Forge Island Legacy

Located in the heart of Rotherham, Forge Island has a rich history. Originally built as a steel forge, Forge Island was later used as a retail space and, briefly, as a transportation hub.

It sits between the Rotherham Canal and the River Don, close to the Masborough Weir, and is a short walk from the train station, bus station and the heart of the town.

Forge Island is a key part of the Council’s Masterplan, and one of many exciting developments in Rotherham. Along with other public realm projects, the new markets, and the Riverside Gardens project, Forge Island will offer residents in Rotherham a new leisure destination.

A Place of Industry

Forge Island was formerly home to Rotherham Foundry, Providence Iron Works and Rotherham Iron Works in the 19th century. A mill formerly stood on the eastern bank of the river which utilised the weir and the energy created by the fall in water to drive milling machinery.

If you were to go down to Forge Island today, you would find that many of the shops built on Corporation Street during this period face away from the river due to the industrial works that used to take place on the island.

While use of the river helped to power mills, there was a great deal of industrial waste dumped into the waters from the Forge Island works and works further up the valley in Sheffield, making the water unsuitable for aquatic water life. Today, the River Don is a much cleaner, much safer river and you may be able to spot herons, ducks and even salmon along the river’s edge.

In the late 20th Century, the site was developed as a food store; (Hillards then Tesco) before the relocation of Tesco across town to its present location on Drummond Street. Forge Island has also been used as a car park as well as a temporary Bus Station while the Rotherham Interchange was renovated in 2018, then served as a Local Coronavirus Test Site during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.

Flood Defences

Canal barrier flood defences at forge island

In November 2019, Forge Island was one of the areas to be flooded in the torrential rain and bad weather. Since then, Forge Island has been the flagship of Rotherham’s new flood defences.

The Island is a peninsula between the River Don and Rotherham Canal which has been a double challenge for engineers and designers. Rotherham Council has been working with several partners, including Eric Wright Civil Engineering Ltd and the Environment Agency, to build new flood defences along 5km of waterways in Rotherham, including the new Canal Flood Barrier.

A new barrier wall made out of sheet metal pile has now been installed alongside the north and west boundaries of Forge Island alongside a canal barrier, which was officially opening in December 2022. The canal barrier's modern design adds a new landmark to the Rotherham skyline.

These new defences will help reduce the risk of the River Don overtopping into the canal and flooding Rotherham town centre and the Central Railway Station.