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WIRG Visit to Ironworks
in the Forest of Dean, Spring 2015

Over an extended weekend of March 28-30th, 2015, WIRG members visited the Forest of Dean ironworking sites, being accommodated at the Dean Field Studies Centre, Parkend, Lydney, Gloucestershire. The weekend included visits to Noxon Park mines (Saturday), Whitecliff blast furnace and Tintern blast furnace (Sunday), and Lambsquay Wood and Blaenavon Ironworks World Heritage Site (Monday).

WIRG members in Lambsquay Wood next to an old yew tree growing round an upstanding pillar of limestone. The pillars were left in place from iron ore mining in the mediaeval period (or earlier). Huge bodies of a very pure haematite ore were removed leaving a bizarre landscape which is said to have influenced both Tolkien and Harry Potter author J K Rowling. A number of films have been (partly) shot nearby, including a couple of Dr. Who episodes.

Whitecliff blast furnace site

Local expert Ian Standing interprets the Whitecliff blast furnace site for members. This early nineteenth century blast furnace was, for a time, supervised by the renowned metallurgist David Mushet, father of the Mushet who successfully improved Bessemerís process later in the century. However, the Whitecliff furnace was never a tremendous success which probably explains why it can still be seen: itís not hidden by later Victorian improvements.

Views of Blaenavon Ironworks:
Blaenavon Ironworks Blaenavon Ironworks Blaenavon Ironworks

The remains of the blast furnace in the valley leading down to Tintern Abbey have been known for a long time, but WIRG members were able to look at more recent excavations on the other side of the road. It is plain that the whole valley is deep in slag. Archaeologist Neil Phillips has partially uncovered additional features that remain difficult to interpret. He showed members waste products from the wire mill known to have operated at the site and challenged them to come up with interpretations of the pits and buildings heís found.

Blast furnace remains in valley near Tintern Abbey

Views of Tintern Abbey Site:
Tintern Furnace Tintern Abbey Furnace Site

Images supplied by WIRG members, Jonathan Prus and Victor Kellett.


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