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Monument record MDR5384 - Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Works (including Albert Colliery) (site of), Chesterfield

Type and Period (10)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

SK 372748 Sheepbridge Rolling Mills. Opened mid-19th century, closed 1972. It was mainly a smelting concern, with a Siemens Martin open hearth furnace introduced in 1900, but the rolling mills became more important. The production of railway rails was important in the 19th century. The plant contained mills of various sizes and an extensive private railway network. Pig iron production ceased in th 1960's when the blast furnaces were dismantled. (1-2) Sheepbridge Works. The extensive former Sheepbridge Works complex - which originally had the full range of iron manufacturing and engineering facilities - remains largely in use but in multiple occupation. Iron working/engineering firms such as GKN and Sheepbridge Stokes Ltd. Still occupy much of the site (2000). The original offices of the Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Co. on Dunston Lane (SMR 31513) have a weather vane which incorporates the date 1857. The site was served by an extensive rail network via a branch from the North Midland Railway main line just north of Tapton Junction. Some of the line of the branch is now built over but at various points the trackbed is still visible as at an overbridge (SK 376746) close to the line of the present A61. (5) The Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company Ltd was formed in 1862 from Dunston and Barlow Mineral Company (founded in 1858 by John and William Fowler, of Whittington Hall, and backed by London financier Arthur Hankey). Dunston and Barlow Mineral Company had taken over existing mines in Dunston and Whittington, and William Fowler designed the processing plant at Sheepbridge, all of which passed to Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company Ltd, and by 1864 the company operated 3 coal mines and 28 ironstone pits at Whittington and Barlow, which fed 23 coke ovens, four blast furnaces and a large iron foundry with mechanics shop. The iron works, sited on 37 acres at Key Green, Sheepbridge, was connected by eight and a quarter miles of standard gauge railway to the Midland Railway, and to the Chesterfield Canal. Three miles of narrow gauge railway served the works internally and extended out to the iron pits at Cobnar and Rough Piece Wood. The coal mine on the site was reaching the end of its useful life, but produced hard coal valued for furnace work, so was kept abreast of new technology and in partial operation, though mainly to supply water to the iron works. The iron works initially produced high quality cold blast iron, from local raw materials, which was sold on to forgers in Sheffield, Leeds and Derby, and to John Brown & Co of Sheffield to make armour plate for 'ironclad' naval vessels. The overall profitability of the iron works was always in doubt, and by the mid 1870s a rolling mill and other machinery listed by the author was installed to allow diversification; other innovations soon followed and continued up to the outbreak of World War 1. By the 1880s steel was replacing the demand for iron, and at the Sheepbridge works plant was installed to produce steel alongside iron. During World War I the works was producing munitions under the control of the Ministry of Munitions, which financed a new steel furnace and the conversion of the mill to steel processing. Between the wars the works moved into the production of centrifugal castings for the rapidly expanding motor car and aircraft industry, and Sheepbridge Stokes Centrifugal Castings Ltd was formed in the early 1920s. In World War II the Air Ministry financed new plant and replacement of the rolling mill, and after the war further developments kept the works up to date. In anticipation of the nationalisation of iron production, the company looked to its engineering expertise, and Sheepbridge Engineering was formed in 1948. After nationalisation in 1952, the engineering works continued to share the site with the iron and steel works, and in 1979 joined forces with giant GKN to form GKN Sheepbridge Stokes, now the only remaining company, which now shares the site with a collection of small industries forming a trading estate. Dunston and Barlow Mineral Company built 48 cottages for valued and essential workers, known as Cavendish Square, which were bought by Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company Ltd on its formation. It soon added to this stock using bricks made on the site, notably with Belvoir Terrace, Dunston Villas and the Crescent. Additional housing was built after World War II, and existing housing was modernised. (6)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Index: NDAT. 0700. 0700.
  • <2> Personal Observation: Fowkes, D. 1972. Derbyshire Archaeological Society, personal communication, July 1972.
  • <3> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Sheepbridge Rolling mills.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1896-1900. OS County Series, 2nd edition (1st revision), scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile). Derbyshire XVIII.10 & 14.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D. 2000. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. Part V. North East Derbyshire. P.15.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Jenkins, D. 1995. Sheepbridge, a History of the Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company Ltd.



Grid reference Centred SK 37165 74853 (985m by 565m)

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Record last edited

Sep 11 2019 2:52PM

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