Oakmoor is a picturesque village in the Churnet Valley with a fine (and rather narrow) sandstone bridge across the river, built in the early 18th century.
This picture of tranquillity is deceptive as Oakamoor was a hive of industry until the 1960s. As it had abundant water power and there were dense woods nearby it became early on a centre for iron smelting, using ironstone from Consall, charcoal made from the woods to drive the furnaces and water wheels to drive the forges. A Channel 4 'Time Team' investigation at 'Forge House' revealed medieval iron slag, dating from at least 1290 AD.
Iron working gradually gave way to tin plating, while at the same time copper working became important, using copper ore from Ecton in the Manifold Valley, which was mined in large quantities from the mid-18th century. In 1790 Thomas Patten bought a tin-plate factory alongside the river at Oakamoor and developed a large copper works (the Cheadle Copper and Brass Works) which came to dominate the village and the valley.
At the same time a canal was constructed. The Froghall to Uttoxeter canal was built in 1799-1811, linking Oakamoor to the Caldon Canal. Lime from Caldon quarry was brought here and limekilns constructed along side the canal, while copper and brass products were taken out by canal.
The canal did not last long. In 1847 the canal company was bought out by the North Staffordshire Railway Company who built a railway from Leek to Uttoxeter, which arrived at Oakamoor via a a tunnel of 420m and then continued for several miles along the filled-in bed of the canal.
The Cheadle Copper Co. thrived in the 19th century, specialising in copper wire and producing the wire for the first Transatlantic Cables. It finally closed in the 1960s and occupied a site between the railway tunnel and the old bridge, which is now a park area with a car park. On the opposite side of the river, linked by a footbridge, is the filled-in canal basin - now also parkland, and a short way downstream is the site of the former railway station. The railway line shut down in 1965.
There is a nicely designed heritage trail around the village with old photographs showing the valley full of industrial buildings and smoke, a sight which is hard to credit now.
0 - Alton Station
1 - Oakmoor pub
2 - Alton Towers entrance
3 - Oakamoor Pub
4 - Oakamoor - the River Churnet
5 - Oakmoor railway tunnel
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