Backbarrow Ironworks


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BEK was commissioned to carry out works at Backbarrow Ironworks to assess the risks associated with the re-development of the existing ironworks buildings to residential.

The remains of Backbarrow Ironworks lie next to the River Leven, between the villages of Backbarrow and Haverthwaite, in the Furness district of Cumbria, England.

Established in 1711, it was the first in this part of Cumbria (then Lancashire). Using charcoal as its fuel until the 20th century, it kept going even though dwarfed by huge iron and steel works nearby.  Neglected for many years after its closure in 1966, and on the Heritage at Risk register for a long time, the furnace stack and associated buildings at its core were repaired and conserved as part of the development of the rest of the site for housing in 2019.

During its 250-year lifetime, the ironworks was extended and rebuilt many times to accommodate new technologies that improved the way it worked and the amount of iron it produced. Evidence of these changes remain, and that is what makes it so special!

The former charcoal house, manager house, scrap house, coke house and ore house are located in the area of the site to the west of Ironworks Road. These properties are cut into a sloping hillside with landscaped areas/rough ground occupy the western periphery of the site at a higher elevation. A sloping woodland sloping up from Ironworks Road lies in the north-west of the site. The Pug Mill occupies the area of the site to the east of Ironworks Road.

Works included:

  • Full Preliminary risk assessment for each area, including a site walkover and review of historic maps and available background information. BEK also considered it prudent to review a series of historic building surveys for Oxford Archaeology
  • A preliminary conceptual model was produced, listing the potential risks associated with the site and its former uses considering the proposed residential end use
  • Site investigation works including trial pits and window sample boreholes
  • Installation of gas and groundwater monitoring probes
  • Chemical and geotechnical testing of samples recovered
  • Detailed quantitative risk assessment and geotechnical assessment
  • Preparation of a detailed site investigation and contamination assessment report
  • Gas monitoring visits and a carrying out a ground gas risk assessment