Ashburnam iron furnace site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Sussex
Rother (District Authority)
East Sussex
Rother (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 68547 17084


Ashburnham furnace and ironworks, 436m south-west of Rocks Farm

Reasons for Designation

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques and structures. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small, relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces, which were larger and operated at a higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge, but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to more sophisticated types of furnaces.

Ashburnham furnace and ironworks is a complex site, with many different components, which survive well. It was one of the most important Wealden iron working sites and is well recorded in documentary sources. The local landscape context of the site, in continuously managed woodland with ore-pits on the valley sides and a remarkable leat from the valley to the east, enhances its significance.


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This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 June 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes Ashburnham furnace, the site of an iron furnace dating from the 16th century, and its associated structures. It is situated south of Dulvys Wood at the foot of Ashburnham Valley in the Weald, through which flows Gifford’s Gill Stream.

It includes the site of an upper and lower blast furnace, two wheel pits, gun mould heaps and a water management system with ponds, dams and a leat. It is associated with Ashburnham forge, about 1.1km to the south. The dams supplying the site are situated to the north, near Lakehurst Lane, and east, next to Gifford’s Gill Stream. They are constructed of earth up to 5.5m high with stone and brick revetments. The water supply was supplemented by means of a channel or leat that was fed by a tributary of the Ash Bourne, formerly supplying Penhurst furnace. It was originally about 3.5km long and is evident as earthworks near Ashburnham furnace. The wheel-pits survive as upstanding stone and brick structures at the north and south of the site. The two furnaces, though not separable in archive sources, are thought to survive as below-ground remains near the wheel-pits. Cannon mould fragments survive near to Furnace Cottage.

Partial excavation in 1977 uncovered possible debris of one of the furnaces and a wheel pit that had been re-used as a 19th century cottage cellar. Ashburnham furnace is well recorded in documentary sources. It was in use by John Ashburnham in 1554 and may have been built as early as 1549. It was used to cast guns for George Browne in 1665 and in the early 18th century it was used by members of the Forest of Dean Partnership. Guns were again cast for the Board of Ordnance from the 1750s as well as for the merchant trade. It ceased to operate in the late 18th century, perhaps as late as 1813.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
ES 387
Legacy System:


Crossley, D. 1977. Ashburnham Furnace, Penhurst. In ‘Wealden Iron’, Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group No.12. pp. 7-8.

Crossley, D. 1991. English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme. Industrial Monuments: The Iron and Steel Industries. Step 3 report. Version O (Site Assessment 50). ,
East Sussex HER MES3297. NMR TQ61NE1. PastScape 411962,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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