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.