As an integrated water-powered works, there are many different features to Abbeydale. Water from the dam powered four waterwheels, which drove massive tilt-hammers, bellows for the forger's hearth, giant grindstones and a boring lathe.
Almost all the processes used in the production of blades were carried out here on one site. The only process carried out off site was rolling crucible steel bars flat before they were forged. This was done at Totley Rolling Mill.
The main industrial features of the site are the crucible furnace, where crucible steel for the tools was made, the tilt forge where the large hammers forged tools flat, and the grinding hull, where the blades were sharpened.
The Crucible Furnace at Abbeydale is the only one of its kind in the world which still survives intact. It was built in around 1830, and supplied the works with quality steel for toolmaking. The building also houses a Pot Shop, where clay crucible pots were made for the furnace, and a Charge Room where the ingredients for the steel were prepared and weighed. Temperatures in the crucible furnace reached 1600°C and the strength of the 'puller out', who lifted the weight of molten steel from the furnace was legendary. The 'teemer' was also a highly skilled worker, carefully pouring the steel into ingot moulds with strength and precision.
The Tilt Forge was built in 1785 and houses two massive tilt hammers inside. The hammers were driven by the site's main waterwheel, and the forgemaster and hammer man sat before them, making crown scythes. This was done by forge-welding a piece of crucible steel between two pieces of wrought iron, like a sandwich.
It was in the Grinding Hull that edge tools were sharpened to a fine cutting edge. The Hull was built in 1817, and originally housed 6 grindstones and 2 glazing stones, all powered by a waterwheel. The stones were 6 feet in diameter when new, and hung in a trough filled with water to keep the stone wet when grinding. The grinder sat astride a wooden horsing over the stone, and held the blade against the stone as it spun round.
The Manager's House was built around 1838. The ground floor has been furnished to show a lower middle class home from the late 1800s. The manager and his family would have lived in surroundings of this kind. There are also stables adjoining the house and just opposite, showing the importance of horse-drawn transport for a works of this size and location.
The row of Workers' Cottages were built between 1786 and 1793 and traditionally housed the 'forgemaster' and his 'heater lad' who worked in the Tilt Forge, amongst other people. One of the cottages has been furnished to show a worker's living conditions in about 1840.
The Boring Shop was the place for drilling holes in patent riveted scythes. These were different from the crown scythes forged under the tilt hammers. Patent riveted scythes were made by riveting the steel blade to an iron back. They were quicker to produce and lighter to use, but less robust than the crown scythe.
In the Blacking Shop the scythes were painted to protect them from rust. After drying in front of the fire, they were stored in warehouses on site. Straw rope was used for packing the blades, ready to be sent around the country and the world.
In the Counting House the Works Foreman and his clerk carried out all the administrative work for the site. Piece work produced by the workers was counted here, and payments were made to them.
Also on the site is a Steam Engine, built by Davy Brothers of Sheffield and installed in 1855. The engine was an additional source of power to the grinding hull, if the water levels fell too low to run the waterwheel.
Forgotten Skills Course | Mon 4 Nov
The Hamlet is now closed - reopening April 2014