Bolts Law Standing Engine House
Building Stanhope County Durham

Bolts Law Standing Engine House

Building In Stanhope, County Durham

Built in 1846, the standing engine hauled railway trucks up and down an incline into Rookhope.

Bolts Law Standing Engine was built in 1846 by the Weardale Iron Company, founded by Charles Attwood. The standing engine provided power to haul railway trucks up and down the incline into Rookhope around one mile away, which were loaded with iron ore and limestone that were mined in this area. The railway line transported the iron ore and limestone 24km from Rookhope to the Iron Works in Tow Law, as well as pigs (bars) of lead to the Tyne. When trains returned to Rookhope, they brought back coal to the area.

The engine was used to haul wagons up and down the incline using a wire rope. The rope was wound around two large drums, which were powered by the engine. The wagons were attached to the rope at either end, and as the drums turned, the wagons were pulled up the incline. The incline had a gradient of 1 in 6, which was too steep for locomotives to operate, so the stationary steam engine was used to power the incline.

The building was in use until 1923, when a recession in mining forced it to close. Restoration work was completed in 2012 by Natural England to prevent further damage to it.

The standing engine was the inspiration for a poem by W H Auden, which is pretty cool. The poem is titled 'New Year Letter', and was published in 1940, here is an extract:


The derelict lead smelting mill

Flued to the chimney up the hill

That smokes no answer any more

But points, a landmark on Bolts Law

The finger of all questions. There

In Rookhope I was first aware

Of self and not-self, death and dread...


There I dropped pebbles, listened, heard

The reservoir of darkness stirred

Huge thanks to our fabulous friend Neil Hall for the amazing photos and information.

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How To Find Bolts Law Standing Engine House

Where Is Bolts Law Standing Engine House?

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Lat / Long

54.793162, -2.08036

What three words

highlighted.stubborn.legs

Where To Park For Bolts Law Standing Engine House?

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Lat / Long

54.78063, 54.78063

What three words

driven.haircuts.teams

You can park in Rookhope village at the Rookhope Inn which is now permanently closed. The path is around 1.5km up to the engine house - start on the path that leads to 'Hylton Terrace'.

Contributed by Sandra Clemens

I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.

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Sandra Clemens

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Bolts Law Standing Engine House was listed in Building // County Durham // Stanhope