Investigation launched to uncover history behind area’s ancient iron mines

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into the area’s ancient iron mines.

Members of the Wealden Iron Research Group (WIRG), who all have an interest in the area’s industrial past, set aside a day to investigate the iron mines of Robertsbridge recently.

Divided into three groups, some members investigated ore production in Lordship Woods, mapping some very large mine pits.

The information they recorded also included roadways, boundaries, water management features, charcoal platforms and iron working residues such as slag from the nearby iron refinery.

The second group mapped 90 small ore pits in Wellhead Wood while Dr Judie English led the final group in preparation for the excavation of a nearby ancient bloomery furnace which might date from Roman times .

WIRG member Caroline, on her second foray, said: “I am interested in local history and the environment around us. It was great to be able to spend time with people able to explain and give an insight into the landscape and topography of the Weald.”

The group regularly meet to look for undiscovered sites, carry out surveys of potential iron working sites, sites related to the iron industry and to carry out small-scale excavations all over the Weald.

A number of projects are in progress and new members are welcome to join in.

The data from this foray will be added to information collected from previous investigations to give a better picture of the old iron industry.

The blast furnace at Robertsbridge was constructed in 1541-2. All ore was extracted in the vicinity and it is likely that around 100,000 tonnes was processed by the Roberstbridge blast furnace.

Iron smelting was a big industry in Wealden for about 2,000 years.

Iron was hugely profitable in the 16th century and the industry was cornered by local aristocrats.

WIRG members share a interest in this local history and the group was founded to focus and initiate research into the iron industry of the Weald. That industry finally disappeared shortly after the Napoleonic wars.

The next foray will take place in the same area tomorrow (January 11). To get involved, contact project coordinator Dr Jonathan Prus at