Sitting quietly between Huddersfield, Sheffield and Barnsley is the heart of Yorkshire’s Industrial Revolution. From the medieval period onwards the use of iron and coal from the South Yorkshire Coalfield gave rise to important industries and striking landscapes. Makers, Miners and Money is a Regional ... more
Sitting quietly between Huddersfield, Sheffield and Barnsley is the heart of Yorkshire’s Industrial Revolution. From the medieval period onwards the use of iron and coal from the South Yorkshire Coalfield gave rise to important industries and striking landscapes. Makers, Miners and Money is a Regional Route of Industrial Heritage that highlights the huge contribution this region played in shaping Europe’s industrial past and continues to play in making that heritage available to everybody today.
From the National Coal Mining Museum of England, with its impressive underground tour, horses and preserved pit head, to Kelham Island Industrial Museum with its little mesters’ workshops and the most powerful working steam engine in Europe, to the stunning planned townscape of Elsecar and the large houses built by the wealthy coalfield owners in between, there is something for everyone.
Industrial power was born here in the deep river valleys on the edge of the Pennines, where natural resources have been sustaining communities for centuries. Before the advent of steam, water provided the main source of power for industry across Europe and, in some regions, was used for heavy industry right up until the 1960’s.
With its steep, fast flowing rivers, this region was well placed to take advantage of this natural power source, and edge tools and other metal products were manufactured in water-powered forges across the region from the medieval period onwards.
The growth of industry was also encouraged by the availability of other natural resources. The region’s rich seams of iron stone were mined from the Roman period onwards, and the Cistercian monasteries, the capitalists of the middle ages, turned iron mining and iron forging into a major activity, supporting their farms across the north of England.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries, new landowners exploited the iron using charcoal from the region’s dense woodlands, managing coppice plantations to provide fuel for the future. Traces of these coppices can still be seen in many of the region’s historic industrial woodland landscapes.
After the development of coke as a fuel for iron smelting in the early 18th century the region’s coal mines also proliferated. The early mines were drift mines, as the coal cropped close to the surface, but as the seams were followed deeper to the east, deep mines were created and by the late 19th century pithead winding gears were a common sight across the region.
The growth of transport routes, from the early packhorse routes and turnpikes, the waggonways, canals and later steam railways, and even the 20th century motorway system, has also shaped the region. Many of the early industrial routes can still be traced across the landscape with heritage routes like the Trans Pennine Trail following the route of former industrial transport links and impressive structures such as the Penistone and Denby Dale viaducts still standing as monuments to the region’s important industrial past.