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Ponds Forge (Sheffield)

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The history of Ponds Forge is long and complex. Pond Forge was the name of the earliest iron forge here, and Ponds Forge was the name of the last iron and steel working plant at this location.

1802 'Wanted, a HAMMERMAN, who understands working in Chafery, and Drawing all Sorts of Uses. Apply at the Pond Forge, Sheffield.' [1]

From the late 18th century to about 1838, the works was operated by Kenyon, Frith and Woolhouse.

1871 'IRON MANUFACTURERS, WIRE DRAWERS, ENGINEERS, MILLWRIGHTS, machinery brokers, and others. THE PONDS FORGE AND ROLLING MILL. NICHOLSON begs to announce he has been appointed by the Directors the Midland Railway Co to catalogue and prepare for auction…..The very valuable power and poweful MACHINERY, WORKING PLANT, and FIXTURES, ….consisting in part of capital 80-horse condensing engine, with 12-Inch Wrought Iron Shaft and 8-feet Cast Steel crank. THREE TUBULAR BOILERS ….. FIVE TRAINS OF ROLLS for Sheet. 6ft. 7in. by 24in. Rod, Springs, and Wire ; all of which are in capital Working Order. Large Quantity of duplicate rolls, many of which are new. 10,000 FEET OF FLOOR PLATES. The iron work for six Heating Furnaces, all newly erected; Six pairs of shears; two Roll Turning Lathes; Punching, shearing, and Paring Machines; a quantity of Light and Heavy shafting with Drums and Driving Wheels. 200 TONS OLD METAL. Two Cranes, Cart, Platform Weighing Machines, Leather Driving Bands, Iron and Wood Drags, Roll Spindles, Crab and Coupling Boxes, large Straightening Plates, Blocks and Ropes, large Assortment of Valuable WOOD MODELS, many of which are nearly New; Gas Fixtures and Pipe, Wood Battens, Shelving, Work Benches. 18000 CUBIC FEET OF ASHLAR, And a great variety of other useful tools and equipment. Catalogues are now ready for delivery, and may be had on application to Mr. ALFRED DAVY. Engineer. …..'[2]

1875 'AWFUL DEATH OF A SHEFFIELD ENGINE TENTER. A man named John George Griffiths, who lived in Button-lane, met with a fearful and instantaneous death on Tuesday. He was employed as engine tenter by Mr. Senior, at the Pond Forge, Sheaf street, and was on Tuesday on the night shift. During the evening he appears to have been drinking, and at half-past ten o'clock he was considerably the worse for liquor. At that time he heard a " nagging " noise in a small engine which works a blast, and went into the engine house to see what was the matter. Before attempting to examine the machinery he ought to have stopped the engine, but that precaution seems to have been persistently neglected by him. On Tuesday he followed his usual course, thinking that because the engine worked slowly that there was no danger, and he paid the penalty of his temerity. Almost as soon as he got to the place he lost his footing and fell upon two revolving cog wheels. One of his arms was taken in, and he was dragged after it until the cogs closed upon his throat The resistance thus offered stopped the machinery, and several of the men at work in the place went to ascertain the cause of the stoppage. They saw the unfortunate man firmly held by the cogs, mangled almost beyond recognition, and quite dead. The body was extricated as soon as possible and removed to the nearest public-house [Swan Inn, Pond Street]. The deceased was about 24 years of age, and was unmarried ; but a young woman to whom he was engaged had taken his supper for him, and was in the works at the time the accident occurred. She had been talking to him only a minute before, and it is said had advised him, on account of the state he was in, not to go near the cog wheels.'[3]

Brief History of The Site

The book 'Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers'[4] shows that water mills were established at this site from the 16th century, and forging was done from the 17th century, and the final forge stood from 1872 to 1988. Water was taken from the River Sheaf and held in a series of Ponds. The ponds are shown in extracts of 18th and early 19th century maps reproduced in the book.

Sheffield's rivers were used by numerous iron-working mills, and the early maps show the ponds in a rural setting. However, the 1903 O.S. map[5] shows that the area had been overwhelmed by industry and urban growth. The River Sheaf had been straightened and culverted, and the Midland Railway appears to have covered one of the forge sites (hence, presumably, the 1871 advertisement above). However, part of the lowest pond had survived (marked 'Ponds Dam').

Ponds Forge International Sports Centre now occupies the site of Senior's works. A gateway and a heavy anvil block from a steam hammer have been left as reminders.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Leeds Intelligencer, 6th December 1802
  2. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 29th July 1871
  3. Lancaster Gazette, Saturday 11th September 1875
  4. 'Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers' edited by Christine Ball, David Crossley and Neville Flavell, 2nd Edition: South Yorkshire Industrial History Society, 2006
  5. The Godfrey Edition map: Yorkshire Sheet 294.08: Sheffield 1903 [1]