Heathfield furnace and ironworks, 295m NNE of Boring House 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.
Heathfield furnace and ironworks is a significant site, which despite the breach to the dam, survives well. The 18th century gun-founding on the site is thought to be the best documented in Britain. As such, it has considerable archaeological potential for further investigation relating to the below-ground remains of the workings recorded in documentary sources.
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 a 17th to 18th century blast furnace, slag heaps, dam, dry ponds, water system, and the probable site of a Boring Mill, surviving as earthworks and below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated at the foot of a stream valley, north of Vines Cross in the High Weald. The dam, which has been breached, survives as a prominent earthwork up to about 2.5m in high. A section in the breach shows that it has been heightened at some stage. An overflow channel runs east from the dam in the area of the breach. The charging bank and iron working area, which is evident from irregularities in the ground surface due to dumping of slag, is to the south. A penpond also survives to the west. The site of a boring mill, which used the water from the furnace wheel, is located near the stream to the north of the furnace working area. A platform on higher ground to the south-west of the dam may have been the site of a charcoal shed.
Heathfield furnace is well recorded in documentary sources. It was built by the Fuller family in about 1693 and used for gun founding until 1793. A number of documents and accounts have been preserved, showing that the output from the furnace through its lifetime was considerable.