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Monument record MDR10194 - Wingerworth tramroad (route of), Wingerworth

Type and Period (1)

  • (Georgian - 1788 AD to 1816 AD?)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

In 1788 a private railway was constructed at Wingerworth which has often been quoted as the first railway in Derbyshire, but it would probably be more correct to say that it was the first iron railway. Wingerworth Railway, according to Farey, was the earliest example of the use of flanged rails above ground. It ran from Butler's Wingerworth iron furnaces to the Woodthorpe End ironstone pits and, by its use, it was found that "two asses were able to do the work that had previously occupied four horses constantly with carts besides an extra three horse cart hired one day weekly to assist them". Based on a similar railway constructed by Butler, the "bars" of the Wingerworth Railway were probably 4ft long, weighing 32lb and laid at 20in gauge "nailed down to wooden bearers across the road". The railway was about a mile in length, laid along the top of old bell-workings not thoroughly settled at the time the rails were put down, yet it is said to have answered perfectly in its purpose. On an old map the area covered by the site is described as the 'Near Ironstone Rake' and the 'Far Ironstone Rake'. In later years, trees have grown on the site in great abundance and will now be found on the modern editions of the Ordnance maps described as 'Near Tupton Wood' and 'Far Tupton Wood' respectively. It is still [in 1949] possible to traverse most of the route, with deep hollows or pits all round marking the sites of the now collapsed bell-workings. (1) Wingerworth & Woodthorpe line, from Wingerworth Iron Furnace (SK 384662) south to Woodthorpe-end Ironstone Pits (SK 384648) (1 mile). Working from c. 1788 to 1817-1825. At present only a range of dates for closure of this railway can be given. The railway is retraceable as a semi-metalled track through Berresford Moor Plantation. Open-casting has destroyed part of the line near Martins Lane but in Mulberry Wood it reappears as a footpath more or less untouched since the line closed. The railway crosses Ashover Road and continues for about 100yd south of it before reaching the site of the pits, now a rubbish dump. (2) Ironstone was carried to Joseph Butler's Wingerworth ironworks by means of a railway, built in 1788. This was the first above-ground line in the country to use cast-iron plate rails. During excavation of the ironworks site (see SMR 15336) a rail was found. As this is the first example of Joseph Butler's rails to be discovered it is of considerable interest. (3) In Berresford Moor Plantation and Mulberry Wood there are sections of the route of a tramroad, retraceable as a public footpath, from Wingerworth iron furnace (sub-surface remains at SK 284662) [SMR 15336] to ironstone pits a mile away. (4) From Wingerworth Iron Works a plateway ran south for about a mile across old bellpits to ironstone mines at Woodthorpe. This was the line laid in 1788 where L-section rails were first used above ground. By the beginning of the 19th century, Butler's railways would have seemed slightly old fashioned, since they were built to the same narrow gauge (20 inches) as Curr's prototype, whereas by this date the influence of Benjamin Outram and others had led to the adoption of a guage roughly twice that on most surface plateways, as well as correspondingly heavier rails. Butler's rails weighed only 28lb per yard, much less than the 36-40lb recommended by Outram, and the wagons must have been smaller than those used on later lines. A rail recovered from the site of Butler's furnace at Wingerworth is similar to Curr's published designs. (5) Berresford Moor Plantation was razed c. 1970 in preparation for opencasting which subsequently destroyed any traces of the tramroad in that area. It is now agricultural land. The plate rail referred to above is believed to be housed in Derby Industrial Museum. The closure of the railway presumably coincided with that of Butler's works [SMR 15336] in c. 1815-16, with an equipment sale advertisement appearing in the Derby Mercury in 1822. (6) Baxter describes the Wingerworth independent railway as follows; 'From Mr Butler's Furnaces in Wingerworth, to Woodthorpe End Ironstone Pits. Opened, circa 1798. Track, iron bars (4ft long). Owner, Joseph Butler. Traffic, ironstone. Closed, 1822 (with furnace).' (7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Article in serial: Baxter, B. 1949. 'Early railways in Derbyshire', Engineering. Vol. 167, pp 573-576. pp 573-574.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Riden, P. 1970. 'Tramroads in North-East Derbyshire', Industrial Archaeology. Volume 7, pp 373-396. p 392.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Riden P. 1973. 'Excavations at Wingerworth Ironworks, Derbyshire, 1973', Bulletin of the Historical Metallurgy Group. Volume 7, p 48.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D. 2000. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. Part V. North East Derbyshire. p 41.
  • <5> Article in serial: Riden P. 1984. 'Joseph Butler, coal and iron master, 1763-1837', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 104, pp 87-95.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Edwards, D. 2005. Wingerworth waterpower sites - notes on several SMR entries.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Baxter, B. 1966. Stone Blocks and Iron Rails.



Grid reference Centred SK 384 654 (211m by 1312m) (Approximate)

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Record last edited

Jul 31 2017 4:50PM

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