Fieldwork and Conservation
MORLEY PARK BLAST FURNACES
The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the guardianship of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society. The Industrial Archaeology Section organises working parties to tidy and maintain the site.
The furnaces were built for Francis Hurt of Alderwasley to produce iron from iron ore and coal, both of which were mined in the immediate vicinity of this site. The first furnace (centre left in the photograph below) was built in around 1780, making it one of the earliest blast furnaces in Derbyshire to use coke rather than charcoal to smelt the iron. It was rebuilt in 1818 and the second furnace was added a little later. Power for the cold air blast was provided by a steam engine.
The furnaces were charged at the top with coke, iron ore, and limestone by using an embankment with possibly a small bridge. For the smelting process to work, the limestone was needed as a flux: it was obtained about three miles away at Crich. The furnaces produced both cast items and pig iron, some of which was converted at Alderwasley forge to wrought iron.
The furnaces continued in use until the 1870s by which time they were technologically very outdated. The industrial surroundings have since been obliterated by open cast coal mining. The furnaces, which were consolidated by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust in the 1980s, are a rare survival nationally and unique in Derbyshire.
A detailed history of the site was published in DAJ in 1988, and the article can be downloaded for free from the Archaeology Data Service.
Access is via the lane leading to Morley Park Farm, off Street Lane, south of Ripley, postcode DE5 8HT. There is then a 500 metre walk along a farm track and over a grass field to reach the furnaces at grid reference SK350492.
This year our annual SPRING CLEAN of the site is at 1030 on Wednesday 27 April 2022. If you have not visited before this is an ideal opportunity to learn about the furnaces and their history from our members.