History > Iron Working (part 1)

The Bedlington Iron Works are an example of an industrial complex developed in an essentially rural setting, but while they provided part of the industrial stimulus to the growth of the town in the later 18th and 19th centuries, the works have remained on the fringes of the built-up area. The Iron Works were constructed just above the tidal limit of the river Blyth, enabling access by keels to nearby staiths, and allowing, just above the tidal reach, a weir to maintain the constant head of water needed for forge hammers. Large quantities of iron were conveyed down the river for trans-shipment at Blyth.

Ironworking developed in earnest on the Bebside bank of the Blyth from 1736, when a Newcastle based merchant, William Thomlinson from Cumberland, whose family was already involved in metal manufacture in the Tyne and Derwent valleys, took out a lease there. Although the lease allowed for the cutting of timber at Bebside wood, which would indicate the intention of using charcoal to fuel the smelting process (the use of coal for this purpose having proved a failure), there are no records of iron smelting at this period. That the smelting of ore was being practiced in mid-eighteenth century Bebside, however, is suggested by the observations of the historian Wallis, who in 1767 noted that, "the ore is digged out of the hanging banks by the river, with great labour pains" (Martin 1974, 6). Smelting of raw ore may have been on a small scale, since attempts to apply new techniques of smelting and refining, pioneered at Coalbrookdale and successful elsewhere, appear to have failed. There was in any case little need to smelt locally mined ores, since plentiful supplies of shipped scrap metal were available in the north east.

Click here for Iron Working Part 2 >

   
 


 
   

 

 

 

Bedlington Engine and Iron Works
HomeSite MapKey DatesHistoryArchaeologyLinksContactBedlington Iron and Engine Works Website Content © Wansbeck District Council 2009 All Rights Reserved Design by the Archaeological Practice Ltd Drawing of an early locomotive