The South Yorkshire Industrial History Society is said to be the world’s oldest local industrial history and preservation society.
The Society traces its formation to 1933 as the Society for the Preservation of Old Sheffield Toolswhich later became the Sheffield Trades Historical Society. The original members came together through the Sheffield Trades Technical Societies, a collaboration after 1918 between artisans and industrialists working in the various trades in the city, and University academics.
While studying and developing new processes for their industries, the members could see that much of the area’s industrial heritage was disappearing and resolved that it should not be lost to future generations.
The Society was instrumental in the early preservation of what is now Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and led a successful move in 1956 to prevent the works’ proposed demolition; leading to the rebirth as an industrial museum.
In 1976 the Society was registered with the Charity Commission as an unincorporated association and it has recently “converted” to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission: number 1178389.
The Society holds evening lectures at Kelham Island Museum between October and May and collaborates with other groups to hold other lectures in Sheffield as well as in Barnsley and Rotherham. There are a series of events and visits during the summer. All lectures and events are available to the general public.
The Society owns four properties, all of which are recognised historical monuments of national and international importance. The most important is Wortley Top Forge, the oldest surviving heavy iron forge in the world on its original site, powered by water wheels on the River Don just north of Deepcar and actually in Barnsley. Hoylandswaine Nail Forge and Rockley Furnace and Engine House are also in Barnsley. In Sheffield the Society owns Bower Spring Cementation Furnace, one of the last remnants of a building form common throughout the city.
Within the Society, there is a group which carries out research and provided an informal forum where researchers can meet and discuss findings. The group also comments on planning applications and has representation on the city’s Conservation Advisory Group.
Then there are the publications, most of which are contributed by Society members. Short pieces are gathered together into a periodic Journal while the longer works may comprise a book.
The Society and its members will continue to be involved in and study all the excavations and discoveries, and also keep a close watch on developments to historic buildings which are still standing.