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 such as those evident at Far Blacklands. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces.
The Weald was the main iron producing region of Britain during the Roman period. The geology of sands and clays yielded iron ore, along with stone and brick to build furnaces, whilst the woodland provided fuel, and streams and rivers provided water power. An iron industry was already well-established in the region prior to the Roman Conquest. However in the first and second centuries further resources were put into increasing production and setting up new iron bloomeries. The 'Classis Britannica' or Romano-British Fleet took a significant role in managing many iron smelting sites and was particularly influential within the local economy.
Despite ploughing in the past, Far Blacklands Romano-British Iron Bloomery survives well and, as the largest Roman bloomery site identified on the High Weald, is of considerable significance. It provides an important insight into the Roman economy with evidence of iron production on an industrial scale during the first and second centuries AD. Fieldwalking has indicated that there is a high level of potential for further archaeological investigation, which will further provide information relating to the history and use of the site. The site lies just over 1.5km west of the course of the Roman London to Lewis road, a possible source of distribution for iron produced by the bloomery.
The proximity to the course of this road enhances its significance.
The monument includes a Romano-British iron bloomery, known as Far Blacklands Bloomery, surviving as earthworks and buried archaeological remains. It is situated at the foot of a valley to the south of Hammer Wood near East Grinstead on the High Weald. In the banks of the stream, at the north end of the site, is a burning floor. In association with this are buried deposits of charcoal and iron slag.
Partial excavation in 1946 and 1971 and fieldwalking by the Wealden Iron Research Group (WIRG) revealed considerable concentrations of tap slag and Roman finds dating to the first and second centuries AD. The recovery of roof tile, hypocaust tile, brick fragments and furnace-lining indicate that there are further Roman industrial buildings on the site. Two coins of Vespasian and Trajan, as well as Samian and coarse pottery have also been found.
The electricity pylon which is located within the constraint area is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included.
Sources: East Sussex HER MES3168. NMR TQ43NW5. PastScape 407000.
Crossley, D. 1991. English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme. Industrial Monuments: The Iron and Steel Industries. Step 3 report. Version O (Site Assessment 52).
Hodgkinson, J. 2002. IRON - A Once Great Wealden Industry. Wealden Iron Research Group. Retrieved from http://www.wealdeniron.org.uk/hist.htm on 8th March 2010.