The Land of Oak & Iron is inviting people to find out more about the history of philanthropy in the Derwent Valley, next month, whilst giving something back themselves.

A free event entitled “Do philanthropists get their hands dirty?” will take place on Monday 12 November at 10.30am – 2pm. The session with Peter Downes, Land of Oak & Iron’s Access & Woodland Officer will offer people an opportunity to get their hands dirty whilst learning about managing the woodlands, as well as hearing about Ambrose Crowley.

The woodlands are located close to the new Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre that opened last month and the event will conclude with lunch at café shrub, which offers a menu of locally sourced produce.

The event is part of the £3.4m Land of Oak & Iron project, which is supported by £2.2m of money raised by National Lottery players.

“The Generosity Festival is a great way to celebrate the history and role of philanthropy and giving across the region, which has helped to shape the North East today,” said Karen Daglish, Land of Oak & Iron Partnership Manager. “We are very much looking forward to playing our part and sharing the philanthropy of the past that has helped shape the Land of Oak & Iron as well as encouraging people to give their time during the festival to help others. Volunteering is a key part of our partnership helping us to protect & celebrate the past while looking forward to a sustainable future.”

The Heritage Centre is located in the place that is thought to have given birth to the industrial revolution, in the heart of Ambrose Crowley’s industrial empire. The area has an amazing history as the greatest producer of ironware in Europe during the early 1700s. In the early 18th century, Sir Ambrose Crowley established one of the very first factories using the waterpower of the River Derwent to drive huge machines to produce wrought iron.  A weir across the Derwent and stone dam is now all that remains.

Crowley also designed and commissioned the building of a ‘model village’ to house employees which became known as Winlaton Mill.  He is still known for his enlightened management methods and philanthropic approach to his workforce. He introduced a system of social welfare providing sick pay, unemployment benefits, pensions and funeral payments, as well as schooling for workers’ children, a minister and medical.

The event is one of 50 events taking place across the region in November, as part of the Community Foundation and Newcastle University’s GeNErosity Festival, celebrating the history and role of philanthropy and giving across the region, which has helped to shape the North East today.

Rob Williamson, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation, said: “Philanthropy is about giving money, time and resource to help others. Generosity – past, present and future – is what binds us together, making the North East a special place to live and work. We often take so much we see around us today for granted without ever wondering where it came from.”

This event is free, but places must be booked in advance. 

Those attending are advised that all tools, equipment and gloves will be provided as well as tea and coffee; to wear stout footwear and suitable clothing for outdoors, including waterproofs, depending on the weather.