The beehive coke ovens are some of the last remaining examples of this type of oven left in County Durham. At one time there were over 100,000 in the County. Now there are only the ovens at Tow Law, a set at East Hedleyhope and a few in the Gaunless Valley. The ovens were used to produce coke from the coal mined at Inkerman Colliery but the process they used was quite primitive and they went out of use by the 1880's.

The ovens at Tow Law are protected as a scheduled ancient monument by English Heritage but as they were in the part ownership of a local farmer and a local coal merchant there had never been any money to maintain them. The launch of the pilot stage of the Local Heritage scheme by English Heritage and the Countryside agency meant that funds became available for the consolidation of the ovens. With the aid of additional grants from English Heritage, European Objective 2 funding, One North East and Wear Valley District Council the Town Council were able to purchase part of the site and develop it into a small tourist site.

Groundwork West Durham managed the Scheme for the Town Council and Niall Hammond, the County Archaeologist and Kate Wilson of English Heritage gave advice on the project. The Tow Law Appraisal identified the Scheme and it was important that the Community was involved as much as possible so satellite projects were developed. The two local primary schools, Blessed John Duckett and Tow Law Millennium Primary worked with Niall Hammond to produce information for the interpretation boards to be erected on the site and to research into the use of the site.

The W.E.A. funded a course at the community centre in Industrial archaeology and local volunteers excavated the site under the supervision of Northern Archaeological Associates. The Local History group researched a walk that included the ovens and the walk was eventually produced as a tourist leaflet, with other walk leaflets planned.

The Northumberland Dry-stone Walling Association also led a course on dry-stone walling for beginners and they built the wall at the entrance to the site. To inaugurate the site Hilary Armstrong MP placed a coping stone on the newly completed wall when she officially opened the site on May 5th 2000.

Artist Phil Townsend designed and built a seat on the site and a totem at the entrance to the site displays carvings executed by local volunteers together with a quotation from Wilfred Owen that the group felt appropriate:

'For many a heart with coal is charred but few remember'

The site is now in the ownership of Tow Law Town Council who will continue to develop the site and maintain it. They have been particularly honoured to win the first Making a Difference Competition, organised by the Northern Echo and One North East and hope that they can continue to run the scheme for the benefit of the community.