There are a couple of small mines in the area working the basset edges of the seams of the Brimington anticline, in particular the Blackshale seam. The area had also been mined by bell pit and was easily worked by open working, later to be called opencasting. Coal, ironstone and clay were mined here by this operation scarring the landscape in doing so.
The rusty-coloured ironstone which was mined locally comprised of only thirty percent iron when smelted, it came in several shapes; balls, nodules, dogs tooth and so on referring to its physical shape. It occurs as 'Siderite' or iron carbonate and several seams or 'rakes' occur between the main coal seams as nodular deposits in the sandstones and clays. It was widely reported in a 13th. Century deed that mining was carried out near to here in open-holes, clay, coal and ironstone were available in this area and were used at the furnace nearby. In later years the same material was widely dug to provide the source materials for the furnace at the Barrow and later Staveley works until sources of iron ore were discovered in adjoining counties which gave a much better yield of iron.
Ironstone was dug in Derbyshire and Yorkshire by the ‘Dozen’ (Farey 1817. P395). In Sheffield a Dozen comprised of a stack some 6 yards long, 1 yard wide and 22 inches high. Which is nearly 50 cubic feet, weighing in at 4 and a quarter ton, (20 x 112 pounds). The men were paid 28 shillings per Dozen for digging.
A survey document from a competitor of the Smith family enterprises at Duckmanton, the Barrow family (later to become the Staveley Company) shows that the Inkersall Rake ironstone was being mined in the Duckmanton and Staveley areas at a rate of 1,932 tons per acre. (24th. March 1840). From the inventory of factory produced wares it would seem that the particular form of iron produced could not or was not made into steel because the iron produced had a high phosphorous content. It was used mainly for forging and casting of large industrial machinery parts for lead and coal mining operations as well as for use in the munitions industry. One other factor was that this iron could not hold a sharp edge and therefore was only suitable for larger castings.
Farey whose book was published in 1817 does not provide any information on this particular furnace which would mean it was not built until after this date. General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire. Vols. 1. J. Farey.
In 1860 the Brimington Moor Iron Company were producing and working iron at Furnace Farm for the Staveley Company to augment the production at Staveley Furnace. Coal was mined locally and tuned into coke in the 50 coke ovens and presumably used in the making of their iron. The works produced cast iron for boilers and cylinders for use in steam engines. It also produced stoves, grates, ovens, shovels, hoes, trowels and rivets on site.
In A History of Brimington by Vernon Brelsford p55. He states that the furnace engine blew cold air into the furnace and on closure of the furnace this engine was sold to the Broad Oaks furnace at Hasland.( This would be around or prior to the 1880’s).
To show just how inefficient this furnace was: Prior to 1828 and James Neilsons invention which allowed preheated air into the furnace it took eight tons of coke to produce one ton of iron, his invention enabled a reduction from eight tons to five tons to take place. This furnace did not benefit from Neilsons invention.
It took 1.33 tons of coal to produce a ton of coke.
Therefore it took 10.64 tons of coal to produce the 8 tons of coke for the furnace to produce 1 ton of iron. It therefore took 42,560 tons of coal to produce the annual 4,000 tons iron.
It is strange to find the furnace using cold blast when the technology to hot blast had been around for 32 years before the furnace was built.