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More about Ridsdale Ironworks
Demand for iron products in Britain saw a big increase in the first part of the 19th century. Ridsdale and wider Redesdale offered a unique location to access iron, as well as deposits of coal and limestone. Iron was mined, smelted and cast at Ridsdale Ironworks from 1836 to 1848. The mines were abandoned until Tyneside industrialist, William Armstrong, bought the works and started to produce iron for his factories. Pig iron produced at Ridsdale Ironworks was used in the construction of Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne. The ironworks finally closed in 1879.
Today, Ridsdale Ironworks is protected as a scheduled monument. It includes the ruins of the former engine house, earthwork remains of coke ovens and ore-roasting kilns, waste heaps and tubways. To the south are large quarry pits and to the east of the A68 are the now-dry banks of a reservoir which once supplied water to the boilers of the blowing engines.
The engine house is the most prominent structural survivor of the ironworks. It was constructed in 1839-40 to hold two steam-powered beam engines which provided the air blast for three blast furnaces lying downslope to the north. The engine house would have housed the beam blowing engines side by side, with the rocking arms of the engines pivoting on ‘bob’ or ‘lever’ beams set up transversely across the building.
A series of reports produced by Revitalising Redesdale volunteers looks in detail at the landscape of Redesdale and shed more light on the history of the area. One report highlights that the main period of ironstone mining was during the final third of the 19th century, after the Ridsdale ironworks had closed. It also shows the village of Ridsdale grew in the 19th century to serve the ironworks. Lidar imagery – a type of laser imagery – shows no evidence of settlement at an earlier date, and earthworks associated with the ironworks can be seen adjacent to the village, as can extensive earthworks resulting from ironstone quarrying and coal mining.
Read the Redesdale Landscapes through Time: Landscape Area 6 report here.
Saving the ironworks
The remains of the 19th century engine house at Ridsdale are a visible reminder of Northumberland’s industrial past.
The engine house – now a scheduled monument – had serious structural issues that required immediate attention in order to remove it from the Heritage at Risk Register. The aim of the Saving Ridsdale’s Ironworks project is to protect and preserve this historically significant monument for generations to come.
Following repair and consolidation works, which took place in late 2018, the engine house has been saved from further deterioration and collapse. There is also now better public access to the site, with a newly-created pedestrian access gate and walkway.
The Furnace House at Ridsdale Ironworks
This Grade II listed building, which now forms part of a private home, was key to operations at Ridsdale Ironworks.
Situated in an area known as Foundry Yard, the Furnace House sat alongside the ancillary ranges for carpenters, blacksmiths and office staff. The long, one storey structure built from sandstone rubble and Welsh slate was originally attached to one of the blast furnaces and likely used as a covered tapping (or casting) house, where molten iron tapped from the furnace was cast into pigs.
The Furnace House was first recognised by Historic England as a listed building in 1985. Along with the engine house, less exposed buildings to the north Furnace House, and some former tapping/casting houses, it remains one of the few standing structural remains of Ridsdale Ironworks.