Saturday, 12 June 2010

Industrial heritage

Dimmingsdale has not always been the quiet retreat  it is today. Like many of our rural beauty spots, it has an industrial heritage. The earliest were woodcutters, harvesting wood from the forest, corders to chop and shape it to an appropriate size and colliers who built and tended the specially constructed, oxygen-free fires to produce charcoal.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a smelting industry grew up, with stone being brought in from what is now the Peak District. The furnace in Dimmingsdale would smelt the rock to extract the lead and iron ore it contained. The locally produced charcoal fed the fires, and water from the streams was used to power the bellows and hammers. The scene would have born little resemblance to how it is today!

Throughout this time, the land had been owned by successive Earls of Shrewbury. In the early nineteenth century, the fifteenth Earl of Shrewbury took up residence. By now the industry had died, leaving the valley to return to its natural state and, seeing the beauty of the area, he built the Towers at Alton.

Although the forest is once again full of natural beauty, as we walked, we could spot evidence of the industrial past; the many criss-crossing trackways, the names of the dwellings at the valley head (Old Furnace Farm, Furnace farm, Old furnace - a bit of a clue there then :) ), the damming of the river and this water channel...

The grooved ramp coming in from the left was the final section of a flat bottomed trough which appeared through a drystone wall. This was just below 'Old Furnace' and was obviously feeding water back into the stream after its power had been harnessed.

I'm finding it interesting to reflect on how, so much of what I take at face value, has been shaped and changed by the past.


  1. So interesting that you can take a walk through a seemingly untouched area and still see signs of man's past use on the landscape. Over here we can walk for hours and only see the odd logging skid and old stump deep in the second and third growth forest.

  2. Inspiring pictures. Your comments are always interesting. Thanks for sharing.