South Yorkshire’s Industrial Heritage — Pat McLaughlin — 10th February 2014

Pat star­ted his talk in the Stone Age after the ice cap had receded.  He iden­ti­fied four rel­ev­ant aspects that were: mining, agri­cul­ture, the first per­man­ent set­tle­ments and metal work­ing.  He sur­prised many with his illus­tra­tion of Grimes Graves in Norfolk and the size of the bell pit mining in these pre­his­toric times.

With know­ledge of agri­cul­ture came per­man­ent set­tle­ments and the need for hill forts to pro­tect them.  An example can be found on Wincobank in Sheffield.  The place of work in these times was in a hut con­tain­ing an exten­ded family.

When the Iron Age star­ted around 700BC, South Yorkshire had metal ores and forests in abund­ance and with know­ledge of the use of char­coal to reach high tem­per­at­ures copper bronze and iron were pro­duced.

With the Normans came the use of wind­mills.  Initially they were small post mills and later large stone or brick wind mills were extens­ively used in the region.  There were two near the centre of Rotherham.  There were also many water driven mills.  In 1948 there were 30 water mills recor­ded in Sheffield.

Before the Industrial Revolution there was the Agricultural Revolution with the intro­duc­tion of the three field system and Joseph Foljambe’s inven­tion of the Yorkshire Plough.  There was a sur­plus and the Church grew fat on its income of 10% of the peas­ants’ pro­duce that was stored in tithe barns an example of which is to be found at Whiston near Rotherham.

In 1600’s the Don valley was an attract­ive place with its mean­der­ing river.  This was then straightened to provide flat land on which to build huge rolling mills for a steel industry.  The sounds of the blast fur­naces at Parkgate could be heard 6 miles away and Lloyds Street next to these fur­naces was reputed to be the filthi­est place in Europe.

The peak of canal build­ing was around 1790 and the Canal basin in Sheffield was one of the busiest in the king­dom.  Very soon after this, steam driven rail­ways were inven­ted and quickly took away much of the canal busi­ness.  Doncaster prospered as a rail­way engine build­ing centre.

Glass pro­duc­tion is a tra­di­tional industry of South Yorkshire as the Catcliffe cone shows and the Beaston Clarke fact­ory near Rotherham which pro­duces glass con­tain­ers.

In passing the pot­tery industry was men­tioned with the Rockingham Pottery in 1835 employ­ing around 600 people.  The talk con­cluded with ref­er­ence to the Abbeydale Works, the Wortley Top Forge and the Wentworth Woodhouse Works.