09 Aug | 15:33 PM

Yorkshire's Industrial Heritage

Yorkshire's Industrial Heritage

Yorkshire sat at the heart of the industrial revolution in England, and today the region's many museums, historic canals, heritage steam railways and striking Victorian architecture are testament to Yorkshire's industrial history.

Coal has been mined in Yorkshire for decades, but it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that demand really took off. Yorkshire coalfields were one of the major sources of power behind the global revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries and saw their produce used to make iron, fuel steam engines and locomotives and to power factories.

The National Coal Mining Museum can be found in Wakefield and this offers a unique opportunity to travel 140 metres underground to explore the country’s last deep coalmine. Visitors can spend a whole day here and meet a miner who will take them on an unforgettable adventure whilst telling them all about the history and science behind coalmining.

Towns and cities in Yorkshire really saw a boom period in the 19th century, with the populations thanks to this newfound industry rising rapidly. Not only where places like Leeds, Bradford, Keighley and Hull all taking off but York became a centre of the railway industry.

Another National Museum that calls Yorkshire home is the National Railway Museum in York. Home to iconic locomotives and an unrivalled collection of engineering firsts, the museum celebrates the past, present and future of innovation on the railways.

Some rail trade came from the transportation of iron and locally sourced iron ore has been processed on the North York Moors since Medieval times. In addition to this, the discovery of high-grade magnetic ironstone in Rosedale during the 1850s saw the village's population explode, growing from around five hundred to three thousand in just two decades.

The village of Elsecar, near Barnsley, is a remarkable village and now plays host to the Elsecar Heritage Centre. The centre shows off a place transformed by Earls Fitzwilliam into a thriving centre of iron and coal and visitors can browse Fitzwilliam’s workshops, now packed with shops, traditional cafes, delicatessens and antiques.

Staying in South Yorkshire, visitors can explore Sheffield's industrial steel heritage at Kelham Island Museum. The museum is the showcase of Sheffield's industrial story, from early industrialisation to modern times where 'Made in Sheffield' remains a mark of quality known worldwide. Enjoy a great family day out full of nostalgia and innovation as the interactive galleries follow the growth of the Steel City, from light trades and skilled workmanship to mass production.

Another way in which people can catch a unique glimpse of life at home and at work at a rural scythe and steelworks dating back to the 18th Century is by visiting Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. Worker's houses, waterwheels, crucible steel furnaces, tilt hammers and workshops make Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet one of the largest water powered industrial complexes on the River Sheaf.

As synonymous with Yorkshire as the Dales, mills across the county are still around and impose on city skylines even today. Many have been transformed into accommodation and some cutting-edge arts centres. One of the most well-known is World Heritage Site, Salts Mill at Saltaire near Bradford, once home to the mighty worsted woollen mill owned by Sir Titus Salt. Salt built Saltaire village around the mill to keep his workers firmly under his paternalist hand. The other mighty Yorkshire mill arts centre is Dean Clough in Halifax, once home to the largest Victorian carpet mill - Crossley Carpets.

Formerly the largest woollen mill in the world, Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills now explores the city's rich industrial past. Armley Mills contains exhibits from the 18th century to the present day and tells the history of manufacturing in Leeds, including textiles, clothing, printing and engineering. Visit the textile gallery, the milling room and fulling mill to find out more about Leeds' connection with the wool and cloth industries.

As the textiles industry goes, there is no more unique a place then the Piece Hall in Halifax. This stunning, Grade I listed Georgian masterpiece opened in 1779 to provide a spectacular market place for Halifax's trade in cloth and is now home to a host of independent shops, cafés and a Visitor Centre and Art Gallery.

The rail system wasn’t the only transport that Yorkshire used during its industrial heyday, the waterways also played a huge part and, once at the heart of our textile industry, Yorkshire's rivers, reservoirs and ancient canal networks are still great places to explore and enjoy. 

The Canal & River Trust looks after around 270 miles of inland waterways, covering an area which stretches from South Yorkshire to the River Tees in the North East.  Yorkshire's waterways, including the 127-mile-long Leeds & Liverpool Canal and large freight ways of the River Aire, combine rural appeal with historic purpose.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is one of the most spectacular in the country. Unlike many other canals, boats sit above the canal bank so you really can watch the world go by.  It meanders through some of the most picturesque countryside in England, taking in some of Yorkshire's most famous historic towns and villages along the way.  The canal weaves its way through the Yorkshire Dales, into Skipton and onto Bingley, home to the Five and Three Rise Locks, which are often described as wonders of the waterways, before reaching the World Heritage Site of Saltaire village.

Some of the industry that Yorkshire was famed for may have been and gone, but the heritage and stunning architecture that was left behind has evolved into something completely new and given Yorkshire the chance to celebrate this heritage and move on to the next trend that will help to keep the county on the map forevermore.

4 months ago
Written by Danny Roberts

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