Inkerman Beehive Coke Ovens

Ended up in Tow Law today, a former mining and ironworks village on the A68 Darlington to Corbridge road. After an uninspiring outing through lower Weardale, mostly devoted to sheep, I spotted the tourist information “Coke Ovens” on the map. Worth a look.

Coke production was at one time widespread throughout the North East and this is one of the few surviving examples of the ovens used. As indicated by the name they were beehive shaped in construction and nineteen on this site. When all was working it must have been a noisy, smelly and dirty place. Dante’s Inferno. Coke is made by slow burning coal removing sulphurous compounds and hydrocarbons. The end product is a lightweight and efficient fuel.

The name Inkerman is also interesting. I have come across it before as the name of a friendly society in Bilsdale. It comes from the Crimean War. The Battle on Inkerman took place on the 5 November 1854 and was described as the “bloodiest struggle ever witnessed since war cursed the earth”. 632 British and 1726 French were killed together with a reported 12,000 Russian. It was widely reported in the press at the time and seems to have caught the public’s imagination. Many towns have their Inkerman streets and public houses.

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