years ago. At the foot of Church Hill, Kirkby, in the angle formed by Pinxton and Park Lanes is the “Limebumers' Arms Inn”, alongside which runs a lane giving access to Meadow Farm. In a field of this farm, bordering the River Erewash, are the drained beds of the mill-leat and dam of what could well be the Kirkby Furnace. The poor condition of the grass in the vicinity, the moulds of sterile soil and cinders, the patches of iron slag and the ridges due to open-cast working of ironstone rakes support the claim that in this meadow stood Kirkby Furnace. (Map Ref.1 O.S. On Grid Line 75, three hundred yards E. of Grid Line 94).
'The Voyage' ironstone workings location is fantastic, and adds a new layer of information to that available from the British Geological Survey geological 'old series' maps. Sheet 71 (showing Kirkby-in-Ashfield) was published in 1858, with geological data from 1855. It details two areas of ironstone (outcrops?) just south of Portland No.1 Pit; the one to the west seems to match the 'Voyage' location. I'm supposing, therefore, that the works pre-date 1855.....?
Click Here For the Link:
Another interesting source of information I've found is the 'Former Bentinck Tip Phase 1 Data Review and Land Contamination Assessment' by SLR Consulting Ltd., which rather conveniently has a whole sequence of Ordnance Survey maps, plus historic landfill maps and information. These various maps detail a similar area which was being landfilled c1971-73 by Kirkby Urban District Council. I wonder if the the old workings were being utilised? Might be revealing to follow that up (another item on the list...).
Re: Transactions of the Thoroton Society article by R. Johnson...
I have the very same article and - in my researches so far - it would appear to be the only site-based attempt to locate Kirkby Furnace, with various components apparently sighted (slag scatters, water management, etc.). All other articles that I've found quote the Johnson paper.
His map reference, however, is a bit evasive, as it is for Meadow Farm only and not for the remains. Also, my assumptions / interpretation from his writings are that the ironstone rakes were also in the fields of Meadow Farm, i.e. north of the River Erewash.....question is, where exactly was he looking and are there any signs still there, 60-odd years later? Hmm, I'm still weighing that one up....
Just to say, my main working sources at the moment are:
- Philip Riden's 'Gazetteer of Charcoal-Fired Blast Furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660', 2nd edition 1993; published by Merton Priory Press Ltd.,
ISBN 10: 0952000911 ISBN 13: 9780952000914;
- and also his article 'The Charcoal Iron Industry in the East Midlands, 1580-1780' (The Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 111 (1991) pp. 64-84).
Best wishes, Tessa