This message is being updated regularly even if quite a few of the paragraphs remain the same. It would be good to be able to change them sometime! This update is being done 4/2/24.
If you have tried contacting the society through the webpages and not received any response, it is not because we are not here. All the links shown on this site are routed to the personal emails of the relevant committee members and those links have a mind of their own. If we find that we cannot pick up messages through the site, we will have to revise how contact details are given out. You will appreciate that putting personal emails or phone numbers on a public site is not always a good idea. The site does have an email log which is reviewed regularly and enables us to pick up messages which escaped the re-routing process.
I’m sure you all recognise the Falkirk Wheel on a lovely Scottish evening. This is what I was doing in May 2019. I have more recent pictures now but we are a bit limited by working out how to change the picture. It would be good to show Pontcysyllte Aqueduct if only to show that I know how to spell it. If anyone knows how to change pictures in WordPress, please get in touch.
The big news last year was the acquisition of Wortley Top Forge Cottage part of which was once the offices at Wortley Top Forge. It is now actually a year since that was done and the building has now been substantially repaired and repurposed. The efforts of the volunteers at Wortley are greatly to be commended and it is amazing how far a couple of thousand pounds worth of materials will go in the right hands. Hopefully, at some point in 2024, it might be possible to allow access. The garden, which overlay the main yard has been completely stripped back. Because this is a scheduled monument we have to be careful to avoid disturbing the historic levels underneath. We are now going to get a proper archaeological evaluation of the cleared area. We know also that Thomas Andrews has a test rig set up in this area when he was conducting research into the strength of the Forge products and we think we have identified the base plates for where it stood. Our archivists have been gathering a considerable amount of material to inform future work. This material can also form the basis of displays of the history of the site. Those who look at old maps will know that the water system upstream included the weir on the Don and extensive head goit. It also included what is now one of the adjacent fishing lakes. Maybe future generations will be able to re-incorporate that in the site.
Barnsley MBC as the rating authority and the various utilities now all recognise that there is only one property on the site which makes administration a lot easier.
If anybody has any particular skills in restoring old buildings, likes doing research or has any spare money to donate, we are always pleased to hear from you. There is always another saw, hammer, shovel or seat at the table.
The programme of lectures for 2023/24 is in progress and ideas for 2024/25 are being sought. Most lectures are at Kelham Island but there should be a chance to get to Barnsley at least once and also to meet up with the Newcomen Society and SMEA.
As well as the lectures, there are also events which are open to members and often the general public. One last year one was a walk, or perhaps more accurately a paddle, around the Elsecar site to see what was happening and to hear about plans for the future. We were able to see the Newcomen engine in action.
When we get to September there will be Heritage Open Days to look out for and Wortley Top Forge will be open for the annual Model Railway Engineers Open Day. We also expect that Hoylandswaine Nail Forge will be open on limited occasions. Father Christmas has Wortley in his diary in December, and an extra event is being planned for the beginning of May. Keep an eye open for that.
We did try to attend the Sheffield Heritage Fair at the Millennium Gallery in January. As many of you will know, that went wrong – not our fault! Look out for a rescheduled event.
The Society remains actively involved in the Local Heritage Listing project being run through the South Yorkshire Archaeology Service. The project objective is to provide a database of all the sites in South Yorkshire which are considered important to heritage. Society representatives sit on the committee which considers sites (mostly pubs it must be said) nominated for listing. There is a website for the LHL which is publicly accessible and you may nominate your favourite location if it qualifies and you know a bit about it. I was particularly pleased that the 1836 Redmires Conduit from the dams at Redmires to the Hadfield service reservoir in Crookes could be accepted as worthy of listing. A lot of this is still visible at the uphill end and makes a good walk on a fine day.
Sheffield Museums are now running an exhibition (Weston Park) and events to explore the past, present and future of Sheffield rivers. We were able to collaborate on the industrial side, of which there is a lot. Our Water Power book is still the go-to publication in respect of the dams and mills on the rivers and the River Don Millowners are not overlooked. A lot of places like, for instance, the Rivelin Dams are largely due to their influence.
Our publications continue to be on sale, usually through people noticing them on the website. Our latest publication on Suffolk Works is proving popular. All publications are distributed free to members and we are always looking for volunteers who have time to walk the streets with their A-Z or possibly a satnav these days. A new Journal is with the printers, so look out for that. If you have a project that you think is worthy of publication (industrial history obviously) let us know. We can cope with say 30,000 words on 50 pages with illustrations. Smaller pieces can be collected in the Journal.
I wrote a piece about Bower Spring below for my last update. I have not changed this much, not because there is nothing happening, but because this is an ongoing project and the notes remain valid. I have seen a number of drawings and proposals and kept in touch with the agencies we need to collaborate with. The rather wet July and late autumn has led to what was a reasonably tidy site in June becoming rampantly overgrown. It will be tidy again ….. really!
The project to clear up and restore the standing remains at Bower Spring has reached the point where we need authorisation from Historic England. This is going a bit slowly. There is also a similar delay in getting an extension to the Scheduled area to recognise the fact that there are also buried crucible furnace remains adjacent to the visible cementation furnaces. This included land which is not ours and which is now buried beneath the adjacent footpaths. The Society appreciates the continued efforts of our associates in this matter to make something happen. We also appreciate the assistance of Wessex Archaeology and Sheffeld Museums in providing original material from excavations done by ARCUS ahead of the ring road development.
The Blackburn Brook was not included in the Water Power book, but a lot of material was collected. I had occasion to look at it after hearing that Butterthwaite Weir was in a serious state of disrepair as a result of flood damage last year. Another visit is being planned. This weir is easily accessible if you know where to look and, if you are able to look at it now, you can see how these small weirs were constructed. I suppose that is the only benefit of the damage and I fear that this structure will not be there in another couple of years.
And now for the usual appeal for anyone who fancies being more active on the committee or even in support of the committee. In the next year we would welcome more help with looking after the membership records. If you have any practical skills and want to be useful, we never refuse offers Or, if you fancy something more academic, you could be editor.
It is also probably still obvious that the committee are sometimes struggling to keep on top of electronic communications like this website. (None of us are getting any younger). If there is anyone out there who has some skills in electronic communications, once again please get in touch. You don’t need to know how to write newsletters or give lectures, you just need to be competent on the technical side.
And finally the usual reminder:
The subscription year of the Society runs from 1st May to 30th April so you should have renewed for 2023/24 by now, especially if you have had a polite reminder from the membership secretary. We always appreciate electronic payments, particularly a standing order on 1st May, but please make sure there is a reference which identifies you. Subscription rates, bank and contact details can be found on the membership and contact pages of this site.
Tony Ball : President