Close to where the Heritage Centre now stands was the Apedale Iron works. It was founded by 5 brothers named Parker, who leased the land from Nigel Bowyer Gresley, Gresley also supplied the works with ore and coal from the Apedale mines. Production of Pig Iron started in 1785 and within a few years had reached 1300 tons. Production had ceased by 1816 due to a drop in demand after the Napoleonic War, which caused the Parker brothers to decide to concentrate on their other site in Tipton.
Iron production resumed in 1824 when Thomas Firmstone took up the lease. The works were expanded and modernised, which included new coke ovens and a tramway to Silverdale and output reached 2500 tons per year. He gave up the lease in 1836-7 to his landlord Richard Edensor Heathcote who was keen to operate the iron works himself. Heathcote made further improvements including building and additional fourth furnace, along with improving Watermills colliery to increase the supply of coal and iron ore.
Richard son, John, inherited Apedale, but he did not share his father’s interest in business and left the running of the Apedale industries to the Superintendent of Mines and Iron Works, William Franklin. Franklin was to retire in 1866 and so a successor had to be found. Silverdale Ironworks was at that time run under lease by Francis Stanier and his business partner. Seeing an opportunity in Apedale he took over the lease.
Apedale reach it’s peak under Stanier’s management. A new mine was created, Burley pit, which was sunk close to Sladderhill pit. The pits in the valley (Sladderhill, Burley, Watermills and Wood) were all linked underground and operated as one colliery for efficiency. Stanier ran his own locomotives in the valley transferring materials around.
Having amassed a large personal fortune Stanier planned to retire when he was 50 in 1888. However he continued until 1890 while Captain Justinian Edwards Heathcote, (John’s nephew and by the the owner of Apedale) made arrangements to pass on the running of Apedale Industry. Rather than re-lease it, The Midland Coal. Coke and Iron Company was formed. After a rocky start the company ran Apedale until the economic troubles of the 1920s and 30s cause the company to fail, resulting in breakup and sale of Apedale.