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Butterley Engineering are an engineering company based in Ripley, Derbyshiremarker. The company was formed from the Butterley Company which began as Benjamin Outram and Company in 1790.


This area of Derbyshire had been known for its outcrops of iron ore which had been exploited at least since the Middle Ages. Indeed, after the Norman Conquest, nearby Duffield Frithmarker was the property of the de Ferrers family who were iron masters in Normandy.

In 1793, William Jessop, with the assistance of Benjamin Outram, constructed the Cromford Canalmarker to connect Pinxtonmarker and Cromfordmarker with the Erewash Canal. In the process of digging the Butterley Tunnelmarker for the Cromford Canalmarker, quantities of coal and iron were discovered. Fortuitously, Butterley Hallmarker fell vacant and, in 1790, Outram, with the financial assistance of Francis Beresford, bought it and its estate.

The following year they were joined by Jessop, and John, the grandson of Ichabod Wright, a wealthy Nottinghammarker banker who was betrothed to Beresford's daughter and who owned the Butterley Park estate.

In 1793 the French Revolutionary Wars broke out and, by 1796, the blast furnace was producing nearly a thousand tons of pig iron a year. By the second decade of the next century the company had expanded with another works at Codnor Park, both works then having two blast furnaces, and output had risen to around 4,500 tons per year.

Early years

Outram died in 1805 and the name changed to the Butterley Company, with one of Jessop's sons, also William, taking over.

In 1814 the company produced the iron work for the Vauxhall Bridgemarker over the River Thames.

They also owned Hilt's Quarry at Crichmarker which supplied limestone for the ironworks, and for the limekilns at Bullbridgemarker providing lime for farmers and for the increasing amount of building work. The steep wagonway to the Cromford Canalmarker at Bullbridge was called the Butterley Gang Road. In 1812, William Brunton, an engineer for the company, produced his remarkable Steam Horse locomotive

In 1817, in the depression following the Napoleonic Wars, the works at Butterley was the scene of the Pentrich Revolutionmarker. Following this, however, the country enrtered a long period of prosperity, the Butterley Company with it. In 1830 it was considered to be the largest coal owner and the second largest iron producer, in the East Midlands. By this time the company owned a considerable number of quarries for limestone and mines for coal and iron, and installed a third blast furnace at Codnor Park.

One of the two drainage engines at Pode Holemarker and the engine still in the Pinchbeck Enginemarker land drainage museum were built by Butterley, as were the Scoop wheel pumps.

They produced a vast array of goods, from rails for wagonways to heaters for tea urns. Thomas Telford's Caledonian Canalmarker used lock gates and machinery with castings produced at Butterley, as well as two steam dredgers designed by Jessop. The company also produced steam locomotives, mostly for its own use, but it provided two for the Midland Counties Railway.

They produced all the necessary castings for the new railways and two complete lines, the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway and the Cromford and High Peak Railway. A winding engine for the latter still exists in working order at Middleton Topmarker near Wirksworthmarker.

Butterley Company plate in St Pancras station
Notable patents were taken out by Butterley's manager, Sir John Alleyne. Alleyne patented a method in 1861 which allowed hot ingots to be moved around a roller after it had passed by just one person. During the production of steel sections the bar has to be repeatedly put through rollers. Allowing this to happen using just one person was a substantial increase in productivity. By 1863 the company was rolling the largest masses of iron of any foundry in the country. Among its most famous buildings are the Barlow Train Shed at St Pancras stationmarker in Londonmarker which included 240 foot spans.

Alleynes next invention was the two high reversing steel mill patented in 1870, which used two steam engines to allow metal ingots to be repeatedly rolled in order to get the correct size and section. With this technique the steel did not have to be moved to re-enter the rolling process but merely had to be moved back into the rolling machine once it had passed through.

There was also an extensive brickworks not only for the railways, but for thousands of factories and domestic dwellings.

By 1874 company workers were starting to fight for better conditions. The company sacked eleven miners "without a charge" on May 5 1874.

20th century

At its peak in the 1950s the company employed around 10,000 people.

In 1957, a partnership with Air Products of the USA helped establish that company in the United Kingdommarker [318557].

In the early 1960s the company acquired locomotive manufacturer F. C. Hibberd & Co Ltd.

The Codnor Park works closed in 1965.

The company was acquired by Lord Hanson in the 1968 for £4.7 million [318558]. The company was subsequently split up into Butterley Engineering, Butterley Brick and Butterley Aggregates. Butterley Hall, Outram's home and later the companies offices, was sold off to become the headquarters of Derbyshire Constabulary.In the mid 1980's the foundry closed down and when the surplus buildings were demolished, the original blast furnace of 1790 was exposed.

21st Century

The company has a well established reputation for constructing bridges, overhead cranes and structural steelwork.

One of the companies recent projects of special note is the construction of the innovative Falkirk Wheelmarker a spectacular Boatlift at Falkirkmarker, Scotlandmarker to rejoin the Forth & Clyde Canalmarker and the Union Canalmarker in place of a derelict flight of 11 locks. Designed by RMJM architects which funded by the Millennium Commission.

The company also constructed the Spinnaker Towermarker in Portsmouthmarker.

Butterley Engineering today still occupy the Butterley site although some of the land formerly occupied by the steel stockyard and engineering offices was sold off and developed for housing in recent years,In September 2008 the machine shop was closed.

On 5th March 2009 Butterley Engineering was placed into administration, the administrator stating "This is a highly specialist business that has proven vulnerable to the economic downturn".


  • Christian, R. (1990) Butterley brick: 200 years in the making, London : Henry Melland, ISBN 0-907929-19-2
  • Cooper, B. (1991) Transformation of a valley: the Derbyshire Derwent, Cromford : Scarthin, ISBN 0-907758-17-7
  • Lowe, J.W. (1975) British steam locomotive builders, Cambridge : Goose, ISBN 0-900404-21-3, republished 1989 by Guild
  • Riden, P. (1990) The Butterley Company 1790-1830, Derbyshire Records Society, ISBN 0-9463241-2-3
  • Schofield, R.B. (2000) Benjamin Outram 1764-1805 : an engineering biography, Cardiff : Merton Priory, ISBN 1-898937-42-7


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