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.
Despite some footpath erosion, Cotchford Forge is a well preserved ironworking site and its relationship to Newbridge blast furnce enhances its importance. It is a good example of its type and typical of ironworks of the 16th to 17th century. The site has not been surveyed or excavated and as such holds a high degree of archaeological potential for further investigation.
The monument includes a 16th to 17th century forge, dam, dry pond and slag heaps surviving as earthworks and below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated on the south side of a stream in Posingford Wood, at the foot of a valley, south of Upper Hartfield in the Weald. The earthen dam is about 91m long and up to 1.5m high. Large quantities of forge cinder and a small amount of furnace slag, probably imported from elsewhere, exist at the north end of the dam, where the forge and iron working area are located. To the south is a dry pond bay, about 90m long by 9m wide at the base and up to 1.5m high. A wide breach at the southern end is considered to be a spillway. Several waster bricks, which are probably debris from the forge building, have been found in the area.
Cotchford Forge appears to have been worked in conjunction with Newbridge blast furnace about 1 mile upstream. Documentary sources record that it was held by John Evesfield in 1574. A conveyance of 1627 refers to Sir John Shurley handing the forge to Nicholas Smite of London. The parliamentary survey of 1656 valued the forge buildings at 35 pounds per year, but does not state whether the ironworks were still in operation.
The monument excludes the surface of the bridlepath; all modern fences and fence posts; gates and gate posts. However the ground beneath all these features is included.
Sources: East Sussex HER MES5183. NMR TQ43SE2. PastScape 407042.
Crossley, D. 1991. English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme. Industrial Monuments: The Iron and Steel Industries. Step 3 report. Version O (Site Assessment 54).