Remains of 200 year-old Ironworks found under Yorkshire playing field

A recent archaeological dig, funded through the National Lottery at the Milton Forge playing fields between Elsecar and Hoyland in South Yorkshire has discovered a previously unknown part of the once famous Milton Ironworks.

Over the last few weeks, professional archaeologists have worked with staff from Barnsley Museums and the local community to find traces of the area’s forgotten industrial past, as part of the Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar project, with exciting results.

In the last few days of the dig, they uncovered the remains of a calcining kiln – an oven for roasting iron ore before it was smelted in blast furnaces. It's thought that this was one of a series of kilns used at the works, although their location was unknown.

Richard Jackson, principal archaeologist with ArcHeritage, said: “The dig has been really exciting. The geophysics that Historic England did last year showed a big magnetic response here, so we were interested to find out why that was. We have been able to prove that the remains of the former ironworks have survived, and the site was bigger than we first thought.”

The dig uncovered many other fascinating artefacts from the early 20th century when the field was used as a tip. This included part of a commemorative cup from the Belmont Social Club in Hoyland and a workman’s clay pipe from Broseley in Shropshire.

Another chance find was a rare stamped brick from a forgotten brickworks close to the Milton Ironworks. The brick is now on display as part of the ‘Barnsley Brick Project’ exhibition at Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre.

During the dig, dozens of local people and school children came to help. Many more visited the site to see what was going on and to share their memories and stories of the area.

Councillor Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: “The excavation has provided a fantastic opportunity for the community to take part in documenting an important piece of local history. We are passionate about Barnsley's heritage and the work carried out at Milton Ironworks is part of an exciting programme of activities and events. Over the next few years, we plan to document and share the amazing history of this region with visitors and future generations.”

Dr Tegwen Roberts, Project Officer for the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone, supported by Historic England, said: “It’s been a fantastic community effort. The Milton Ironworks was originally a key part of the planned model industrial development of Elsecar. Generations of local people worked here, and it’s been great to see that people are rediscovering their connection with the site and its history.”

The trenches have now been carefully back-filled to protect the archaeological remains. The results will be presented at a public event at Elsecar Heritage Centre later in the year.