The Origin of Codnor Park Ironworks

Codnor Park, as the name implies, was an area of parkland associated with Codnor Castle, the castle standing on top of a ridge of land just to the south of the Park. The castle was believed to have been last occupied by Sir Streynsham Master who acquired it in 1692.  It was later abandoned and fell into ruin, its stone being pillaged for other buildings. In 1794, the owner, the Revd Legh Hoskin Master, resident in America, advertised leasing the minerals under 700 acres of the Park. He realised that the Cromford Canal which formed the Park’s northern and eastern boundaries would provide an excellent means of distributing the minerals whilst providing himself with a nice income.

The 63 Year Lease signed in 1796

In 1796,  Outram & Co.’s partners signed two leases with Master. The first was for ten years at £450 / year to mine coal and iron ore from a large area under the eastern portion of the 700 acre park. The second was a 63 year lease at £10 / year for a 5 acre pocket of land bordering the canal in the north east part of the park. They also agreed to invest at least £1,000 within the 10 year period to establish blast furnaces, a forge, limekilns and dwelling houses.

In addition to the mineral wealth the partners would have no doubt realised the importance of establishing an ironworks to produce wrought iron which was a very desirable material for steam boiler plates, the construction of buildings and components for machinery and wagons. The Butterley ironworks at Ripley only produced pig iron and cast iron. For wrought iron production it was necessary to establish blast furnaces, refining furnaces and puddling furnaces, working in conjunction with rolling mills to produce bar (wrought) iron suitable for hammer forging into desired components. Unlike cast iron, pieces of wrought iron could be hot hammer welded together making it suitable for producing large plates and beams.

An early map of Codnor Park Works showing forge, ironworks, lime kilns and canal side arm, and Locks V – VII on the main Cromford canal

In 1808, following Brunton’s appointment as Chief Engineer, work began on the construction of a foundry later to be followed by a forge. By 1811 the first blast furnace was taking shape but work slowed up around 1815 due to a depression caused by the end of the Napoleonic War. It was not until 1819 that the Forge and rolling mills began full production. The model village of Ironville was built during the 1830’s to house the large workforce and their families. During the next century, the works developed into what became known as the Codnor Park Forge and Wagon Works. The Forge closed down in 1965, the Wagon Works following it in 1975 after which the site was extensively open cast mined for the coal lying just below the surface.

An aerial view of the Works in 1935 showing Forge, Wagonworks and Canal