Alderwasley Iron Works

Alderwasley Iron Works were on the site of what was the Johnson and Nephew Wireworks and belonged to the Hurt family.

The Mold Brothers built two local furnaces for iron works. The first in 1780, at Alderwasley, which was owned by Francis Hurt and the second was built at Morely Park, in 1818.

A record of the works is on the site [Derbyshire Historic Environment Record]

"About a mile above the Halfpenny Bridge are the wire mills of Messrs. Richard Johnson and Nephew, established in 1874 as a branch from their forges and wire mills in Manchester. The works comprise a large block of stone buildings, which stretch upwards of 300 yards along the bank of the river, and are driven by two turbines, probably the largest in England. The firm has been in existence upwards of a century. Near the works are the ruins of a blast furnace erected in 1764 for the manufacture of iron for nails and sheets. Charcoal was exclusively used, and the ore was brought by packhorses." Blast furnaces (presumably coke fuelled) built in the 1780s, recently demolished. Tail-race survives. Burdett's map of Derbyshire (1762-7) marks an iron forge on the River Derwent at Alderwasley, which appears in the 1794 list as a forge with three fineries, two chaferies and a rolling and slitting mill. The date of building is given as 1782 and a marginal note appears to read 'Leadmill'. The forge was owned and, at this date, also operated by the Hurt family of Alderwasley Hall. When the works were built is not clear - they are not mentioned in William Woolley's description of Derbyshire of c. 1712 nor in any of the 18th century lists of forges. In the early 19th century the forge was leased to John and Charles Mold, who were also tenants of the Hurts' coke blast furnace some miles to the south-east at Morley Park. In 1963, however, remains of an 18th century blast furnace were reported at Alderwasley, which two years later had been demolished. The modern premises of R Johnson & Nephew cover all trace of earlier forge buildings. Apart from these brief references there does not appear to be any record of this structure, nor do any of the 18th century lists include a furnace at Alderwasley. Nixon (authority 4) gives a date of construction (or operation?) of 1764 for the furnace, which has since been repeated, but there is no obvious authority for this, unless it is meant to be Burdett's map, which clearly marks only a forge. It is possible that the Hurts tried unsuccessfully to establish charcoal smelting at Alderwasley around the middle of the 18th century; the venture failed and only the forge remained in operation until they built the Morley Park furnace in 1780. The date 1782 given in the 1794 list may refer to the complete rebuilding of the forge after the opening of Morley Park if the two sites were thenceforth working in tandem.A weir is shown on the late 19th century and subsequent OS maps. (6) The ironworks at Alderwasley was presumably initiated on the basis of abundant water supply for power, and of timber to produce charcoal for smelting, the iron ore itself being imported from the Coal Measure deposits around Morley just to the east of Belper. Riden notes that the construction of a blast furnace by Hurt c. 1764 marks it as one of the last charcoal furnaces to be built in the country; but it continued in operation until the 1870s (in tandem with Hurt's coal-based furnaces at Morley Park). For ironworking to occur, a necessary supply of timber for charcoal would be needed. There is clear evidence of the presence of coal in the township of Alderwasley, which lies west of the coalfield on the Middle Grit Group of the Millstone Grit Series. Alderwasley cannot be described as being 'located some distance from the nearest coal…', as clear evidence of coal production in Alderwasley before and after Francis Hurt built his forge and furnace.

Old Alderwasley forge

An early sketch of the Iron Forge c1847.

There is a photograph, by Edgar S Brook, on the "Picture the Past" website.

photograph of Allderwasley Iron Works

The remains of the 18th century blast furnace at the site of the Alderwasley Iron Works

The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland – 1868
ALDERWASLEY: The population is chiefly employed in the colliery, and the iron and lead works

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 25 March 1846
A serious accident occurred to Mr Joseph COOPER, Clerk to Messrs. Molds, Alderwasley Iron Works, on Saturday evening last. It appears that on his return from Belper Market he was stepping out of the carriage which he had been riding in, and by some means slipped down and broke one of his legs in two places. Mr WALKER, surgeon, of Crich, was immediately sent for, and promptly attended and reduce the fractured limb. We are happy to say Mr C. is progressing very favourably.