Tyne and Wear HER(5979): Swalwell, Crowley's Ironworks - Details
Swalwell, Crowley's Ironworks
Metal Smelting Site
In 1707 Sir Ambrose Crowley aquired a small ironworks in Swalwell, where he subsequently developed a large complex of workshops and associated facilites. His Swalwell enterprise was primarily a finishing plant for manufacture of nails, anchors, saltpans and hoes and as such did not have the historic significance of Winlaton Ironworks (HER 1006). A detailed annotated book map was drawn of the Winlaton Mill and Swalwell works in 1718 for Sir Ambrose Crowley's son, John.It is remarkably accurate. Features listed at the Swalwell works include - dams and floodgates, blade mill, corn mill, steel furnaces, anvil shop, file cutters and forgers shop, warehouse, office, hardening shop, rod-iron warehouse, bar-iron warehouse, slitting mill, bellows etc. The earliest record of chain-making (a product which required a special technique) appears to be at the time of Gabriel Jars' ("Voyages metallurgiques", I, p 219) visit in 1765, when the Swalwell forge was already making the heavy anchor chains for which the firm became famous. Some of these chains were made from links up to 3 feet in diameter and weighing 250 lb each. In 1728 there were 157 workers at Swalwell.The Swalwell works used water power (River Derwent) to drive the bellows, hammers and rollers. Pig iron was converted into bar iron. Iron plates were made - possibly for salt pans.A limited amount of foundry work took place at Swalwell - pig and scrap iron melted in reverberatory furnaces to produce smoothing irons, door-knockers, wheel hubs, hammers and the cast-iron cannon which the firm starting making in the mid 18th century. The production of steel was a Crowley specialism. By the mid 18th century there were two steel furnaces at Swalwell. The end came for the Swalwell factory when it could not offer effective resistence to their new competitors - Hawks of Gateshead. The Swalwell works were bought, possibly during the 1850s by a Mr Laycock, and later still by Messrs Ridley & Co, who were still carrying out light engineering on the site at the end of 19th century. Laycock unfortunately cast all of the firm's records into the furnace.
<< HER 5979 >> Gateshead Council, 1992, Winlaton Ironworks, Restoration Scheme, Supporting Information 1718, Survey of Winlaton Mill and Swalwell Ironworks, Tyne and Wear Archive Service, 2644; M.W. Flinn, 1962, Men of Iron - The Crowleys in the Early Iron Industry; K.C. Barraclough, Blister Steel - the birth of an industry, Steelmaking before Bessemer Volume 1, pp 62-111; Alan Williams, 2004, Swalwell Cement Works - Desk-Based Archaeological Assessment; Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2005, Archaeological Investigations at Sands Road, Swalwell, Gateshead; Alan Williams Archaeology, 2005, Regent Garage, Swalwell, Gateshead - archaeological evaluation; Anon, 1894, Tyneside Industries; Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2007, Sands Road (Crowley Iron Works), Post Excavation Assessment; D. Cranstone, 2010, Swalwell Ironworks, Gateshead: Detailed Historical Report; MW Flinn, 1957, The Law Book of the Crowley Ironworks, Surtees Society, p 167; plan of Swalwell Ironworks, circa 1714, TWAS DX 104/1, 13; plan of Swalwell Ironworks in 1750, Durham Record Office DRO D/CG 7/1578; plan of Swalwell Iron Works in 1802, TWAS DT.BEL/2/22; plan of Swalwell Iron Works in 1834, Durham Record Office DRO D/Bo/G 37(vii); plan of works in 1870, Durham University Library (Palace Green) Special Collections: Gibson Volumes: Maps and Plans 1; Plan of Ridley & Cos Steelworks and Grace & Co. paprer mills, 1901, Durham Record Office DRO: D/CG 7/1664; David Cranstone, 2011, From Slitting Mill to Alloy Steel: the Development of Swalwell Ironworks, Industrial Archaeology Review, 33, 1, 2011, pp 40-57