The Forge has been restored and maintained by our volunteers over 60 years since the 1950s.
This page is a summary of the main news about activities at Wortley Top Forge, from January 2000.
January 2017 to July 2017
The Joiners’ shop stone staircase has been completed and is magnificent. Superb wooden banisters have been fitted. The joiners’ shop door frame and door are now in place. With re-laid stone paving and a new steel safety barrier, we have a new route for visitors to investigate.
The adjacent Foreman’s office has been cleared, given new lighting and has been furnished with appropriate exhibits. A new window frame has been built and waits to be fitted.
In the blacksmiths’ shop, a hearth, bellows and anvil are in place with a new flue to the chimney. Three such sets were in use here 150 years ago.
The gear wheels for the horse gin proved incapable of being restored and it was decided machine new gears using the 1897 Cincinatti milling machine. This task is not yet complete. The milling machine has been given a new shaft and a heavy duty dividing head is being refurbished. Our collection of early machine tools thus gets maintained.
A display has been set up in our museum room which records the work of the Andrews family for the Forge. Thomas Andrews junior FRS made an outstanding contribution as a ‘metalographer ‘ and his microscopes are on display.
George III steam engine has grown bigger and the enormous flywheel sits in a concrete wheel pit which now has an associated land drain. Further excavation will be needed to deliver the compressed air supply.
The area under the trees where the large bits of George III had been stored for years has now been turned into a very civilised picnic area by the efforts of the Model Railway Engineers. The 400mm railway has been revealed again and wooden truck-skips have been created as plant troughs. Less and less of our site looks like the junk yard of 20 years ago.
After many years, even our restoration of the Forge needs restoration. The west shed of the Forge has had a rotten beam replaced and much work has been carried out on the stone clad roof and the guttering to make the building weather-tight. Of course we used lime mortar as appropriate to the listed building.
The very large stationary steam engine from Neepsend gasworks has had its cylinder gland repacked with grease and sisal and compressed air no longer whistles through the gaps. The roughness of the original piston rod will surely make this necessary again in the future. Or we may have to replace the 12 foot piston rod!
One foggy night in the winter, a Honda car demolished twenty feet of boundary wall. Our volunteers competently restored the wall and the Forge accepted a cheque from the motor insurance company.
July 2016 to December 2016
The task of rebuilding the external stone staircase up to the Joiners’ shop was undertaken by our volunteers. After a photographic survey, when every single stone was numbered, the unsafe structure was taken down stone by stone and these were laid out in the cottage yard.
It was discovered that there were no proper foundations – which explains the increased lean over the years. New foundations were constructed from rolled steel joists encased in concrete.
The staircase was then rebuilt with every stone reset in lime mortar. A new timber platform and handrails have been built and all will be completed when we get the next spell of dry weather after Christmas.
Yes, the steps are rather worn but that is history. Sturdy handrails should give safety. The door to the Joiners’ shop needs rebuilding – which will take a little longer.
Much work has gone into the restoration of the horse gin especially keeping the rain out of the machinery. More work will have to be done on the worn gears – welding cast iron and then re-profiling.
Yes our new steel gates (13 feet = 3.96 m) have been erected with all the necessary landscaping. The old gates have gone to the scrap pile.
The Shand – Mason steam-driven water pump has been fully restored and runs beautifully on compressed air. To run it on steam would require a flue, insurance for the boiler, coal and a stoker.
George III, a very large, compound, horizontal steam engine gets bigger and bigger as more parts from storage are built onto the structure. One day …
December 2015 to June 2016
The manhole beside the Joiners’ Shed has been encased in a concrete tube below ground and the void has been closed above ground by an iron ring complete with an exhibited crank. The rough ground has been returfed. Don’t we do a good job?
The Low Forge Rolling Mill has been fitted with its electric motor and can be demonstrated to our visitors as we tell them about the history of wrought iron in this area.
A cast iron fireplace has been fitted into the Foreman’s Office. Perhaps the team of volunteers working there on a de Dion Bouton engine will be able to get warm next winter.
The designs for the refurbishment of stone external staircase to the Joiners’ shop have been approved and the work is out for tender. The dream is getting closer to reality.
Our new gates have now been constructed – that was a lot of welding – and have been tried on the new gate posts. Work on the securing fittings will follow and one day we can have a ceremonial closing. New stonework has been put in place to accommodate the gate extensions and the top of the dam wall has been regraded and returfed. The iron railings have been newly painted. Even larger coaches will be able to enter the site without breathing in.
The relined furnace case, complete with dramatic lighting, a pile of coal and a long-handled shovel, has been given a finishing touch by adding iron scale sourced from Stocksbridge works.
Work has been done on the bearings and on the valve mechanism of the 1840s Snuff Mill Engine to reduce a persistent ‘knock’. The governor fittings have been completed and the engine has now been painted. The large flywheel is a rather bright red.
The Shand Mason steam ‘fire’ pump has been stipped down, refurbished, polished, repainted and rebuilt. It could now be fired up to run on steam if there was somewhere the smoke to go. We might settle for running on compressed air with a flexible supply pipe.
The exhibition area of the ‘Barns’ has been reorganised. An old railway van has been removed and scrapped and the area given a new land drain before rebuilding shed walls and roof.
Close by, in front of the Elizabeth engine house, the ‘George III’ steam engine is being installed on new concrete bases. When completed in perhaps a year’s time, we hope to run this magnificent (and enormous) engine on air from our Gardiner diesel / Broomwade compressor.
Not far away, a site has been prepared for a small horse gin. The machinery is being overhauled in our workshop with new bushes, bearing pins and even a new gear. Small children may be asked to stand in for the small horses!
A new overflow board is being fitted to the dam sill with a valved pipe which we hope will run a ram pump.
June 2015 to November 2015
The work on the Elizabeth engine-house is almost completed. The building and engine were dedicated to the memory of Ken Hawley on September 20th.
The Master Cutler, David Gray, paid us an informal visit on September 30th.
The building of the brick furnace within the cast iron furnace case in the Forge is going very well and should be completed ready for our Easter opening 2016. The materials have been financed by Clinotherm Ltd and we are grateful for their support. Red l.e.d. lighting should give the impression of a glowing fire without burnt fingers.
Our machinists have acquired a Myford Super 7 lathe donated in memory of Mr Jack Tinker of Meltham. They have continued their work an a drive mechanism for our small antique rolling mill. An electric motor, reduction gearing and a drive train have been put together and bearings have been prepared. It should be on display to visitors in Spring 2016.
Thre has been much digging of manholes and after some superb jointing and plumbing there is now a 3-phase electrical supply and a water supply to the Green Joiners’ Shed. The electric planer is now working beautifully but we need to keep out unskilled fingers.
The old air compressor is no more. Long live the new air compressor! Cooling air is now ducted through the machine to the outside environment and new heavier duty electrics have been installed. We are delighted. Thanks again to R.D.M.A. for their financial support.
George III is a very large steam engine dating back to 1910. It has spent many years in bits, languishing in the long grass under the trees waiting for enough skilled manpower to undertake its restoration. Our volunteers have been excavating, cleaning and priming various large components and. in recent weeks, have attempted an initial assembly on ground near the Elizabeth engine-house while we find out if anything is missing and while we still debate its final siting.
Work always continues on repair and refurbishment of our working exhibits. The small Weir pump is now completed and operating. The high-speed compound steam engine / electrical generator now operates (but very slowly!). I look forward to the Shand-Mason steam fire pump operating at some time in the future on real steam.
The stone steps to the ‘Foreman’s office’ now have very fine iron railings. Plans for the rebuilding of the stone external staircase progress steadily if slowly.
November 2014 to June 2015
Not just one, but three range fireplaces have been refurbished and fires can/will be lit in the kitchen of No 6, in the ironmaster’s living-room of No7 and in the woodwork shop next winter.
The wire straightening, measuring and cutting off machine has now been successfully installed in the woodwork shop and can be operated from its own powered line shaft.
The Elizabeth engine-house is receiving internal and external treatment.
The engine painting being completed, the inside walls have been masonry-painted white and the floor will shortly be tiled in dark grey.
The front of the engine house is now being timber clad, sealing the edge of the roof and slated canopies will keep out the weather.
The steel doors slide neatly behind the lower cladding.
Skilled woodwork is also on display elsewhere. The cartwheel was completed and had its steel tyre shrunk-fitted in the traditional way without any burned fingers.
A fine wooden cover now keeps the rain off the crosshead of the Higham sinking engine.
The cast-iron furnace case in the Forge has been shortened (see 1904 photograph of the original case), carefully re-levelled and the furnace doors have received attention.
Sometime soon a fire-brick furnace-lining should be built. But will we ever be able to re-build the chimney?
Thank goodness for a competent electrician when the electrical switches failed on both the surface grinding machine and on the band-saw.
New external starter-switches have been fitted.
Our skilled engineers also fitted a new cone drive to the electric saw. They have almost completed the refurbishment of a de Dion Bouton engine, fabricating new intake parts; a 1920s carburettor and magneto just happened to be found in stock!
Our machinists in the old blacksmiths’ shop are always busy. The turning of a new left-hand square thread to repair a large machine-vice was a notable achievement.
Most recently they are making replacement parts for the C18 rolling mill from Wortley Low Forge – including octagonal nuts.
It is very satisfying when we can use our old machine-tools to repair our old machine-tools.
Two very interesting stonework jobs are coming up soon when final scheduled monument consents are given. First, the complete rebuilding of the external stone staircase to the woodwork shop and second, the fitting of safe iron railings to the stone steps to the foreman’s office.
A reliable air-compressor is essential to our demonstrating of stationary steam engines to our visitors. Our main compressor appears to have finally died. The River Don Mill Owners Association are encouraging us to buy a new machine. We are grateful for their support. Until that day we shall try to manage with our lower-powered back-up compressor.
December 2013 to October 2014
The big water management project is almost completed. The small dam which allows our water wheels to operate had become seriously silted up. In April the water level in the dam was lowered and the fish (after a health check) were transferred to the river Don; the dam was then drained to allow the silt to dry out ! The opportunity was taken to clear the overflow and repair the retaining walls. In May, contractors repaired the weir and dug out the apron to the sluices. The small dam was dredged and the still quite wet silt was relocated behind a bund along the west shore beside the road. The head goyt was widened. The sluice mechanisms have been totally refurbished by our volunteers – this involved making wooden patterns to cast new parts and some machining. Two very large sluice gates were constructed by our joiner and then fitted. The new banks have been reseeded. A balk of timber has been fitted along the overflow in an attempt to increase the dam’s capacity; there is memory and physical evidence of this approach being used in the past. A feed pipe will be fitted for a ram pump which is presently being refurbished.
The Elizabeth engine house now has new steel doors – that was a lot of welding and a lot of painting! The Lumb governor has been sorted out; the emergency stop button has been wired for power and could be used at need. The original speed indicator has been fitted. Plans are being hatched to make the building more rain proof.
The Higham pit sinking/winding engine is now almost complete, with concreted and paved surrounds, and is being painted. Some further machining of the Stephenson link reversing mechanism is being undertaken. We are still arguing about how the braking system should be fitted and operated.
We have been working on some of our internal combustion engine exhibits. The Petter Atomic diesel engine now operates a three-throw water pump which sends water around a recirculating system with an ever-filling bucket. An exhaust pipe now carries the fumes outside the building. Only some of us are strong enough to start the engine. The large Blackstone diesel engine has been recomissioned and can be started by compressed air or three strong men. A smaller Petter engine is being worked on and has successfully started.
We have an ongoing project on wooden cart wheel making. A hub was turned. Spokes and rim have been fashioned. We are looking forward to the fitting of the steel tyre,
Maintenance of exhibits in the Smithy and in the Smithy extension (also known as The South Yorkshire Ironworks) goes on all the time. Large and small file-cutting machines are now operable; the dropstamp is being fitted with a die; the eccentric roll machine is now operable with fast and loose drive pulleys. Safety guards are being fitted to exposed machinery.
The mobile steam winch is being restored and painted. The engine runs on compressed air but has been fitted with a mock steam boiler. This will be another item in the exhibition area which is developing around the Gardiner diesel engine/Broomwade air compressor.
The cast iron Yorkshire range in cottage No.7 finally collapsed. We have a skilled welder (cast iron is a pig to weld) and one day our kitchen range will arise phoenix-like from the ashes.
A demonstration anvil and spring hammers for small-scale wrought iron nail-making has been tidied up and fits nicely into our exposition to visitors on the history of the local iron industry.
Our machinists have recently restored a small stationary steam engine. They sourced many missing parts including a refurbished old flywheel and a newly turned eccentric. Is this a new old engine or an old new engine. It is now ready for display.
June 2013 to November 2013
Since the summer considerable effort has gone into laying concrete foundations and building stone blockwork to support the Higham Pit Sinking / Winding engine. The steam engine has now been built up on this base complete with its replacement piston rod and a new bearing. The Stephenson link reversing mechanism has been mounted and a driver’s platform has been built. The engine ran briefly on compressed air on 6th November. All the careful maintenance work on our large mobile crane was behind this project as tons of iron castings were safely swung into position. It will no doubt take some time to finish the project with the winding drum spinning back and forth.
The water pump on the Elizabeth mill engine was refurbished and reattached to the grasshopper beam complete with a new bearing and bearing mount. The governor now has a new belt. A pressure guage has been fitted. Oilers have been fitted to every bearing on the engine. A pretend emergengy stop button has been mounted. The polished name plate is now proudly diplayed. New steel doors to the engine house are being built and should be in place by early in the new year.
As paint is applied, the site and our collections are looking well cared for. The Neepsend Gasworks engine is now bright red. The spiral staircase is now a subtle brown and cream. Several outside exhibits are now a clean but not too shiny black: the Millford lineshaft, the pulsometer pump, the spring hammer, the George III crankshaft, The Davey steam hammer.
November 2012 to June 2013
The saga of the green joiners’ shed must be coming to an end. The structure is now safe and sound (and vertical), new double doors have been fitted and the threshold paved and concreted. The roadway has now been kerbed to control the passing traffic. Fitting out continues; the circular saw has been refurbished and a donated planer is being worked on; when all the wiring is completed, their use will be restricted – we value the fingers of our volunteers
The bad winter left us with a waterlogged lower site. Earth has been scraped away and 17 tons of hardcore has been spread and rolled into the area in front of the Barns which is developing as a new exhibition area. A book could be written about the investigation of a permanent knock on our rescued mill engine “Elizabeth” – a grasshopper beam compound steam engine. Various mechanisms have been stripped down and rebuilt. Finally a realignment of the high pressure cylinder has brought peace and quiet.
An air supply from the Gardiner diesel / Broomwade compressor has been piped throughout the Barns to feed a tar pump steam engine, a Tangye steam engine, a newly restored steam winch and a Markham steam engine coupled to a continuously variable speed controlling machine (again newly restored). When the Model Engineers have their special Open Day on Sunday 1st September all these exhibits should be working.
A site is already being prepared for a pit winding engine alongside Elizabeth. Parts of the winding gear are already being refurbished and the steam engine is now in the Smithy awaiting new parts which are being manufactured on the lathes in the blacksmiths’ shop. This may take some time.
After last winter’s floods threatened the River Don banks, the Model Engineers have done superb work in consolidating the river bank with many tons of stone. Their railway is secure for now.
Much electrical testing and earthing has taken place. We are now safer than ever.
May 2012 to November 2012
The old, green wooden shed was rotting from the bottom up. Rainwater from the roadway often made its way into the shed foundations; the floor was becoming unsafe. The arrival of a volunteer with woodworking skills inspired us.
First the shed was emptied. Stored metal and stored wood was found a new home; an old lathe* was dismantled and removed.
It has been interesting to see the shed rise vertically on props so that floor bearers could be re-laid and new (old) floorboards fitted. The bottoms of the walls have been repaired and, when the shed has been lowered once more, new doors and windows will be added.
In the meantime a new land-drain has been installed to divert the road-surface water. When an electric cable has been laid, we look forward to a working joiners’ shop with our working joiner.
The displaced lathe* is getting a new lease of life. This 1900, American, Hendy tool-room lathe is said to have some history – owned by Lady Maude, Countess of Warncliffe and used during WWII in the 1940s. Generally refurbished, with damaged parts repaired and missing parts manufactured, it will take its place in the Blacksmiths’ shop in our working museum of machine tools.
Work in the Smithy has continued all summer. The refurbished blacksmiths’ hearth is now in regular use. The lineshaft drives three hammers and a radial-arm drill. Restored ancient machinery is rarely without problems; one day all our machines will be working at the same time.
The very large friction press is now in working order. The cracked frame has been plated and the reconstruction involved some very heavy lifting on chain-blocks. Freeing the slides required patience and a powerful hydraulic jack.
The Deisel engine / aircompressor is now ready to do its work. A replacement fuel tank has been fitted and the battery leads re-routed. The compressor has now been permanently piped to the Elizabeth engine house and the piping is being extended to run the tar-pump engine and the Tangye steam engine.
The Gasworks Steam Engine is now running well and is slowly being painted….
March 2012 to May 2012
The new Season, since we opened again to the public on April Fools’ Day, has seen much progress by our volunteers on our various projects. Perhaps the terribly wet weather has encouraged undercover jobs!
The Neepsend Gasworks engine now has its second cogwheel in place. A fabricated frame supports the shaft bearings and the new wooden cog teeth mesh sucessfully with cast iron teeth on the large flywheel. The test in anger under ‘steam’ is planned for 6th May.
The Tangye steam engine has had a lot of attention. The valve train has been sorted with new rods and stuffing box fabricated and the valve rod modified. The governor has now been fitted and the engine sucessfully tested on a temporary compressed air supply.
A new line shaft has been fitted in the Smithy. When fitted with an electric motor drive and appropriate pulleys, it will drive another range of machines including hammers. The blacksmith’s hearth is also being refurbished and so there is the possibility of working hot metal.
The large forged wrought iron crank has been remounted and painted. This is an important historical industrial artefact and deserves its proper display.
The furnace case in the Forge replaced that which was sold for scrap after the Forge closed. It has never had a proper furnace lining. The case has now been cleared of debris and plans are being made to build a suitable fire-brick lining. On a Scheduled Ancient Monument site, this will also involve negotiating permissions from English Heritage etc. etc. Obviously a long-term project!
September 2011 to March 2012
The large mobile crane has had some further attention; its torque converter has been rebuilt and adjusted. The crane is always in demand for heavy lifting jobs.
The crane was enormously useful in moving the pile of stone blocks from the middle of the back field to more rational storage nearby. We can now find what we want and have gained a larger back field car park!
The crane was used to lift a gantry crane to its new home across the gap between two storage containers. We shall store steel girders below the gantry – very convenient for loading! New ropes have been fitted for easy operation
The Nodding Donkey installation beside the Elizabeth engine house is almost complete although we shall make some improvements to the loose fitting of the drive gear wheel on its shaft.
The Broomwade air compressor together with its Gardiner diesel engine have been put into working order and, at the December Open Day, delivered enough air to very successfully run the Elizabeth mill engine. Elizabeth appeared to have a knock while running but, after the odd bearing has been adjusted, we shall have an expert ear on hand when she runs again at the Spring Event on Sunday 1st April.
The Gladstone 1895 mill engine has now been erected and painted in a tidy display area. This really is a stationary engine – it will never be possible for it to run on steam or compressed air. Perhaps one day the George III mill engine will be re-erected.
The Neepsend Gasworks engine still awaits its second gear. This gear wheel still requires a little work on its wooden teeth. However, the gearshaft has now been turned on the 1903 lathe and a keyway has been cut on the 1896 milling machune; the key has been fashioned on the 1920s shaper and will be finished on the 1954 surface grinder. Work continues on the mounts for the gearshaft bearings.The colours have been chosen for the engine’s new livery!
A wall-mounted crane has been refurbished, painted and mounted in the Smithy yard – handy for loading again! The new finial is a thing of beauty.
Several new volunteers have joined us in the last year. They have brought significant skills with them and the results are already beginning to show.
April 2011 to September 2011
In the West Shed of the Forge, a short lineshaft has been attached to the array of machinery (independent of the listed building structure) so that the Petter Atomic 2-stroke diesel engine can run the line of pumps. The engine has been well fettled and a new oil pump cover created. The engine now starts without biting.
The Weir pump Steam Engine in the Foundry has been partly dismantled in the cause of refurbishment. Each very heavy part was a challenge. The valvegear was siezed up – but is now free; the end of the cylinder was difficult – but not impossible; and the stubbornly siezed piston finally responded to WD40 and was hauled out last week. We look forward to the next crisis.
In the grounds beyond the overflow goyt, ‘Gladstone’ has risen from the undergowth. This late Victorian mill steam engine, rescued many years ago fom Turnbridge near Huddersfield, had been stored in parts under less than perfect shelters all around our site. These parts have now been brought together, cleaned, reassembled and painted to form an impressive (enormous) new exhibit for our industrial museum.
Alongside Elizabeth, a rescued ‘Nodding Donkey’ pump has been erected. A concrete platform has been built so that the Donkey appears to be pumping from a deep shaft as in its working days. Much work went into cleaning and painting all the very heavy bits before the re-construction. Electrical wiring and motor have been installed and the Donkey nods once more.
Electrical rewiring has progressed very well with new fuse boxes installed. All the power circuits have now been replaced / improved with lighting circuit improvements being considered.
The Neepsend Gasworks mortar mill steam engine is to have a subsidiary, second gearwheel. This wheel has had 54 wooden teeth fitted. The last half dozen (difficult) ones will take a little longer. A mounting bearing will have to be constructed before we see the gears enmeshed!
A JCB fork lift truck has been acquired and informally been named ‘GORDON’. Much servicing has been undertaken to ensure that all is well and we are very pleased with our new (old) toy. Gordon has already been at work lifting heavy objects safely. The full height of the lift is amazing!
The compressor for Elizabeth progresses only slowly. The diesel engine is no longer siezed but awaits new head gaskets. There is still a chance that Elizabeth will be painted before the compressed air supply becomes available.
December 2010 to April 2011
Oh dear the weather. December came and so did the snow and especially the ice. The annual pre-christmas event with brass band, Santa Claus and Rides on the model railway had to be cancelled. Car parking on site was impossible – even for the volunteers – and the toilet block was frozen solid! No-one was surprised that our first January job was repairs to the plumbing all over the site with new piping, a new cistern and a new toilet pedestal.
The painting of Elizabeth (our rescued Mill Engine from Slaithwaite) continues. Afterall she is as big as a house. It is likely that we may finish the job this year!
Work on the Broomwade compressor powered by a Gardiner Diesel engine has been delayed. The engine is seized solid at the moment although diesel has been injected into the cylinders to ease the way.
The Tangye horizontal steam engine is being erected under cover in the “barn” area. The crankshaft main bearings have been fixed and the crank shaft and flywheel successfully fitted. The crosshead was assembled and fitted.
The Neepsend Gasworks mortar mill Steam Engine is now working. Our first trials revealed air leaks here there and everywhere. The discovery and fitting of the original piston rings helped, as did a realignment of the cylinder. The governor is now safely stayed and is driven via a new pulley fitted to the crankshaft. Painting will be delayed while we argue about the colour scheme and decide who is to volunteer!
The Neil 4/5 ton mobile crane. After a complete rebuild of the main derricking, slewing and lifting gearboxes and clutches, with new bearings and oil seals, the gear lever was realigned to engage gears in correct positions. (We may have found and extra gear!) In early March, the work on this big crane was completed and everything works better than ever. After a professional safety inspection, large things have already begun to move again!
Bits and pieces. Rewiring of the workshops main distribution board progresses. The foot treadle has been fitted to our small Oliver hammer. Recommissioning of the Wier pump / steam engine (now on the air line) has commenced. A rope drive has been spliced to dive the Snuff Mill engine governor etc. etc. etc..
“Escape to the Country”. We were visited by a Thames Talkback television company film crew to record a contribution to their programme. Ken Hawley was able to offer comments on what they filmed.
June 2010 to November 2010
The re-roofing of the “cementation furnace” building has been completed and is even better than before with all gutters and drains in first class order. And all approved by the English Heritage Inspector.
The Neepsend Gasworks engine’s enormous crank and flywheel was completely rebuilt while supported in the north end of the forge. It was then dismantled and moved back into the Foundry. The crank main bearings were fettled and the flywheel was rebuilt into the engine frame. Each and every component part needed chain block and tackle and some sweat and tears. It is also nice to have a tidy forge back once more.
The compressed air ring main has been re-routed to drive this engine when the rebuild is complete. We hope the compressor will cope!
The rebuilding of the engine is now nearly complete but the continuing adjustment and truing up is evidence of the poor state of this engine when it was rescued. And yet more metal is to be filed from the eccentric cam strap!
The crank pin was badly worn and our attempt to build up metal by welding failed. The shrink fitting of a new sleeve was quite an event as the sleeve (heated to redness by a blowlamp) was fitted to the turned-down pin (which had been in a freezer overnight).
The saga of the Neil mobile crane continues but is, we believe, approaching a satisfactory ending. The crane machinery was completely stripped down to reveal the disastrous results of wear provoked by failed oilseals – possibly predating our ownership.
New bearings and oilseals have been found. New shafts have been machined. Clutches have been relined.
The rebuild appears to be going smoothly.
In the meantime, several jobs requiring the urgent use of a large crane are forming a queue.
The storage space between two railway vans has been cleared to accommodate a new (to us), diesel-powered air compressor which we hope will drive our rescued mill engine, “Elizabeth”. (By the time this happens, she may have a fresh coat of geen paint.) In August we were visited by Mr Bob Beaumont who worked at Clough House Mill; he left us a record of his memories of Elizabeth which we hope to display.
The barn area is also being cleared so that we can re-erect our Tangye steam engine, partly under cover.
December 2009 to June 2010
It was a bad winter with snow, more snow and then some more snow. Most of our volunteers got there most of the time!
The re-roofing of the low building which we sometimes call the cementation furnace is continuing as I write. The roof was prepared last week, the bargeboard and guttering were repainted and replaced, the first section of new roofing felt and laths has been nailed down and the first row of slates has been started. After that it should all be straightforward!
[Many years ago during the original excavation and rebuilding of this shed from its foundations, Dr Ken Barraclough, expert on the Sheffield Steel Industry, suggested that the layout of the foundations and the size of the building were consistent with an early cementation furnace used in the production of small quantities of blister steel from wrought iron flat bars. This remains an interesting speculation on the experimental activities of the Cockshutts on this site but there are no records to give confirmation.]
The crank of the Neepsend gasworks mortarmill engine is now set up at the south end of the Forge while the flywheel is rebuilt around it. A new cast iron spoke has been manufactured and included. The flywheel weights have been positioned and are being secured by new steel plates to replace broken cast iron fixings. Then all will have to be dismantled before we re-erect the engine in the Foundry.
We are the proud owners of a large mobile crane by R H Neil. Unfortunately, its state of health involves us in considerable maintenance. Having performed great works on the steering, there are now great problems with the jib derricking mechanism.
We are now embarked on a task which is more a restoration project than a mere running repair. As more and more of the machinery is dismantled to gain access to the innermost damaged bits, our diesel autotruck (recently resurrected) can be seen ferrying more and more bits into dry storage. Eventually we hope to have a crane which is good for another 50 years.
The guttering and downpipe on the cottage are now in much better state with a new hopper fitted. We hope that the back wall of the cottage will now dry out when we can then replaster the internal wall and bring another room up to a standard fit for visitors to see.
The access to the Elizabeth enginehouse has been greatly improved. A sloping paved path gives disabled access to the ground floor. New steps have been built and the ground regraded to give easy entry to the front of the building. There is access to the upper floor provided by the steel staircase we erected last year.
May 2009 to December 2009
As predicted, the second cylinder and crank-rod of the Blowing Engine air pump was soon installed and is now working well. The new viewing platform with stantioned safety rails was carefully installed as a free-standing structure without fixings to the listed building. It was around this time that we ran into trouble with English Heritage. It appears that our predecessors had neglected to submit plans to, or ask permission from, English Heritage who have ultimate oversight of Ancient Monuments. E.H. were certainly displeased that some fixings for our recreated air pump were made to the original structure. Work on this project has now ceased until we can negotiate retrospective blessing for our creation which we believe to be a valuable exercise in practical archaeology and will be a great resource as we describe the history of the Forge to visitors.
The theft of stone roof-flags from a low building close to the road was desperately annoying and the cost to us in trouble, materials and labour must far outweigh any small profit made by the thieves. The re-roofing will be undertaken by our volunteers (using cheaper and less tempting blue slates) as soon as a dry spell of weather occurs in the new year.As some local firms close down, we benefit from gifts of machine tools which no longer have commercial value.
A small rolling mill is now working in the South Yorkshire Ironworks building and a horizontal surface grinder (1956) is now working in the Blacksmiths’ Shop. A donated compressor was not quite powerful enough to run our rescued mill engine, Elizabeth.
A link was forged with the past when documents, photographs and a water colour painting came from a connection of Dr Mary Andrews. The 1870 painting was the work of her father Thomas Andrews FRS who ran the Forge until his death in 1908.
At last, after many years, our project of restoring the (1840s) steam engine from Wilsons’ Snuff Works in Sheffield is nearing its end. The engine has been piped into our air supply and after timing adjustment is now working impressively. It did manage to bite our millwright, Duncan, but he is alright now!
Our next enormous task is the refurbishment of the 1850 mortar mill steam engine which came from Neepsend gasworks. Initial examination suggests that the engine is in a worse state than we feared. Now where on Earth can we store all the bits and still cope with our visitors?
December 2008 to May 2009
Much has been achieved over the winter closure. The kitchen chimney was rebuilt to cope with the smoke and the volunteers were able to sit around a blazing fire come Christmas. One cylinder of the air pump was installed by Easter Sunday and is now working: the second cylinder should follow within weeks. The new steel external staircase for the Elizabeth enginehouse has been erected and painted to give safe access to even the less agile. The viewing platform above the blower water wheel is being rebuilt in steel plate. We must now build safe steps up to this platform.
On 7th May we received a visit from HRH Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester. The spring sunshine helped enormously and there were no disasters.
April 2008 to November 2008
The ‘blower’ story contines. The water wheel cog now drives the refurbished original water pump to force water around a piped circuit (we cannot manage to pump sulphur-water from the original spring). Work is well advanced on the air pump cylinders and is about to start on the cylinder rods and the connecting rods. Perhaps by Easter 2009 we shall have in place a close, working representation of the 1770 blower. The wooden pistons, made by Ewan and Garry, really are a work of art but will be hidden when installed.
The ‘West Shed’ near the blower now also has a plated floor. Restored and repaired water pumps and a water turbine have been moved into this area and new electric lighting installed .
Following an ecological survey performed last year by Roger Butterfield of The Sorby Natural History Society, a Nature Trail has been planned, documented, mapped and signposted. After being opened by the ‘great and good’, we will now provide free leaflets to Forge visitors and leave it to nature apart from a little path maintenance.
Much time and effort has been spent in maintaining our large mobile crane. It is now safer, drier and a shinier green.
Generous donations of steel channel and steel staircases from Stocksbridge will provide much improved and safer access at high level to the ‘Elizabeth’ engine house. We now need a volunteer welder and will then put our crane to good use.
Garry has installed a new fuseboard in the engine house and greatly improved the lighting and also made us a permanent cable reel for power in this area.
We are always trying to improve the access to the Forge and extra paths and plates now give an easier run for wheelchairs (and our wheelbarrows).We did complete the boarded walkways at high level around the Snuff Mill Engine with solid safety rails and toeboards, but work here has slowed right down while concentrating on the Forge air pump.
One year late, a chimney has been erected to serve the kitchen range. However – Disaster! The flue lining pipe proved too narrow and the result was much smoke (inside the cottage) and little fire. We have now put in a wider flue lining and the final connections are being made this week. We may have a fire on Christmas Eve.
Gordon’s project was the restoration of a band saw. With Ian’s help, a rusty heap in the back corner of the Forge is now a bright green exhibit / working machine-tool in the Joiners’ Shop.
November 2007 to April 2008
An air pump driven by the ‘blower’ water wheel was installed by John Cockshutt II sometime around 1770. Victorian improvements were made around 1850 but this pump was destroyed for scrap before we acquired the site in 1953. Archaeological evidence and some remains have enabled us to start the recreation of a pump which will stand exactly where the original once stood. Cog wheels now connect the water wheel to a crank and this was first driven by water in February. Connecting rods to join crank to pistons are in hand. The floor area near the air pump has now been ‘carpeted’ with cast iron plates. The final fitting of a refurbished water pump, also driven from the blower wheel, will follow shortly!
The general drive to belt-up all our machine tool exhibits and to improve the lighting throughout the workshop buildings has continued. The Lucius Ponds planing machine is now working and planing new cast iron slide-bars for the Snuff Mill steam engine in the foundry. The 1903 lathe continues to be used by Phil to make many parts for both the blower pumps and the Snuff Mill engine.
An access gantry complete with safety rails is being built at high level around the Snuff Mill engine and we will soon be able to do maintenance work without scaffold or ladder.
We have installed more permanent exhibits alongside the entry road to the car park. A pulsometer steam pump now stands on a concrete base pretending to de-water some mine below.
Of course the general maintenance continues: Roofs have been repaired; New electrical wiring and switches have been installed; Whitewash and paint have been applied. Just imagine what more volunteers could achieve.
January 2007 to November 2007
The site has been subject to much tender loving care this year. In January, some land drains were flushed out and this must have helped the site to recover quickly after being severely flooded in June.
Much effort went into preparation of the large mobile crane which has been of enormous use throughout the year. Its major task was the recovery of the extremely heavy parts of the Moorside Ruston engine from dense undergrowth and loading these parts onto two 40 foot trailers which were then transported to the Museum of Internal Fire in west Wales. The opportunity was then taken to tidy up the back-field area, re-siting much heavy metal and sorting out a considerable amount of scrap for sale. We have found things which we had forgotten that we owned – an ancient overhead crane mechanism has since gone on display.
A kitchen range (made in Barnsley) donated to us in 2006 has been cleaned, repaired and built into No 6 forge cottage. It was substantially finished just in time to be inundated by 12 inches of water in the June Sheffield flood. The original flue has now been re-opened and lined and a fire may be burning at Christmas if an external chimney pipe can be erected in time.
The flood and 48 hours of continuous heavy rain revealed problems of water ingress to the cottage and necessitated work on re-levelling the stone steps and re-flagging the ginnel between the cottage and the Blacksmiths’ workshop. All the pathways to the workshops have been re-laid this year and re-graded and widenened to give wheelchair access.
Engine restoration continues slowly but steadily, governed by availability of manpower and materials and perhaps by the weather. The Snuff Mill engine has been fitted with its governor and its new piston, and other additions are in the pipeline. The Blower Wheel crank is nearing completion and the foundations for the associated water pump are well under way. The belt-changing mechanism of the Lucius Pond planing machine is receiving (more) attention.
The Smithy and the Smithy extension (which we call the South Yorkshire Ironworks) has received a lot of attention this year. Large sections of the corrugated iron roof have been replaced and the painting (very black and very viscous) has just been finished. Inside the SYIW, a layshaft has been added to the 3-phase electric motor to drive the line shafts at a more suitable speed. The majority of our machines have been fitted with expensive new belting and can now be run as another feature for visitors.
Some useful electrical wiring has been added this year including remote control switches away from the compressor which is now sound-insulated. Extra lights for the grinders, the lathe and the milling machine should give safer working.
November 2005 – After Bonfire Night and the end of our season – to December 2006
Our volunteers now have about five months without visitors to get on with projects which might be inconvenient in the season. We can now erect scaffolding, mix concrete, remove bridges (!) and remove safety barriers to rewire circuits or fit new belts.
By the autumn 2005, the lean-to wash house on the south end of the cottages was in poor shape. Daylight showed through a six foot long vertical crack as the wash house wall separated from the main building. After removing the old bird’s nests, sandstone was carefully cut and mortared into the crack. Inside the wash house was also in a poor state: A previous fireplace had been ripped out long ago and the corner chimney, unsupported and unkeyed to whitewashed walls, promptly collapsed as soon as it was touched. We would have to start from scratch.
The stonework of the cottage wall and of the lean-to wash house wall was carefully repaired. If absolutely necessary, at some time in the future, any additions could be dismantled back to this state. We have long had a setpot and ‘copper’ top in store and it was decided to reinstate a C1900 wash house appropriate to the last working days of the Forge. The copper was installed and the chimney rebuilt (now well supported, keyed in and lined). Finally, a stone sink has been installed with simple plumbing. The wash house has since been dressed with peggy tub and wringer and is now included in the guided tour.
For some time now, we have been aware that the footbridge across the dam overflow channel (and leading to the Elizabeth engine house) was deteriorating and bouncing more and more as the rusting support girders became thinner and thinner.
In early summer 2006, HSBC donated some lengths of very substantial girder – no single length of which would span the gap. In July and August the old bridge was removed and stone bases prepared for the new one. The exact required length of span was now clear. In September, the girders were cut to fit and Steve (of Wortley Forge Model Engineers) did a superb job of welding to give us two full spans.Through October and November, we have installed the painted girders across the overflow, built stone abuttments at each end and bolted on very substantial timbers to give a six foot roadway. Safety rails have been added and an unceremonial opening took place in December 2006.
Working machine tools
Wortley Top Forge is essentially a unique ancient monument, being the only remaining heavy iron forge with its restored cranes, waterwheels and hammers. We have become, by accident, a working museum of machine tools as, in the 1960s, our workshops were filled with machines which are now 100 years and more old.
Over the last year, our programme of installing lineshafting and motors and fitting new leather belting has come to fruition in several areas of the Forge.In the joiners’ shop we can now run two lathes and a shaper – all with fast and loose pulleys. Indeed, the James Fox lathe can now turn under the same cast iron roof truss which sheltered it at Strutt’s Mill from the 1820s.In the blacksmiths’ shop we have now added a working slotter and a working shaper (already machining parts for the Snuff Mill engine).
In November 2006 we saw the smithy extension (South Yorkshire Iron Works) come alive as the lineshafting and new belts were powered up for the first time.
HERE BE A DISCONTINUITY IN OUR RECORDING (!)
Easter 2003 – Start of the open season
Four ‘Medium sized’ steam engines running on compressed air, two I.C. running and steam engines on the Miniature Railway – a nice welcome to our 2003 visitors.
April 2003 – Two more storage containers are delivered
We now have five steel shipping containers on site, used to store everything from spare light bulbs to our Fordson tractor. Three are painted dark green, in an effort to make them blend in and work is under way to paint the remaining two.
March 2003 – Stationary Steam Engines run on Compressed Air
Around 10 years after the stationary engines were last run on steam, two were tested on compressed air. The 25hp compressor was donated 12 months before by J.W.Fletcher and has been installed in the old furnace area. It is hoped that these two engines, one build by Buxton & Thornley and the other by Marshalls of Gainsborough, can be demonstrated on a regular basis using the compressor.
November 2002 – Museum closes for winter
It is normal for the Forge to close for two months during the winter, but for 2003 the opening has been delayed until Easter Sunday (20th April). This was a calculated move to allow the volunteers unhindered access to some of the main display areas. Major jobs have thus been carried out with any inconvenience or danger to visitors.
October 2002 – Ken Hawley Retires as Honorary Custodian
From the Committee meeting at the end of October, Mr. Ken Hawley MBE, stepped down as Honorary Custodian (equivalent of site manager) and his place was take by Mr. Andrew Hurrell. Ken has, however, agreed to act in an advisory roll, it is hoped he will continue to visit the site during the summer months.
September 2002 – Model Engineers Open Day
The weather could not have been better and for most of the afternoon the Forge car park was full with visitors being diverted to roadside parking close by. This one day accounted for 22% of the year’s visitors!
June 2002 – Tractor and Grass Cutter in Use
The newly arrived Fordson Major tractor driving a brand new Grass Cutter (Slasher) is now in use to cut the grass around the Top Forge site. This has instantly cut the time take to cut the grass from 4 hours to 1½ hours. An additional benefit is that the tractor runs on diesel rather than petrol, removing the danger of storing petrol on site throughout the summer. Both the tractor and mower would not have been possible if it were not for the money left to us by Frank Woodall.
March 2002 – Top Forge to accept Euros
The Trust meeting in March agreed that admission to the Forge would now be accepted in Euros and well as pounds sterling. It is hoped that this service will help our visitors that come from further afield. US dollars are also to be accepted for admission.
March 2002 – Gift from the estate of Mr. Frank Woodall
An ‘out of the blue’ visit by two friends of the late Frank Woodall has resulted in some very good news for the Top Forge. After a very good look round they agreed that Top Forge was to receive a donation from Mr. Woodall’s estate. His will read that money was to be given to sites that were “restoring Windmills, Watermills or Gas Engines to working order and to be on Public View”. As Frank knew several late members and visited the Forge only a month before his death.
It is hoped we can spend this money in a way that Frank would have approved.
December 2001 – Frames of Snuff Mill Engine assembled in Foundry Building
The slow but steady restoration of the historic Snuff Mill Engine took a major step forward in December when the frames were lifted into their final resting place. The flywheel was already in place suspended high above the floor. Now the frames are located the crank shaft end supports can now be concreted in place and the cylinder fitted.
June 2001 – Major parts of Roll Forge Machine transported to Top Forge
For some months we have been bringing small parts of the roll forge machine to Top Forge, but with all these now safe, it was time to call in the heavy gang and remove all the remaining parts. With the aid of a local scaffolding contractor (owners of a lorry with hiab crane) and our best machinery movers, the base and cast frame as well as a motor and pulleys, were transported to Top Forge and off loaded in the South Yorkshire Iron Works building.
May 2001 – Second steel container delivered to Top Forge
Some people think things happen slowly at the Forge, well how about this for moving fast. The writer received a phone call on the Tuesday night telling him of an old steel container on a building site. The container had to go before Monday morning! Wednesday started with a trip to the site to see the container, a phone call to a haulage contractor, and another to confirm we could afford the transport costs. Friday afternoon finished with a 20 ton lorry pulling into the Forge and off loading the container in the carpark!
The container is not in A1 condition but it is weatherproof, so it is of use to us, but it desperately needs a repaint.
April 2001 – Smithy rewire completed
This work has included fitting a new 3 phase distribution boards and installing 100% new final circuits. The last job to be completed was a new, larger, feed cable. Socket outlets have been included for machines as well as portable equipment. All single phase sockets are protected with RCDs.
The new external lighting around the smithy includes PIRs so that it can operate automatically during the winter.
March 2001 – Floor of South Yorkshire Iron Works concreted.
The effort of the last year to get a roof on this building has been followed up by the floor being completed. It took two Saturday mornings to lay the concrete across the front section of floor. The back section had already been laid in concrete slabs.
December 2000 – Forge, Cottage and Workshop roofs professional repaired.
November 2000 – Basement of Elizabeth enginehouse flooded
The heavy rain on 5/6th November cause the River Don to rise to a very high level and large amounts of water to flow down the dam overflow. The high water backed up the drain and flooded the enginehouse basement, in spite of the entrance step being raised by 150mm the summer before. An electric pump was used to clear the water and a sump is planned to may the pump easier to use in the future.
For the first time in some years, water was seen backing up the water wheel tail goits and into the Forge building, but no damage was done here.
August 2000 – Front half of Smithy roof replaced
Following the success of putting a roof on the South Yorkshire Iron Works building, the second hand sheets used on the front face of the adjoining Smithy have also been replaced with new galvanised sheets. These and those on the South Yorkshire Iron Works will be allowed to weather before being painted with a black roofing compound, to give a 1900s look to the roofs.
June 2000 – Open Day for three parishes
June 2000 – Snuff Mill Engine dismantled and moved indoors
It is thought that the snuff mill engine has been out in the open for 50 years, but not for much longer. Over a weekend the engine was ignominiously dismantled, loaded onto wagons and pulled towards the Blacksmiths Shop. After restoration it will be reassembled in the Foundry Building and turned over on compressed air.
May 2000 – First steel container delivered
February 2000 – New lights put up in the Smithy
As a temporary measure, prior to a full rewire, two new lights have been fitted down the centre of the Smithy. These are 250 watt industrial lights and give out far more light than the two 200 watt lamps they replace. The lights have been fitted on commercial plugs and sockets, so it is hoped that they can be connected into the proposed new wiring.
February 2000 – Steam engines moved to site from across the river
After residing in the Chemistry Lane yard of Mr. Peter Marsden, for more years than anyone can remember, two horizontal steam pumps, one with a fly wheel, were moved to the Top Forge site. Our thanks must go to David Goldthorpe, owner/driver of the JCB used to transport the engines the short distance, without whose help the job would not have been possible at this time.