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West Railway Terrace community archaeology project at Barrow Hill Roundhouse


  • Chesterfield S43 2PR (map)

Your chance to be part of an archaeological project investigating the Victorian cottages of the Barrow Hill ironworkers and miners!

Booking is now open for members of the community, students and budding archaeologists to uncover the remains of the cottages built for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company employees in the middle of the 19th Century, at Barrow Hill Roundhouse. 

As part of a larger Heritage Lottery Funded Project, Trent & Peak Archaeology, in association with the Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society, are investigating sections of the terraced cottages that would have formed Brickyard Terrace, later known as West Railway Terrace, or ‘Long Row’. The row consisted of 19, 2-up 2-down cottages, built alongside the earlier Railway Terrace around 1847-8 and costed £73 each to build. The terraces were bordered on one side by a railway line, the ‘Garden Line’, so named because of its proximity to the back gardens of the houses. The terraces were knocked down c.1970.

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The free excavations will run from the 8th to the 19th July and will enable people from all backgrounds, aged 16-plus, including people who have never done anything like this before, to get involved in archaeological investigations uncovering new information about the history and archaeology of Barrow Hill. There will also be an opportunity for children under 16 to get involved with a family dig weekend over the 13th and 14th July. Schools are also invited to book in a visit to the site during the second week of excavations.

The excavations began last summer, when archaeologists and volunteers uncovered the back rooms of three cottages, revealing the foundations and the side entries. Excavation also revealed the remains of garden walls. This year’s excavations will attempt to uncover the front rooms of the same cottages, which may also reveal the cellars and pantries. 

Alongside the excavations Trent & Peak Archaeology are also hoping to find out more about these cottages and the people who lived here. They are collecting together information and most importantly, memories, of this place to help tell the real story of West Railway Terrace. If you have any information or memories, they want to hear from you! You can visit the site every day whilst excavation are ongoing, so please bring along any, pictures and memories that you would like to share to make history come alive. Trent & Peak are also hoping to interview people who used to live along the Terrace If you or someone you know would be happy to be interviewed please contact the team on tpa.volunteering@yorkat.co.uk or simply visit the site!

From: The Barrow Hill Heritage Trail

On the 4th of July 1836 an act was passed for constructing a Railway from Derby to Leeds, to be called The North Midland Railway (N.M.R). The line of the railway ran from Derby through the parishes of Duffield, Wirksworth, Crich, South Wingfield, Shirland, Morton, North-Wingfield, and Wingerworth to Chesterfield.

In August 1837 work began on the new line. George Stephenson, realising the possibilities of a railway route across an undeveloped mining area, formed the Clay Cross Company in 1837, to exploit the coal and iron resources of the region. Other coal and iron masters soon followed his lead.

The Staveley Forge employed a labour force of about 500 in the coal mines, iron mines and at the ironworks. When proprietor George Hodkinson Barrow signed a new lease at Staveley in June 1840, this gave him control of all the mines and beds of coal and ironstone in the manor of Staveley. His brother Richard Barrow was involved in the management of the works for quite some time before signing his own lease on 28th February 1843 and taking total control of the business.

The whole route, from Derby to Leeds, opened on 30th June 1840. In addition to the stations at Derby and Leed, there were 13 intermediate stations en-route. Although the line passed through Staveley (Barrow Hill), close to the Staveley Forge, it did not have a station at this point.

In the early part of 1841 the directors of the N.M.R. reported that the traffic on their line was increasing. It was in anticipation of this greatly increased traffic that Richard Barrow inaugurated a major programme of expansion of the business in the early 1840’s: clearing away most of the plant, erecting two new furnaces and building the foundations of what would later become the Staveley Coal and Iron Company.

A local station opened on Tuesday 6th April 1841 and was named after Staveley, the village nearest to its locality. The coming of the railway ended the region’s isolation and led to both its importance as an iron-producing area and to the building of Barrow Hill village.

By 1849 the Barrows had built a small number of cottages for their workers: Cavendish Place was built for managers and agents at the works and Furnace Hill, Devonshire Terrace, East Railway Terrace and West Railway Terrace housed the miners and ironworkers. They were collectively described as ‘Staveley Forge’ in parish registers. This small community is the nucleic Barrow Hill village.

West Railway Terrace on the ‘Long Row’ consisted of 19 two-up two-down cottages, built alongside the earlier Railway Terrace around 1847-8. Initially listed in census returns as Brickyard Terrace, and later as West Railway Terrace, the cottages in this row cost £73 each to build and were the latest row of cottages to be built.

The West Railway Terrace outbuildings, consisting of the toilets and washrooms, were located on the opposite side of the street from the cottages. One of the railway line termini was located behind the outbuildings and can be seen on the first edition OS map from 1899 and 25 inch OS map from 1916.

Richard Barrow’s business was expanding and, by 1857, the Hollingwood, Springwell, and Victoria collieries were producing superior coals which were sent by railway to all parts of England, as well as supplying the iron works. This expansion of the business and the need for a larger workforce led Barrow to begin building his model village of Barrow’s Hill in the 1850’s and early 1860’s.

An engine shed was built near the station in 1865 with a capacity for four engines. However the growth of the Staveley Company, and the inevitable increase in traffic, led to the need for a larger engine shed to replace the smaller one which had been erected earlier near the station. Construction of the Roundhouse engine shed began in July 1869 and was completed in November 1870. The Midland Railway Company contracted I.E. Hall to build the depot, the final cost being £16,445 4s 9d. It comprises 24 roads of which the longest is 80 feet and the shortest 60 feet. Following the opening in 1870 it was in continuous use until it finally closed its doors in 1991 after a working life of 121 years. It is a unique example of 19th century railway architecture and is the last surviving operational roundhouse engine shed in the UK. West Railway Terrace cottages were demolished around 1970.

The 2018 Excavations

Trent & Peak Archaeology (TPA) was commissioned by the Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society to undertake an archaeological investigation focusing on a row of cottages built in the 1840’s known as Brickyard Terrace and later West Railway Terrace. The works were carried out between the 23rd July to the 5th August 2018 by TPA staff and local volunteers.

The row of nineteen two-up two-down cottages of West Railway Terrace was the latest row of cottages to be built by the Barrow brothers, owners of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, for their workers.

On the 1st June 2018, Magnitude surveys conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the Roundhouse overflow car park area measuring a total of 0.1ha. Based on the results, two trenches were excavated, one over the footprint of the cottages and one over an area of garden that was thought to contain garden walls.

The location of Trench 01 revealed a section through the back rooms of property numbers 213-217 West Railway Terrace. The property numbers were provided by ex-resident Mick Cherry. The houses at this point on the street were built in a set of three terraces, divided by two ginnels, the narrow passage or alleyway between the properties.

The houses were built with a stone and brick central partition wall built to support the upper floors; with brick walls, one or two courses wide, built as dividing walls between properties. Small dividing walls, uncovered in house numbers 214 and 216, were possibly built to divide and organise use of space in the back room, thought to be the kitchen area. Therefore these walls could relate to a fire place or storage area.

Northeast extensions to Trench 01 revealed evidence for cellars and/or pantries within the footprints of the front rooms of house numbers 215 and 216. This could suggest that the front rooms were the kitchens within these properties, but further investigations would be needed to determine this.

Redeposited yellow clays are believed to be the solid foundation onto which floor bedding layers and the floor surfaces themselves would have been laid.

The location of Trench 02 revealed the remains for two garden walls, approximately 8.8m apart. This measurement does not relate to the width of the houses and could therefore have had another purpose, such as the subdivision of plots for different uses. The 18th-19th century pottery and early subsoils suggest such activities were taking place early on in the life of West Railway Terrace.

The next season of work will include extending the excavations around Trench 01 in order to expose the full footprint of at least numbers 214-216 West Railway Terrace.