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Monument record MDR5087 - Bowers Mill smelt mill and later cupola furnace (site of), Whitefield Lane, Ashover

Type and Period (5)

  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Bowers Mill, Cupola. Bowers Mill Cupola, built circa 1765. It was the first cupola site in Derbyshire, built by the London Head Company. There remains a breached dam and a number of buildings. (1) Cupolas were installed after September 1737 by the London Lead Company. However, there was a smelting mill on the site in 1711 when a Mr Birds sold '40 piggs of lead' and the mill may be one of the four listed in Ashover in 1662. The London Lead Company took over the site in 1734. A document of 1752 that states 'there is but one that smelts with pit cole' may refer to Bowers Mill. In 1778 the London Lead Company gave up the lease as part of their retreat from Derbyshire. Bowers Mill does not seem to have been worked as a cupola after 1778, and by about 1800 it was in use as a ropewalk. The site today [1969] has the remains of low walls and a leat leading from the breached dam just upstream. Burnt and slaggy firebricks are scattered around, and there is some black glassy slag. A hundred yards downstream, a wall is built of large upright slabs similar to those used elsewhere for covering flues (SMR 583). The house of Joseph Whitfield, the London Lead Company agent, is situated a few hundred yards away on Whitefield Lane (SMR 584). (2) Bowers Mill - the remains of old lead smelting works on the Hodgelane Brook. Possibly dating from 1662, the cupolas were installed in 1737 and were some of the earliest in the county. Later it was used as a ropewalk and flaxmill. No standing buildings survive, but there are many remains of walls, leat, dam etc. (3) According to an annotation in White Watson's personal copy of Farey's 'Derbyshire', the cupola was introduced into Derbyshire 'in 1737 at Bowers Mill in Ashover Upper End'. In an agreement dated 17 September 1737, Charles Wharten, a mason, was bound in the sum of £100 'not to build .. Any the like furnace or furnaces for the space of 20 years .. For the use or benefitt of any other person only for him the said Joseph Whitfield [the London Lead Company's agent in Derbyshire] or for the said .. Governor and Company etc.'. In the 1816 Poor Rate Assessment the site is described as 'mill, rope house, barn and garden'. It was out of use by 1852 as, in the Poor Rate Assessment of that year it is described as 'part of old mill', while the adjoining close upstream is called Dam Tail. Three buildings are marked, one 39ft long x 26ft wide by 11ft high, one 40ft x 26ft x 7ft and one 14ft x 21ft x 5ft. (5) The smelting-house of William Bower is referred to in accounts of the executors of Lionel Tinley (died 20 Nov. 1653), whose lead is carried from Bower's smelting-house to Bawtry. William Bower left the mill to his son Christopher in 1673. Bower and his mill feature regularly in the accounts of William Hodgkinson, a lead merchant who lived at Overton, Ashover. The mill was frequented by several local lead merchants. In 1734 it was leased to the London Lead Company who converted it into a cupola furnace after 1737. A dam, faced in stone on the eastern side, crosses the valley; it is breached by the stream at the southern end. The position of the wheel-pit is uncertain and no tail race has been located. The cupola buildings are probably marked by disturbances to the east of the dam, with what appears to be a flue into the hillside to the north. The footings of a range of buildings are visible further east from the dam and slags can be found in the stream. It is not clear if the dam and the slags relate to the ore-hearth or to a slag hearth built in the cupola period. (6)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Index: NDAT. 0110. 0110.
  • <2> Article in serial: Willies, L. 1969. 'Cupola lead smelting sites in Derbyshire, 1737-1900', Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Vol. 4, part 1. pp 99-100.
  • <3> Unpublished document: County Treasure Recording Form. 11.1; 1973.
  • <4> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Bowers Mill Cupola.
  • <5> Verbal communication: Information provided by Stuart Band. April 21 2004.
  • <6> Article in serial: Crossley, D & Kiernan, D. 1992. 'The lead-smelting mills of Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 112, pp 6-47. no. 5.50, p 40.



Grid reference SK 32204 64393 (point) (Approximate)

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Record last edited

May 27 2015 3:22PM

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