History > Iron Working (part 2)

With the advantages of plentiful water and cheap coal at Bebside and Bedlington, small water-powered hammers were used in the 18th century forges, with production based on the reprocessing of scrap iron and manufacture of nails. The slitting mills, nailers’ shops, houses, warehouses and an adjacent riverside wharf on the south bank of the river, were advertised in the Newcastle Courant for 10th March 1750 and again in 1757, and in the same year it was bought with shops for about 40 nailers by Malings of Sunderland, although their tenure quickly proved unsuccessful.

Due to the financial failure of the blast furnace it was abandoned at some point between 1778 and 1788, but the forge, corn mill and Bebside iron smelting works were let to Messrs Hawkes and Co. of Gateshead, who used the works for rolling and slitting iron and manufacturing iron implements. Hawkes, Longridge and Co., who already owned the Bebside Slitting Mill, took over the north bank site in 1788. The furnace was demolished soon after 1789 and by 1794 a rolling mill had been erected at Bedlington. The uniting of the operations on the north and south bank and the re-orientation of the enterprise towards the handling of semi-processed iron facilitated the successful take-up of railway technology in the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Biddulph, Gordon and Co. took over the Bedlington ironworks and ran them for 50 years as the Bedlington Iron and Engine Works, arguably the most notable phase in the history of the works.

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