The remains of the Park Bridge Ironworks.
Park Bridge was a bustling, noisy centre of industry a hundred years ago. It is difficult to imagine now, as it has become a quiet backwater between Ashton under Lyne and Oldham.
There were a number of small collieries around Park Bridge, at Rocher Vale to the east and Fairbottom to the west, sending out their coal by means of a tram road to Fenny Fields Bridge, where the coal was loaded onto narrowboats on the Fairbottom Branch of the Ashton Canal.
The Lees family began developing iron works at Park Bridge in 1747. They also built housing and other facilities for their workers. The remains of a later rolling mill and cotton mill which were built close to the railway viaduct are seen in the photograph below.
The Park Bridge works were developed from an earlier water corn mill, but the availability of coal nearby and the demand for textile machinery in the surrounding towns made Park Bridge well situated. In addition to the original forges, new "bright shops, " where steel was polished, and rolling mills were built in Rocher Vale to the east and a later building below the viaduct became a cotton spinning mill.
When the Oldham, Ashton and Guide Bridge Railway was built in 1861, crossing the Medlock Valley on a high viaduct, a branch led right through to the Rocher Vale works. Scrap iron was brought in by rail to be made into iron and steel goods.
Park Bridge looking east.
The tramway to the canal was still used, however, and in 1865, the horses which had been used to pull the wagons, were replaced by a small locomotive engine called "The Ashtonian." This had to be specially designed to have a funnel that hinged downwards to enable it to pass through the tunnel between the foot of the viaduct and Rocher Vale, which was only six feet high and five feet wide!
The iron works and railway both closed in the 1960s. The railway viaduct was demolished, as was most of the the iron works. The remains have been landscaped and a heritage centre has been established in the Stables building. Millennium funding enabled an improvement of the area, including making more of the industrial remains accessible to visitors.
The River Medlock between Park Bridge and Rocher Vale. The track on the left is the line of the former tram road.
Rocher Vale, showing the remains of the engine house. A steam engine pumped water from the nearby Rocher Pit coal mine.
The Stables at Park Bridge houses the Heritage Centre.
Machinery from the ironworks, at The Stables, Park Bridge.
The following pictures show the railway viaduct carrying the Oldham Ashton and Guide Bridge Railway across the Medlock Valley at Park Bridge.
(Photographs by kind permission of the Clayton Family, formerly of Park Bridge.)
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