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Report - - Top Cabin mine, air raid shelter and Storrs Fireclay works, Loxley, Sheffield, June 2024 | Mines and Quarries |

Report - Top Cabin mine, air raid shelter and Storrs Fireclay works, Loxley, Sheffield, June 2024

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28DL Regular User
Regular User
1. The History


A - old southern adit
B – main adit (manway ansd wagonway)
C – incline boiler
D – WW2 air-raid shelter

During the industrial revolution in 1800s, the Loxley Valley became an important producer of refractory bricks for the Sheffield’s steel industry along with fireclay from Stannington’s pot clay mines. In the 1930s there were a total of three firms in the Loxley Valley using it to produce hollow refractories: Thomas Marshall’s, Thomas Wragg and Sons and Dysons. Between them, they supplied 95% of all the hollow refractories produced in Great Britain.

Wragg’s operations were located at Storrs Bridge at Storrs Bridge Fire Clay works. The site was badly affected by the Sheffield Flood on 11th March, 1864 when Dale Dyke dam burst sending over 700 million gallons of water surging down the Loxley valley. Although towards the bottom of the Loxley Valley, Wragg’s site was badly damaged, it was fortunately covered by its insurance policy, allowing the works to be rebuilt and to continue production of fire bricks as well as glazed sewage pipes and chimney tops.

Wragg’s owned their own pot clay mine located up an incline south-west of the factory. Referred to as Top Cabin mine (and sometimes, incorrectly, Storrs mine) in first opened in 1878 and extended deep into the north-facing hill side, and radiated out to three areas of workings, namely under Lea Moor near Dungworth, Storrs village and Storrs Green and finally Storrs Hall and Storrs house. The mine itself was linked to the works via an inclined tramway which used gravity to transport the tubs of fireclay to the works. At the top of the tramway were the main two adits. This operated right up to the 80s before their closure on 16th July, 1982. A southerly adit closed earlier in 1935.

The mine was pretty basic and during the Second World War struggled given many of its miners had been called up to fight in the forces. This was slightly at odds with the fact that the industry was vital to the war effort given its strategic importance to the manufacture of iron and steel. It has been said that if the Germans had bombed the Loxley Valley successfully, the war would have been over very quickly. As a consequence, there was a gun site on Wood Lane, Stannington, which shot down several Luftwaffe planes during the Sheffield Blitz.

After the war, the mine’s fortunes went from strength-to-strength as a number of improvements were made to it. In 1947, electricity was introduced into the mine, along with underground haulage and improved access to the main road. This greatly reduced the distances the fireclay had to be shifted in the tramming tubs. These improvements led to increased productivity and in the 1960s it was not uncommon for miners to produce up to ten tons of fireclay on a single shift.

The 1950’s saw a number of large-scale modernisations made to the factory itself. It consisted of 12 beehive kilns and two tunnel kilns, but capacity was expanded in the 1960s when a west plant was added. Wragg’s was subject to a takeover initially in 1970 by Gibbons and then in turn by GR Stein Refractories who were previously formed by the merger of Scottish-based John G. Stein and Co and General Refractories of Sheffield. GR Stein then became a subsidiary of Hepworth Ceramic Holdings Ltd. A collapse in demand for casting pit refractories, down to the introduction of continuous casting of steel worldwide and the general demise of the British steel industry eventually led them to close the mine in the early 1980s and the factory in the early 1990s. Since then, both factory and mine have been left empty and abandoned.

2. The Explore
I regular haunt of mine and as I was in the area having a walk, I thought I’d pop in to see what the state of play was here at one of the last significant vestiges of the formally extensive fireclay mining industry in Sheffield. Both entrances to the mine remain open and on this occasion not too wet. With both though, you can only go so far in before you get to significant collapses and sketchy roofs. Then there’s the air quality too. There looks like more scope to progress further along the wagon-way to the left rather than the manway, but the rotting timbers don’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

On the way down the hill popped in the WW2 air-raid shelter. Its construction mirrors the mine above with iron arches and wooden boards. Had a bit of time so also popped into the middle of the three factories. The major site (Storrs Bridge/Kenwood Refractories) up stream remains much secca’d up with armadillos in situ and the one down-stream (Storrs Fireclay/Thomas Wards) has always been hard to get into. With the middle factory, access remains easy with one of our black and yellow friends round the back, thus proving little in the way of an issue, thus making for a relaxed mooch.

3. The Pictures
So here we are at Top Cabin:


Quite an impressive façade:


Manway open so in we go:


Water level pretty low:


This looks like an old wagon hook:


Part of the wagon pulley system:


Wires for the former comms system:


Deeper in we go:


Towards the first collapse:


A what a substantial collapse it is!


The passage to the left doesn’t look any more promising either:


So, time to head back out:


And over to the wagon-way:



Brick lined….


And slightly wet:


So, time to again head out:


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28DL Regular User
Regular User

On the way back down the hill it would be rude not to pop into the WW2 air-raid shelter:


Constructed in the same way as the mine tunnels:


With the original blast door:


On to the middle of the three factories. Very photogenic with the blue iron roof struts and nature gradually taking back the factory:



A couple of the tunnel kilns:


And some more:




Never really tire of this place:


An Allen West Star Delta Factory Off/On Switch:



The factory’s former electrics:


A bit of Trench art (!):


A quick look of a MARS piece:


Before we take our leave:




Down t'pit
Regular User
Have you found any plans for the whole mine during your research? If its fairly extensive might be worth having a dig through it. Totally asking for a friend