Derwentcote Steel Furnace
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Oldest steel furnace in England
The Derwentcote Valley was a thriving centre for the fledging steel industry in the early 18th century. The valley had a plentiful supply of the raw materials needed to supply the Furnace. There were natural deposits of clay, sandstone, coal, and charcoal in the area. In addition, there was relatively easy access to seaports along the North Sea coast, so raw iron bars from Sweden could easily be supplied by ship to Newcastle, then brought overland to Derwentcote by horse and cart. The iron had to be imported because local ore contained sulphur and phosphorus, making it unsuitable for the cementation proces.
Derwentcote Furnace remained in operation until 1891. By that time new industrial processes had emerged, notably the Bessemer Steel conversion process, which made the cementation process slow and inefficient by comparison. The Don Valley near Sheffield emerged as a new centre for steel production. Using the new processes, Don Valley steel could be made faster and more cheaply that Derwentcote steel, so the Furnace eventually became unviable. The building fell into decay until it was rescued and restored by English Heritage in 1990.
There is a parking area on the opposite (south) side of the A694. From the parking area you have to cross the road and walk west to Forge Lane, the down the lane past several houses until you reach a gated entrance to the Furnace site. The exterior of the mill can be viewed at any time, and groups can make special arrangements to see demonstrations of the steel making process. It seems a shame that the interior is not more regularly open to visitors, especially considering the importance of Derwentcote in the industrial history of the Tyneside area.
About Derwentcote Steel Furnace
Address: Forge Lane, A694, Hamsterley, Tyne and Wear, England, NE17 7RS
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: On the north side of the A694 between Hamsterley and Rowlands Gill. Well signposted. Free parking on the opposite side of the road, then follow a signed trail down Forge Lane to the site.
Website: Derwentcote Steel Furnace
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Gibside - 2.8 miles (Garden)
Prudhoe Castle - 4.8 miles (Castle)
Cherryburn - 5.1 miles (Historic Building)
George Stephenson's Birthplace - 5.2 miles (Historic Building)
Shotley, St Andrew's Church - 5.3 miles (Historic Church)
Bywell Castle - 5.8 miles (Castle)
Bywell, St Peter's Church - 5.8 miles (Historic Church)
Bywell, St Andrew's Church - 5.9 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Derwentcote Steel Furnace: