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More about Ridsdale village
Whilst it may be smaller than some of the other village hubs in Redesdale, what Ridsdale lacks in size, it makes up for in historical importance.
One of the main reasons visitors flock to Ridsdale today is to explore its ironworks, which helped create the village you see today. But it’s also the warm welcome people receive at the local country inn, The Gun.
In keeping with the fierce spirit of the people of Redesdale, The Gun was saved from being sold to housing developers by local villagers who formed the community benefit society, Ridsdale Community Group. Volunteers from Ridsdale spent over 20,000 hours renovating and refurbishing the pub, which opened its doors in May 2021. An interesting fact: The Gun takes its name from William Armstrong’s gun-testing range which is still in operation today. It’s used by BAE systems as a weapon testing site.
Visitors looking to explore Redesdale with Ridsdale as the base can find accommodation at The Gun, self catering accommodation in a former quarryman’s cottage, and at a nearby glamping site. There’s a small Post Office and a shop close by at West Woodburn.
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 Lost Redesdale project
Redesdale contains a rich diversity of historic remains from Neolithic farming communities and Roman military occupation through to 19th century industry and First World War practice trenches.
The Lost Redesdale project aimed to better understand and tell the landscape story of Redesdale, investigating its cultural heritage with local people through archaeological research and sharing the stories uncovered through creative interpretation.