Campaigners have launched an appeal to save the last building at a Weardale foundry to preserve a part of the North East’s industrial heritage.

Husband and wife team Ben and Sarah Martin-Denham have bought the former site office of the now-demolished Wolsingham Steelworks, which they hope to convert into a community resource. 

The site produced high-grade Weardale ore which was turned into the finest steel for casting into parts such as pistons, bore rods and anchors used by shipbuilders on the Tyne, Wear and Mersey.

Sarah said: “It’s a beautiful building and we want it, once again, to play a leading part in village life.”

“We’re under no illusions as to the work involved but we’ve got the bit between our teeth and the hard work starts now.”

The couple are now appealing to local residents, employers, the public sector and various charitable trusts to help raise money to bring the attractive stone-built block back into productive use. 

A Go Fund Me page has been launched for the first tranche of £5,000 to provide new windows and doors to make the structure watertight.

Wolsingham Ironworks was founded in 1864 and was a major employer in the area for a century and a half. 

The site declined from the mid-eighties onwards and finally closed 14 years ago. 

The buildings on site were demolished in 2008 and the site has lain derelict and untreated since.  

Planning permission for 151 homes on the 14-acre site was secured by BXB in November 2022, with a sale to Bellway Homes concluded in October.

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The company’s director, Gary Goodman said he was thinking about how he could refurbish the building when Ben and Sarah approached him.

He said: “I was really taken with their enthusiasm and their commitment to their village and realised that I could help.

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“In addition to giving them a good deal we are also going to chip in with a donation from the BXB Community Foundation. 

“I would urge local employers to help in whatever way they can, be that cash, labour or materials. 

“It’ll be a fabulous resource for Wolsingham and the sooner it can be up and running, the better.”​