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17 December 1831


in shallcross - all tithe free

lot iii

All that messuage, farm and tenement, called shaw stile, now in the occupation of John Beard, together with the gunpowder mills standing thereon, now in the holding of Messrs Williamson & Co., and also a Close of land, part of Fernylee Pastures, in the holding of William Warren as described in the said Plan and Particulars, containing together 192a 3r 37p or thereabouts.

Glossopdale Chronicle
17 August 1872

the wakes.

On Tuesday there was a trip to Liverpool by the workmen in the employ of Williamson & Co., Fernilee Powder Mills, who along with their wives and a few friends were conveyed thither by the kindness of their employer. There were two carriages filled by this party.
Glossopdale Chronicle & North Derbyshire Reporter:
22 June 1872

storm in the goyt valley.

At the Fernilee Gunpowder Mills the damage done to the works was very extensive, the water having destroyed a large quantity of powder in process of manufacture, and doing damage to the sheds, besides carrying away two bridges, a foot bridge and a tramway. Over £500 worth of damage was done.

Glossop Advertiser and High Peak Herald
22 June 1872

AT FERNILEE a distance of about three miles from Whaley Bridge, the works of Messrs Williamson & Co., the Fernilee Gunpowder Mills, where walls have been broken down and carried away.
One of these, a yard and a half in thickness, and of great length (erected to prevent explosions between store houses) has been entirely demolished. A great quantity of timber on a rack was loosened and swept away, and a footbridge and tramway bridge (the iron rails included) met with a similar fate, besides a great bank wall of about 40 yards in extent being destroyed.

The tools and other material in the workshops was covered with mud, and a great quantity of gunpowder in process of manufacture was melted down into a large cake.

Fortunately the electric fluid did not strike any of the storehouses, or in all probability an explosion of very great magnitude would have taken place.
High Peak News

4 July 1874

fernilee and its gunpowder mills
The romantic and highly picturesque village of Fernilee, in the parish of Hope, from its interesting and secluded situation affords, whether in winter or summer, some of the most charming landscapes in Derbyshire. Shut out in the greater part from the busy scenes of daily life, and the dull monotony of the town, it fairly reveals in its own quietness and solitude, with nothing to create discord on its grassy slopes or finely-wooded hills.

The clear rippling stream of the Goyt which flows through the valley as a small brooklet, unpolluted with the filth and chemicals which are poured into its waters lower down, abounds with fish which may here and there be seen sporting about, or leaping after the flies upon its surface. Here and there rich meadow and pasture land with cultivated fields and farm houses, some of rude construction, and others of more refined build, dot the landscape, whilst in the distance loom thickly wooded copses and wild moor land, where the pheasant, the partridge, the rabbit, and other game may be found.

Taxal Church, in the centre of a wood, also appears a conspicuous object in the distance; whilst on the slope of a hill may be noticed the neat and handsome little chapel erected by the Wesleyan Methodists, whose sway in this neighbourhood appears to exceed all other denominations.

There are also two coal mines, one worked in the usual way, and the other has had its coal drawn by an inclined tunnel from the bowels of the earth. Near these mines there are a few cottages and neat farm houses, and also a little inn.

The line conveying the wagons of the Buxton Lime Company also passes through this way, skirting the hill side, and carried under the Buxton highway through a deep cutting, and then to the incline on the old Cromford and High Peak Railway.
In one or two secluded spots there are snugly ensconced in shady dells some fine villa residences, a few cottages, and farm steads, all within a short distance of the above highway.

In the valley at the foot of towering heights, clad with trees and verdure, there are situated the gunpowder mills, of Jas. Hall Williamson, & Co., known as the Fernilee Gunpowder Mills, occupying a very extensive area, and so situate as to be quite out of danger to the surrounding district in the event of an explosion. The works, as well as the grounds, are laid out in a very charming manner, making the visitor for the time forgetful of the dangerous material that is manufactured there. The waters of the Goyt, of which this valley is named, are wonderfully diverted so as to furnish the motive power required in the various departments; where other than human strength is needed to carry on the process. Each place or workshop is reached by a neatly constructed tramway, made with the greatest possible care to avoid friction, as the manufactured or unmanufactured article is conveyed from one place to another. Underneath the shadow of a high hill is erected the principal magazine for the storage of the material as it is made. It is strongly built, quite dry, and has double doors for safety.

The workmen on entering are provided with a pair of elastic shoes without nails, in order to avoid any friction, which might lead to an explosion. Passing along the tramway a little further, there are a group of three incorporating mills, having millstones of six tons weight each, driven by a small water-wheel. Here the grains are ground down to their proper consistency. A little further there is a separating house protected by a strong breast wall, to break the force of an explosion, should one occur. Near the charcoal house there is a gun or mortar, from which a shot weighing 61lb can be thrown a great distance. It is used for the trial of powder as is manufactured. Driven by a large water-wheel is the corning and granulating house, with an interior not unlike that of a corn mill, except the colour, and the smell.
In this place India rubber shoes have to be worn.
Then there are the brimstone mill, the glazing house, and the charcoal mill.
There is also the green charge house, the mixing house, the weighing house, and saltpetre stores.

There is also a store room for oil, candles, &c., barrel stores, cooperage shops, mechanics’ and smiths’ workshops, all fitted up conveniently. There are also a couple of exceedingly powerful incorporating mills, worked by water power on an entirely new principle.

The shafts are so secured by coverings of metal that their motions can hardly be seen, however closely watched. The greatest care is taken in all the operations.

There are also the “wort charge” house, a store house, a hydraulic press house, and at the back of the office a neatly fitted up bath and wash house for the use of the begrimed workmen, who can thus, either with hot or cold water, cleanse themselves from the grimy substance by which they have become covered before returning to their homes.

Situated by itself is the weighing house, where the powder is weighed and packed into the barrels, and made ready for storage or for sale. An air of neatness appears spread throughout the whole of the multitudinous works, and the neat little office situated near the entrance gates.

The works are reached by a long winding walk from the Buxton highway on the one hand, and a carriage drive leading from Errwood Hall on the other. The spot is well worth a visit either from the lover of nature, or of human skill and judgement.

It was visited by the tremendous floods some two or three years ago, when great damage was done along the entire valley.
Glossopdale Chronicle
13 March 1875

treat to work people.

Last Saturday, Mr James Hall Williamson, of the Fernilee Gunpowder Works, treated his workmen with a substantial dinner at the White Horse Inn, Mr Elkanah Sellars, book-keeper, presiding. An enjoyable evening was spent.

North Derbyshire & North Cheshire Advertiser
23 November 1883

the gunpowder works.

At the Buxton Petty Sessions on Saturday last, Mr Ault, as the representative of Messrs Williamson & Co., Fernilee Powder Works, applied for a magistrates’ certificate enabling the firm to store gunpowder in a building now in course of erection at their works.

Mr Superintendent Hallam objected on the ground that the erection was incomplete, and that no lightning conductor was affixed. The application was refused.
North Derbyshire & North Cheshire Advertiser

leaving work without notice.

At the New Mills Petty Sessions on Wednesday, James Edwards and Thomas Edwards, father and son, were summoned by Messrs Williamson & Company, Gunpowder manufacturers, of Fernilee, for leaving their work without notice, whereby complainants claimed £2 as damages.

Mr Gorton, solicitor, appeared for the prosecution.

Mr John Ault, the manager for Messrs Williamson, gunpowder manufacturer, said that both defendants had been in the employ of the company, and when they were engaged they agreed to give fourteen days’ notice James Edwards on the 29th , the former having given only four days’ notice, and the latter three days.
In consequence of their leaving one portion of the works was closed for two days, and the amount claimed did not cover the loss.

That part of the works which was stopped was dependent upon both of the defendants, inasmuch as they could not engage any but skilled workmen, owing to the nature of the work.

They brought these proceedings to show that their workpeople could not leave in this way without notice.
On witness finding notice from James Edwards in the office, he went to the defendant and told him he could not accept his notice, when he replied that he was sorry, but he should go whether I accepted it or not. In consequence of defendant’s leaving, nine people were thrown out of employment, and the produce of their work would have been about £10 in the company’s way.

Defendant denied that any notice was mentioned when he was engaged, and his son (the younger defendant) was under his control.

The Bench considered the case proved, and each defendant was order to pay 10/- and costs.
The Cromford & High Peak Railway

John Marshall

An extension to Messrs Williamson's gunpowder works sidings at Fernilee, south of Shallcross top, at a cost of £57 was approved on 23 April 1884. Williamson was to pay £20 of the cost.

High Peak News
17 November 1888

the fernilee gunpowder mills.

These mills, which have for many years, if not since they were established, been in the hands of Messrs Williamson & Company, have recently been sold to the Chilworth Gunpowder Company (Surrey.) We are informed that the works will be carried on on a larger scale in future.
Ashton Reporter - 13 July 1889


Mr Nall said there was no great necessity to remove the school. In fact there was a greater necessity now than ever that the school should be where it was, as there was a prospect of the district increasing in consequence of the Chilworth Gunpowder Company intending to increase their works, and he understood that the company had bought two farms for this purpose, and as there was a probability of the population increasing; and if Elnor Lane School was put in working order, in his opinion there was no need for a new school, as it was in a reasonable distance, only being half a mile from where most of the houses were. He was of the opinion that the experiment of working the school as the trustees intended ought to be tried. His co-trustees were all of the same opinion.
High Peak News
23 August 1890

serious charge.

At the Chapel-en-le-Frith Special Sessions, on Thursday, Moses Bostock, a joiner, was summoned by Henry Bloomfield for unlawfully threatening to kick out his brains. Prosecutor, who is manager of the Powder Mills at Fernilee, said the prisoner worked for him as a joiner.

High Peak News
30 May 1891

accident at the chilwell gunpowder works, fernilee.
On Monday afternoon, a boy named Ollerenshaw had the little-finger of his left hand severely crushed by one of the machines. He was taken to Dr Allan’s surgery, when it was found necessary to resort to amputation of the first joint.
The entrance to the power mills
The entrance to the powder mills

Fernilee Powder Mills