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Land of Oak and Iron Commission

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

MEN OF IRON: THE CROWLEYS IN THE EARLY IRON INDUSTRY BY M.W. FLINN Book launched this month with cover illustration by Hearth resident artist Cathy Duncan

The NE played a very important part in the history of the Industrialisation of Britain and the partnership of The Land of Oak and Iron is actively promoting the natural, industrial and cultural heritage of Derwent Valley, which includes the towns of Consett, Rowlands Gill, Prudhoe and Whickham.

One of their initiatives has been the republication of the book, Men of Iron by Professor Michael Walter Flinn which was originally written in 1962 and explores the life and works of Sir Ambrose Crowley and his family, an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He owned ironworks in Winlaton, Winlaton Mill and Swalwell making nails for the Royal Navy, agricultural implements and all sorts of iron tools. Sir Ambrose Crowley importantly realised that the well-being of his workers was paramount and introduced a number of rules and social security measures which were innovative for his time, the late 17th century and early 18th century.

One of The Hearth’s resident artists, Cathy Duncan, was approached by Steve Pardue of  Differentia on behalf of The Land of Oak and Iron to design and make a Linocut print for the cover of the book. She is already working with Differentia  making linocut prints that will be used in the signage of places of interest within the boundaries of The Land of Oak and Iron, which will be in place later this year. Cathy has really enjoyed doing the research for the cover and the prints for the site signs, and has discovered fascinating historical facts and the natural history of an area that she had very little knowledge of before.

Her illustrations include The Spetchells at Prudhoe with rare alkaline-loving plants and insects, the amazing history of Shotley Bridge with its first industry based on the introduction of German swordsmiths in the 17th century and later the dominance of the paper mill at Shotley Grove, of which hardly a trace remains. There are a small number of coke ovens preserved at Whinfield which are a reminder of the extensive industrial works there and the English Heritage Steel Furnace at Derwentcote which she has illustrated for the signage. These are all part of an initiative to record fine examples of NE industrial archeology, natural ecological interest and encourage people to explore and enjoy their home environment .

For more information on The Land of Oak and Iron please visit their website The book launch is at The Lit and Phil, Newcastle later this month. 

The Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre at Winlaton Mill is well worth a visit and will be selling Men of Iron. The centre has an excellent cafe and a shop selling books and objects related to areas within The Land of Oak and Iron, as well as fascinating maps and information about The Crowley Works.The Heritage Centre is almost overlapping the site of The Crowley Works which were built in 1691 by Sir Ambrose Crowley and a pleasant walk along the Derwent Walk will take you to Crowley’s Dam, passed The Butterfly Bridge, and on the way you can find out more information about this remarkable man.

Article by Cathy Duncan

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