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Thread: Kirkstall forge, Leeds

  1. #1
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    Default Kirkstall forge, Leeds


    Kirkstall forge in Leeds was a massive site covering 65 acres, the area was first used for forging by the Cistercian monks of Kirkstall Abbey. It is thought that a furnace was built to smelt iron ore for the production of iron for nails and tools during the construction of the Abbey. Kirkstall forge finally closed in 2003 bringing to a close 800 years of engineering here.

    The whole site was bulldozed around 2008, all except for the historic waterwheel, hammer shop, and slitting mill built way back in 1676. A housing, shop, railway station, and leasure complex are planned for the site. The waterwheel, and slitting mill are to be restored and included in the new development.


    The vast scale of the site before demolition in 2008.

    The ruins of the roofless waterwheel building, slittling mill, and hammer shop are in the middle of this aerial image taken during demolition. The buildings in the top of the picture have since gone. A big mill pond used to be in front of the waterwheel in years gone by.

    A 1925 map showing how the forge took all it's power from the nearby Cow beck, and Mill goit from Newlay.
    Traces of the old mill goit can still be found around the site, mostly it is underground these days.

    The Cow beck travels under Abbey road under this rather nice short tunnel in Hawkswood..

    T'other side as we say in Yorkshire :)

    The Horsforth sewage works may have gone many years ago, but the sewer overflow still pollutes the Cow beck. Skank sewer fresh bars a plenty here!

    The far extremeties of Kirstall forge are protected by this moat, and concrete fortification in thick woodland. I find the place to be very reminiscent of the Wolfsschanze ruins in East Prussia. It's interesting to see a full tree has grown on the concrete slab here. A dam, and sluice for the forge are located a little further downstream. The forge originally took all it's power from this beck through a series of dams, and sluices, today most of this water feed has since dried up.

    This is one of the old mill ponds on the site of Kirkstall forge, today the water is contaminated with planktonic algae.

    This is the dried up remains of the underground mill goit, it seems quite hard to see how these small streams once powered the massive waterwheels, and hammers, but they did. You have to look quite hard to find these old water courses on the forge site today. A few algae contaminated mill ponds still survive, but mostly the old mill goit is underground.

    This old crane has to be the best surviving relic to be found around the old forge buildings. The 2 ton travelling rail crane was built for the Isle of Wight railway in 1865. It was purchased from British Rail, and was fully refurbished for work in the forge in 1967. Kirkstall forge ceased production in 2003, bringing to a close 800 years of engineering here. The building behind is the roofless remains of the 1676 slitting mill.





    The Kirkstall forge waterwheel may have stood silent for many years, but the area was first used for forging by the Cistercian monks. The mill goit runs directly underneath this building. These overgrown buildings are all that remain of the old Slitting Mill built in 1676.

    The waterwheel, and helve hammer are sunk into an overgrown pit in the oldest part of the forge. Today it stands silent, roofless, and overgrown. This waterwheel powered the nearby nose helve hammer.

    Latent power!

    This is the massive 17th century nose helve hammer. I believe this was quite a unique piece of machinery, there were only 16 slitting mills in operation in England by 1785. So this one at Kirkstall would have been significantly important in it's day. A very sturdy block of weathered Oak supports the hammer these days, but at one time this was powered 4 times a minute by the waterwheel. This hammer first produced Iron rods in 1676, they were manufactured here by Dickin and Cotton Ltd.

    The overgrown ruins of the 1671 slitting mill. Inside is another waterwheel, and two big drop hammers.

    I'll include these night time shots i got inside the hammer shop on a previous visit.
    The massive Kirkstall forge helve hammer was powered by this water wheel. The hammer lifted 4 times a minute. The locals called the noise of the hammer 'The Giant's Footsteps, urban legend says many naughty children were threatened with a visit by said giant if they didn't behave. I think most did after that lol





    An array of old forging tools that can only be described as museum pieces.

    These's fire still in the belly of the old forge!

    Kirkstall forge-End of an era!

    Thanks for looking guys! :)

    phill.d
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    Last edited by phill.d; 31st Jul 10 at 20:05.
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  4. #2
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    Excellent write up of the history Phill. :) Excellent pics too, love all the underground bit and pieces. :)
    GOOGLE is your friend :)

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    I always look forward to a report by you Phil, its nothing short of top quality.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45100355@N04/

    The revery alone will do, if bees are few.

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    First class report, especially the crane and night pic's.

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    Wow, amazing pieces of machinery. Excellent research and pics as always, Phill. Really interesting stuff. :)
    "...If we lose our spiritual bond with the land they'll be nothing left of us as a nation..." Phil Rickman.

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    This is really nice mate.
    Well done, loving the wheel shots.

  12. #7
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    Nice one Phil, a brilliant write up as normal, those Waterwheel shots are awesome, thanks for sharing.:)
    And a dreadful thing from the cliff did spring. And its wild bark thrilled around. His eyes had the glow of the fires below. Twas the form of the Spectre Hound. 'Ha' yer fa'r got a dickey, bor?' 'Yis, an' he want a fule ter roide 'im, will yew cum?'

  13. #8
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    Thanks for all the positives guys n gals!
    Cheers! :)
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    Wonderful stuff Phil,love this heavy industrial stuff Fred Dibnah would have had a field day here.

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    great pics and history as always, cheers Phill.


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DerelictPlaces is a forum for people with an interest in the history and documentation of disused, derelict and abandoned buildings to come together and share their experiences, photography and historical findings. Our military, industrial and historical heritage is fast disappearing under the pressure of regeneration, the need for new housing, and often through simple neglect; Our aim is to document these places before they disappear entirely.
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