The Ironstone Works Part I , Blisworth, Northamptonshire, UK.

All pictures are presented at relatively low resolution.  There will be hundreds of pictures on this site - there is an economic limit to the webspace available.  The point of this presentation is that you can see for yourself the extent of the collection and return later as the collection expands - as it surely will.  Any interest in copies of a picture at a higher resolution (ie. clarity) should be directed through contacts given in the Blisworth "Round and About" parish council publication or using the comment form on the home page.  In some cases the pictures are not available due to copyright restrictions.  However, permission has been obtained, where possible, to include them here.  Printed below each image is the photographer's name, if known.

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I have had some help in providing details on ironstone mining from Steve Purcell who has researched
the topic extensively.  If you have questions or inputs I will forward them to Steve and eventually
set up a separate form here to automatically forward messages to him - when I have more time.

The map attached here shows the extent of ironstone mining from 1865 - 1914 to the east of the village.
Post war mining, parts II and III, was carried out to the west of the village.

An overview of all Blisworth Mining is given here.

18-01  This is the curved cut in the allotment field also visible in an aerial view.  Note the planking to allow overburden to be moved off the ironstone and piled on the other side.  Found in the remaining cut across the allotment field was a pair of wheels from one of these wagons.

However, the evidence in a recently recovered map suggests that the arc in the allotment field began as a wide one that was progressively shrunk down with a tightening of the curvature.  This plate may well have been taken of an entirely different location to the allotment field because it shows a spoil layout for a widening curve.

18-01a   This picture shows the stone "portal" through which wagons passed from the allotment field workings down to the canal.  Over the portal was installed an iron brake drum, see Iron Stone bridge.

18-01b  To get to the canal from the allotment workings, the rails for the wagons passed under Stoke Road through a tunnel.  Dated 1974, this shows preparations for the tunnel to be filled with dry concrete mix.

This was the view through the Stoke Road Tunnel looking up towards "The Drum" before the area was cleared and set to gardens - pre-1960.

18-02  This death defying practice was apparently commonplace.  The planks are of top quality pine, 2 or 3 inches thick and 12 inches wide.  The steps of the barrowman must be sympathetic to the resonance of the plank.  On a few sites 15" planks were used.  It is said "they were like an ocean liner to walk on" compared to the lighter planks.

 

 

18-03  left to right:  Walter Chambers, "Pegleg" Clark Joseph (he lost one!), Bailey Chambers, Tom Robinson (Shutlanger), Steve Mallard, James Pinfold, Bert Valentine (Shutlanger), "Toby" Jim Durrant - foreman.

Location not known.

 

 

 

18-04

Dating from about 1880, this picture is of a group working in Blisworth on either "East Field" or "Windmill Field" - Blisworth Pit 1 - and the gentleman in the bowler hat is John Capell - second row down, third from the left (including the child)  He became the publican at the Sun, Moon and Stars Inn and died in 1899.  No other names are known.

 

 

 

 


As indicated in the caption, this was thought to be an early football gathering.  An alternative idea is that it is the workforce operating the ironstone open mine, as in the picture above, but assembled near the control drum for the railway offload point on the canal. This gateway may have been the footpath gateway opposite the Westley Buildings ie. just where Greenside is now, this being a better explanation for the owner of the photograph labelling it "Greenside".  The low buildings behind the people have not been found recorded on any map, as yet.

18-05  Mrs Capell, publican and ironstone foreman's wife. 
18-06 A Blisworth gang, most names are known.  Location is Cowhouse Close adjacent to the parish boundary with Gayton.  Date c. 1910.

If the location is actually Cow Close then as shown in the map (a few images below) there appears to be no rail for the waggons.  The rail probably ran west from Cow Close and merged at railway points with the main rail towards the canal.

18-07  A picture provided many years ago by Peter Butcher of Gayton.  The gang is believed to be working a shallow pit in the Gayton Parish.
names are, Left to Right:

Top Row - ?

Middle row: Geo Scott (Tiffield), Dunkley (Gayton), Reg Nightingale (Pattishall), Chas Hillyard (BLIS), F Pinkhard (Tiffield), H Wootton (Tiffield).

Bottom Row: Jack Nightingale (Pattishall), Walt George (Gayton), Aub Shipperley (Gayton), Harry George (Gayton), Tom Pell (Gayton).

 

 

 

18-08  The Gayton Road loading station.  A wagon railway ran through the field below Hill Farm, crossed the Gayton Road a few yards above a cottage called "The Bays" and ended over the canal opposite Pond Bank (house No. 44 approximately).  The names of the Blisworth and Gayton workers in this picture are known.  Ironstone was dropped down the chute into wooden crates in the narrow boats.  The crates were then lifted by crane, at a railway siding one mile away, onto wagons destined for the Hunsbury iron furnaces.  Date c. 1900 - 1914 - the furnaces closed in 1920 and WWI interrupted production.

 

 

 

 

18-24   Taken form the church tower, as was the picture numbered 16-20a in the High Street section, the coloured line indicates the estimated position of the ironstone tramway and unloading chute described above.  The rail line crosses the Gayton Road about 10 to 15 yards south of the hedge line behind the barns - this is shown in a 1947 aerial photo (NRO) by the hedges on both sides of the road.

                                         

In fact, a good description of the rail and B off-loading point is provided in a Mining Overview.

18-08a  By 1956 this was all that was left of the wooden stanchions for the loading platform or wharf.  Nothing can be seen now.
18-09  The picture is taken from the Banbury line railway cutting, date estimated c.1910.  The unload platform was designed for a horse and cart to enter forwards and for the stone to be dropped through a chute into a box wagon able to run a short distance on rails.  It appears that this wagon was brought forwards and tilted on a wooden platform to make it empty into the railway wagon.  The actual location of this arrangement is probably on the north side of the SMJ cutting at bridge No. 3 - the one nearest to Gayton Wilds farm.  The miner who used it would have been Mr. Henry Wheldon who operated near the church fields of Gayton parish from 1863 to 1884 and gave way to Sparrow in later years.  Tonks in his book, part III page 39, assumes a much cruder arrangement and could not envisage the 'design' encapsulated in this picture collected by Geo. Freeston.

 

18-10 Date is believed to be 1895 according to G. Freeston (1953 "Scrapbook").  The difference in levels between the two sides of the picture and the depth of the cut indicate the thickness of the "seam" of ironstone.  Note the curved line of planks to the right.

George states the location is the field north of the Courteenhall Road and the vantage point is by the side of the road, over the bridge through which the rails ran.  This picture therefore relates to picture 18-04 above.

Scaled from the known width of those planks, 12 in, the depth of the excavation must be at least 20 feet where the wagons are located.  For the location suggested by George that seems implausible until one notices that the houses built at the end of Wellspring are indeed placed very low in relation to the Courteenhall Road.  Go there and wonder at the massive change that mining brought!

 

18-11  Also an unknown location but is typical in terms of layout.  There is layer of ironstone on one side of a railway with the overburden cut back to reveal the ironstone.  The overburden has been taken off and transferred to the other side where it is piled at a safe stable angle.  The modern way of doing the transfer is with a mechanical digger mounted on a turntable.  In the Victorian open mines, all the material was barrowed across narrow planks.  After some time, the central railway will be moved, in this scene - moved to the right, so that mining can continue.

 

Part II