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FIND OUT MORE about the Wealden Iron Industry

Anne of Cleves House, Lewes, Sussex

The best museum display devoted to the Iron Industry of the Weald is in Anne of Cleves House Museum in Lewes, which is run by the Sussex Archaeological Society. This shows you how iron ore, mined locally was smelted in water-powered blast furnaces to make iron and how cannon was cast. There is also on display a boring bar recovered from a garden at Stream Furnace Mill, Chiddingly.

Visit the museum's website to find out about opening times and admissions.

Lenard fireback

Firebacks were cast by pouring molten iron into a sand mould. The mould was created by first making a wooden replica of the desired design and pressing this blank into a tray of damp sand, although very early examples had small objects pressed into the sand, even pieces of rope to make a date or initials.

Anne of Cleves House has a substantial collection of firebacks and two rare, original wooden fireback patterns.

A mid sixteenth century fireback, using small wooden
designs pressed into the sand mould several times.

Early Fireback

Hastings Museum also has a good collection of firebacks but these are not on display at present.

NB: There is a NEW BOOK on British Cast-iron Firebacks - more details HERE

Rural Life Centre, Reeds Road, Tilford, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 2DL.

Tilford Furnace A half-scale reconstruction of a Wealden blast furnace and forge hammer has been built at the Centre and is open to visitors. Although it does not make iron, a waterwheel operates the furnace bellows and the hammer and gives visitors a good idea of the appearance of these mechanisms at work. A short video sequence filmed during the Wealden Iron Research Group's AGM at Tilford in 2011 can be viewed by clicking HERE. Further infomation about the Centre can be obtained from their website.

Ordnance and Cannon

Fort Nelson was built to protect Portsmouth harbour against the threat of invasion, but is now a Royal Armouries Museum. It has an impressive collection of weaponry through the centuries, including cannon made at furnaces in the Weald.

Visit the museum's website to find out opening times and admissions.

Wealden Cannon at Fort Nelson
Iron ordnance cast in the Weald.
Bronze Mortar

A 'Brass' ie bronze mortar cast by William Bowen, a Wealden founder, in the 1760s.

Iron Graveslabs

Anne Barcley graveslab East Grinstead
This is not an important commercial product of the Wealden furnaces, but from the 16th century several people associated with the Iron Industry had iron graveslabs made using the same method as for firebacks, instead of using the usual carved stone monument. There are several churches in Sussex which have them but the largest number surviving are in the church at St.Peter & St.Paul, Wadhurst. The picture shows one made for a lawyer's wife and is in East Grinstead church.

A Catalogue of Iron Graveslabs in England was compiled by Rosalind Willatts and first published on Microfiche in Sussex Archaeoligical Collections, 125 (1987). It was subsequently printed in Wealden Iron, the Bulletin of WIRG, 2nd Series, 8 (1988), 12-47.
This catalogue, with additions, corrections, and amendments by Jeremy Hodgkinson in 2016 and 2017, can be downloaded


© Wealden Iron Research Group 2000-16.