Rivelin Valley Conservation Group and Ruskin in Sheffield
Main trades: Lead mill (smelting), cutlers’ forge, iron forge (iron bars, vice-legs, sledgehammers, anvils).
The history of Mousehole Forge dates back to at least 1628, when the land was called Turneholme & Leyes Stubbing and there are records of two lead mills (‘smelting houses’). At this time there was a farmhouse (part of the present house) which incorporated a small cutlery workshop. By 1664 the lead mill had been converted into an iron forge. This was included in the national list of ironworks in 1717, at which time the annual production of iron bars amounted to some 60 tons, converted from blast furnace pig-iron.
By the end of the 18th century the forge was producing the anvils for which it became famous throughout the world. It was one of the leading exporters to the USA and hundreds of Mousehole Forge anvils, much sought after by collectors, are still available there. The anvils won much acclaim and were awarded a gold medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. One of the anvils at Gretna Green bears the mark of Mousehole Forge.
In the early 19th century, three more waterwheels were built, giving a total of four: two breast-shot wheels powering forge hammers, and two overshot wheels powering a furnace-blower and grindstones for finishing anvils. Extra air for the furnaces was supplied via cast-iron pipes from the Grogram Wheel (next downstream) in the mid-19th century, which meant that more water was available at Mousehole to power the hammers and grinding wheel. An artist’s impression of the site at around this time shows the extent of the complex
Along with vice-legs and sledgehammers, anvils were made using water-powered hammers until 1933, when the forge closed. Parts were demolished in the 1940s and the site fell into ruin until the 1980s, after which some of the best remains of a forge to be seen in the valley were restored by the owners.
The remnants of the former forge complex, along with parts of the surviving timber belly-helve hammer and a puddling furnace, are considered to be of national significance – the site is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SY1284) and the workshop range is also Grade II listed.
The weir, made of stone blocks, is slightly curved and still in good condition. Large stone blocks mark the entry to the short head goit, which now leads into a shallow channel along the bottom of the steep hillslope. The drained mill dam is well wooded. The massive stone blocks that are the remains of the overflow sluice can be seen by the side of the trail – this is a good example of a double-overflow with a central draining hatch . Water from the overflow was culverted beneath the path and out into the river through an arch in the stone-work. The tail goits are culverted under the path and flow into the river through arches in the river wall just above the Grogram weir. There is also said to have been a third, more recent culvert.
During the 1920's an artist's colony was based at the Rivelin Corn Mill.