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Site record MDR5153 - Clay Cross Works or Biwater Works (site of), Egstow, Clay Cross

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

SK 398644 Clay Cross, Ironworks, 1846. The site of an iron works established by George Stephenson. There may be some remains of the early works, but it appears mostly modern. (1, 2) George Stephenson founded the Clay Cross Company in 1837, bringing in his son, Robert Stephenson as well as a number of other gentlemen famous as pioneers of railway construction and industrial development. It originally traded under the name 'Geo. Stephenson and Co.' and benefited from its location at an important junction of the Derby and Nottingham main railway lines at Clay Cross. In its first year of existence, the Company sank the Clay Cross (No. 1) coal pit and in 1844 was the first to send coal to London direct by rail. It started trading as the Clay Cross Company in 1840, being then engaged in coal mining, limestone quarrying and lime burning (at Crich), ironstone mining and the manufacture of coke and brick making. In 1846 the Company turned its attention to the production of iron. Two blast furnaces were erected, a third being added in 1853, as was also an iron foundry. The Company also continued to sink coal pits, with Clay Cross No. 2 and No. 3 being sunk in close proximity to the iron works in 1850 and 1852 respectively. The main Foundry and Pipe Pits for the production of cast-iron pipes etc. were commenced in 1864. The original 14 ironstone pits in the area around Clay Cross No. 1 Colliery ceased to be worked in 1871 and ironstone mines were acquired in Northants and Lincs. Between 1839 and 1903 some 280 beehive coke ovens were in operation near the blast furnaces at the Clay Cross Works. These were replaced by newer ovens in 1903 which were themselves replaced in the 1950s by 55 ovens of the regenerative type. The brickworks were also originally at the Clay Cross Works, but in 1915 new brickworks near Clay Cross (LMS) Station were acquired. Also at the Clay Cross Works was a slag and tarred slag plant, situated adjacent to the blast furnaces, as was an electricity generation plant, with one generator erected in 1917, one in 1918 and a third in 1923. There was also a gas works on site, which originated in 1853. (3) A brief walk-over survey was carried out on September 5 2006, as part of a desk-based assessment prior to the proposed redevelopment of the site. It was found that the site still contained a number of buildings associated with the 19th and early 20th century works, including the Power House, various workshops, Main Offices, the Blacksmith's Shop and the 'Big Shop' foundry building. Many elements of these structures demonstrate a local style or vernacular adopted for buildings associated with the Clay Cross Company, namely round windows on gable ends of workshops, the use of pilasters to divide windows and doors on facades, and the use of round-headed windows. The significance of these surviving buildings was considered to be high in view of their association with George Stephenson, the Clay Cross Works and the industrial and social development of Clay Cross. (4) In the 1960s-80s, at a time when the nature of industrial activity on the site changed, waste tips and many of the earlier buildings were cleared. An archaeological buildings appraisal was carried out in May 2007 and noted that several of the more modern buildings had also been demolished, but that a core group of 19 buildings survived that related to the mid-19th to early 20th century works. The identification of a large foundry hall dating to the 1860s was a particularly significant discovery and further recording was recommended. (5) A watching brief carried out prior to redevelopment of the site identified the survival of sub-surface archaeological remains relating to the c Works. As a result, several areas were targeted for more detailed excavation. These included the main foundry building or 'Big Shop', coke ovens, the gasworks and blast furnaces. Excavation of the main foundry building (Area I) revealed a series of phases, with features including substantial sandstone walls, a number of casting pits, a hearth and a flue system. Area II produced the remains of 22 beehive ovens distributed evenly along both sides of a central flue, with the exhaust gas and heat being vented from each individual oven into the central flue via a short ancillary flue. Excavations on the gasworks (Area III) were carried out by mechanical excavator only, due to heavy contamination. These exposed the gas retort and the remains of a bank of ovens. The final area, IV, was located to examine the early blast furnaces; however, it was found that primary evidence of these had been obliterated by subsequent rebuilds. Given the site's connection to George Stephenson and the impact that the Works had on Clay Cross, it is hoped that a full final report can be made available for publication. (6) Members of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society visited the site a year after enclosure, where a skeleton staff remain dismantling and scrapping the plant. Several 19th century buildings survive, though in the main the brick walls are hidden by modern external cladding. None of these are of any particular architectural or historical value. A couple of short streches of 2-foot guage railway are a reminder that the Clay Cross Company ran the Ashover Light Railway, which linked the works to quarries on the fringe of the Peak District. The base of a gasholder used as a cooling water reservoir is evidence of the coal mines, coke ovens and blast furnaces which once shared the site with the surviving foundry buildings. (7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Index: North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust (NDAT). North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust Index: 0735. D M Smith, 1961.
  • <2> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Ironworks, Clay Cross.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Anon. 1959. Over a Hundred Years of Enterprise. Centenary & Supplement of the Clay Cross Company Ltd, 1837-1959.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Meeke, J (WSP Environmental Ltd). 2006. Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment for the Biwater Redevelopment Area, Clay Cross, Derbyshire.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Jessop, O & Dawson, L (ARCUS). 2007. Archaeological Buildings Appraisal of the Biwater Works, Market Street, Clay Cross, Derbyshire. SMR Doc. No. 1017.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Jackson, R & Dransfield, N (ARCUS). 2009. Biwater, Clay Cross, Derbyshire. Archaeological Watching Brief and Mitigation.
  • <7> Article in serial: Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA). 2002. 'Regional News, East Midlands', Industrial Archaeology News.



Grid reference Centred SK 399 643 (640m by 813m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

  • EDR2396
  • EDR2395
  • EDR2720

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Record last edited

Jun 28 2021 4:50PM

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