Water-Powered Drop Forge

Water-Powered Drop Forge. Mid-eighteenth century. Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Photograph 1980 George P. Landow. [This image may be freely used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose. GPL.]

In the foreground appear two of the water-powered hammers and the anvils on which they strike. Behind them is the shaft whose turning raised the hammers whose repeated striking of heated metal (or forging) produced high-quality steel. Catherine Hamilton, Collections & Access Officer, Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, has written to say: "The picture you have is of the water-powered tilt hammers which were used for forging together metal to form scythe blades. The site dates from the mid 1700s and was one of the first sites in the UK to involve all the processes needed to make edge tools. There is a crucible steel melting furnace on site together with the tilt forge, grinding hull, boring shop and blacksmith shops. Also on site are workers' cottages and a manager's house." The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet now has its own website. This pioneering drop-forge embodies Sigfried Gideon's point that "The first phase of mechanization consists in transforming the pushing, pulling, pressing of the hand into continuous rotation (47). . . The elimination of complicated handicraft marks the beginning of high mechanization" (5).

Other Photographs


Gideon, Sigfried. Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. New York: Norton, 1969.

Last modified 11 January 2005