The combined efforts of 200 volunteers, expertise from local professional contractors and strong leadership from local people has earned the Dukesfield Arches near Slaley, Northumberland a place in the national final of Historic England’s Heritage Angels award. The annual Angel Awards, founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber and supported by the Telegraph, celebrate the efforts of local people who have saved historic buildings and places. Winners of the 2015 Angel Awards will be announced on 7th September and there is a special award for the entry with the most public votes. Dukesfield project members are delighted to be one the final four nominees for the Industrial Heritage Angel Award and want to encourage as many as possible to vote for the project.
It seems incredible that only just over two years ago the eighteenth century arches had trees growing out of the top of them, were in a precarious state and relatively little was known about their history and the importance of the site to the regional lead industry. Now, thanks to a grant of £247,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and so many local people, the arches are restored; excavated remains of the old lead smelt mill have been revealed and interpreted, and much more is understood by all about the north east lead routes through the myriad of project activities from archaeology to cooking and drama. The future of the site is now secure.
Restoration and research of the Dukesfield Arches was the focus of the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project. Volunteers from the project steering group worked with their skilled team of contractors and other volunteers at the Dukesfield Arches site. The excavations exposed the millrace, chimneys, water wheel pit and the repairs included clearance of vegetation and roots from the structures, the consolidation of the wall heads, and repointing and rebuilding sections of precarious stone and brickwork. They installed ‘soft capping’ with an innovative clay bonded membrane to the top of the arches, following a minimal intervention approach to ensure the character of the Arches was maintained with as little disruption to original historic fabric as possible. They broadcast their discoveries through professional networks, press and social media and training. The work came a close second to the Dunstan Staithes for the Constructing Excellence in the North East Awards earlier this year. A video can be seen on the project’s web site http://www.dukesfield.org.uk that tells more about the project, its impressive range of activities and breadth of engagement.
Ian Forbes, Chairman of the project steering group, said: “This is a project that has saved an important part of our heritage, was started and led by local people and that has had a great combination of professional expertise and local volunteers working and learning together. Feedback tells us how immensely rewarding and enjoyable everyone involved found the project.”
Yvonne Conchie, Project Manager, said: “I nominated the project volunteers as ‘Heritage Angels’ because they have taken such joy in sharing the experiences, research and knowledge. Over 6,000 local people have taken part in an event or seen an exhibition and it would be great if they all voted for the Dukesfield Steering Group to become the public’s favourite Heritage Angels of 2015.”
Greg Finch of Hexhamshire Parish Council helped to set up and define the project added that: “Our project grew from a comment at a Parish Council meeting by fellow councilor Anne Porter five years ago that ‘something needed to be done about the arches’. The help & support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, our partners and our fellow volunteers made it all possible. We are all really proud of what has been achieved and it is a fantastic honour that our collaboration has been recognised by Historic England. Hopefully it can inspire others to see that big projects don’t always have to be carried out by big organisations. If you like what we’ve done, please vote for us!”
More information about the Dukesfield Arches and the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project can be found on http://www.dukesfield.org.uk.