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Stanton Ironworks, Ilkeston - December 2018

After seeing a recent report I simply had to visit this place especially with it being relatively local. I don't think you can really beat a big old, dirty horrible industrial site. Especially one which has plenty of opportunities for clambering about. Bonus points for a big portion of the place being in use, just hidden behind a tarpaulin. Needless to say it was necessary to peek through the gaps to see what was going on.

A nice old aerial photograph that I found on Flickr, well worth a close look as the uploader has kindly labelled things.

Obviously the size of the place increased vastly in the years following that photo, and many people visited the recently shut foundry part of the site about 10 years ago. Wish I had been in the game then as it looked amazing. Even more wish I had been born about 30 years previous and had the opportunity to explore the vast Shelton Bar that once stood only a 5 minutes drive from my house.

Until I saw the recent report I can safely say that I had never even heard of the place, however when reading through some of the history it was a pleasant surprise to find out that Stanton at one point merged with another company Stavely to form Stanton and Staveley. This name rang a bell as they were the manufacturers of the lamp posts that were used on the housing estate where I grew up.

A bit of a brief history from Grace's Guide (a really good resource by the way).

"It was established in 1855 with an office staff of four, and three small furnaces, a small foundry, iron fields at Stanton and in the neighbourhood parish of Dale Abbey, and the Ironstone Bell pits at Babbington. The partners were Messrs George and John Crompton - brothers and partners in the firm of bankers of Crompton and Evans - Mr Newton and Mr. Barber. At first the pig iron was made entirely from local ore, but in 1865 Northamptonshire ores were introduced into the company's mixtures, and a little later iron mines in Leceistershire and Northamptonshire were acquired and developed. In 1878 the pipe foundry, now probably the largest in Great Britain, if not in the world, was started under the management of Mr James Chambers, whose son Mr Frederick, is the present manager. Ten years prior to this date the company sunk its first colliery at Teversal, the Pleaseley Colliery followed in 1873, and The Silverhill in 1878. As indicating the progress of the firm it may be mentioned that in the twenty years immediately prior to 1914, the output of coal had increased by 94 per cent, the ironstone output by 38 per cent, the pig iron output by 29 per cent and the cast iron pipe output by 184 per cent. The company has now some 7000 people on its pay roll - 3000 at Stanton, the same number at the collieries and 1000 at the ironstone mines." November 2nd 1917.

The first part of the site that we looked around was a very long building, formerly the "Mold Boring Shop", this building still had power on and seemed to be perhaps in partial use. This contained not one, but three gantry cranes of varying sizes and ages. In the middle of the building was a very nice old tool room, the upstairs of which whilst very interesting looking was sadly inaccessible. At one end of the building there was a large pit that seemed to have become the resting place for various "buildings", I imagine that these once stood along the factory floor and it was inside these that work was done to contain dust and noise?

After spending ages in the Mold Boring Shop for some reason, we headed back out and across to the largest building on the site. According to the Flickr image this was at some point the Spun Iron Plant. Approximately 75% of this part of the site was in use, it's seemingly a 7 day operation too. It's clear that there's been some demolition work throughout this area at some point as it's pretty well knackered in various parts. In one corner there's also a load of demolition equipment so perhaps it's days are numbered. There were another few gantry cranes in this building, including one very large example made by the nearby Butterley Company, another relatively popular exploring location.

Obviously couldn't resist having a nosey through the gap in the tarpaulin, it was difficult though to get a decent photo without being to obvious. Didn't particularly sound like the workers were very far away from us!

In one corner there were a few lovely old bits of machinery; a huge Elliott Lathe and a Milwaukee Milling Machine. Next to it a nice old cabinet filled with the associated tools.

Afterwards we had a quick look around the other buildings adjacent: Training Centre, Exhibition Building and the Fire Station. Couldn't really get a good look at the internals of the Fire Station as it's being used by some sheds and fencing company. The exteriors of all buildings were extremely nice, be a shame if they get flattened. Internally the other two were pretty much knackered. Seemed like there was a few other buildings around the locality that must have served some sort of function for the company once upon a time but seem to be in use for the time being.