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Monument record MDR5418 - Former scythe manufactory, Geer Lane, Birleyhay

Type and Period (8)

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

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

At Birley Hay, near the ford, was a scythe forge, powered by water wheels. The forge consisted of a tilt forge, with various workshops for finishing and fitting, and a small complex of houses with a warehouse in their midst. This hamlet, associated with the Huttons of Ridgeway, is similar to the more complete scythe making complex at Abbeydale in Sheffield. The settlement, which lies at the western end of the Moss Valley, was a centre for scythe manufacture until the 1930's. Little remains to be seen of the forge, having been stripped during WW11 for scrap metal. The ruins of the forge buildings may be seen, showing the wheelpit and the feed pipe which served the wheel, together with a waterwheel to power the forge hearths. The most impressive works to remain are the heavily embanked dam and the stepped weir at the overflow area. Below the dam, to the north of the forge, is the much modified managers house, and the unchanged warehouse. Behind these buildings are various groups of cottages, presumably associated with the site at some time. (1-3) In the early 16th century there is said to have been a corn mill at Birley Hay held by the Guild of the Holy Cross. In 1599 a cutler's wheel is described as having been newly erected on this site. In 1796 the Eckington Enclosure Map shows a range of buildings associated with a cross-valley dam, marked as Fortitude Dam, with the Moss running directly into the pond. Part of the site is also shown on a map of 1778. The map seems to suggest that there was no pond present at that time, although this is uncertain. Birley Hay in c. 1796 was in the ownership and occupation of William and John Mullins, and there were 10 grinding troughs. A second wheel was added in 1836 when a forge was set up. This allowed the grinding wheel and the forge to be worked separately. Today the pond and at least some of the buildings survive. (4) Birley Hay is one of the best documented of the water-powered manufacturing sites of the Moss Valley. The earliest reference to a wheel is in 1599 when a quitclaim was made to George Savage of a close, pasture and mansion house called Birley Hay 'with a cutlers wheel lately built'. A later document of 1629 refers to George Savage's 'cutler's milne or wheel standing in Birley Haye with the dams streams and watercourses'. The only industrial buildings to survive at Birley Hay today are a reconstructed wheelhouse and a manufacturing warehouse. The wheelhouse is the only surviving building from a range of smithies and workshops shown on 19th century Ordnance Survey maps. It measures 6.5 x 3.75m and still retains the wheel axle openings for the bearings. The pentrough survives and a modern valve can be seen in the west wall. The warehouse is a listed building and is probably the best surviving example of an 18th century scythe and sickle warehouse in the Moss Valley. It is a two storey, three bay building which runs almost parallel with the dam and is constructed of coal measure sandstone with gritstone quoins. It has probably been re-roofed, but inside it retains many of the features of the original building. (5) Birley Hay Scythe Manufactory (Listed Building Grade II). Easily the most impressive of the Moss Valley wheel sites is the two storey local sandstone former scythe manufactory at Birley Hay. The structure has a slate roof and gritstone copings. The mill ponds, dams and watercourses are all intact. The site is private property but is visible from a public footpath. (6)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Index: NDAT. 0798. 0798.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: 1975. Council of British Archaeology Panel on Industrial Monuments. p11.
  • <3> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Birley Hay Forge, Eckingtone.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Stroud, G. 1996. The Value of the Fairbank Collection as a Resource for the Study of Landscape Change (in) Eckington. p 69.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Ball, C, Crossley, D & Jones, S (eds). 1996. Houses in the Derbyshire Landscape. The Moss Valley.. pp 20-24.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D. 2000. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. Part V. North East Derbyshire. p 30.



Grid reference Centred SK 396 803 (370m by 102m) (Centre)

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Record last edited

Jan 10 2017 2:18PM

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