Scowles in the north of Blake's Wood 620m south east of Church Farm


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


Ordnance survey map of Scowles in the north of Blake's Wood 620m south east of Church Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Forest of Dean (District Authority)
Staunton Coleford
National Grid Reference:
SO 55549 12175

Reasons for Designation

From at least the Roman period until the 18th century the Forest of Dean was an important production centre for iron. The iron ore bearing strata between Lydney and Staunton are likely to have been exploited since the Iron Age, and the crease limestone to the south of Staunton has been identified as a likely source of iron ore supplying the iron industry at Blestium (the modern Monmouth) during the Roman period. It was almost certainly being exploited again by the end of the 13th century. The below ground mining of iron ore is considered to have become the dominant method of extraction by the end of the 17th century. Thus although it is impossible to accurately date the scowles on the basis of present evidence, it is probable that they were in existence by the beginning of the 17th century, and are likely to be earlier in origin. Although iron ores occur, and have been worked to some degree, in almost every county of England, national iron production was dominated in the Roman, medieval and earlier post-medieval periods by two orefields: the Weald and the Forest of Dean. The major field remains of the industry in these two areas are therefore of considerable importance. They are a distinctive feature of the Forest of Dean, and the term scowl is believed to be unique to this area. This type of surface working following the ore bearing strata is very rare elsewhere, although a few, broadly similar, features are thought to exist in South Wales and north Lancashire. The Forest of Dean scowles therefore have a particular importance as the main representatives of early open cast iron ore mining. The scowl belt to the north of Blake's Wood is distinctive in the mixed form of scowles represented. The area contains small, large and linear scowles with no limestone faces exposed. It is thought that the differences in the size and nature of the scowles reflect a difference in the style of extraction of the ore, which has a bearing on the date of the work. The ground between the scowles is uneven and is believed to contain spoil heaps and working areas which will provide further evidence for extraction methods and efficiency of procedure.


The monument includes an area of open cast iron ore mining in the Forest of Dean, on a north east facing slope about 500m south east of Staunton. The area is characterised by the remains of surface extraction or excavation holes which are known locally as scowles. The scowles represent surface workings which followed the ore bearing seams. It is not known precisely how the scowles were worked, and indeed, a number of different shapes of scowles exist which would indicate different methods of working either at different times or contemporaneously. Some of the huge crevices left suggest that rock and ore were occasionally removed, although the smaller workings suggest that only the ore was taken. The precise date of the scowles in Blake's Wood is not yet clear, but by the end of the 17th century below ground mining of ore, which had co-existed with surface working since at least the Romano-British period, had become the normal method of extraction in the Forest of Dean. Thus the scowles can confidently be placed in date before the end of the 17th century. In the monument the scowles are not of uniform shape or size, but are a mixture of small holes, linear evcavations and larger pits. The small scowles are 2m or 3m in diameter by about 1m deep, the linear ones about 2m wide and 1m deep which continue for about 10m or more. The larger pits are generally up to 6m in diameter by 1m deep, with some up to 10m in diameter and of similar depth. The scowles in this area do not appear to have exposed limestone faces, but are covered by a uniform layer of soil. The ground between the scowles is generally uneven, with spoil heaps and working areas. In the south east the smaller scowles tend to predominate, while further to the south east, beyond these, larger scowles are present. A track to the west which runs in a north west-south east direction marks the extent of the scowles on that side. One of the largest scowles in this group lies to the east of the group and is about 50m long, 20m wide and about 10m deep. This scowl bifurcates as though following a vein or seam.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Hoyle, J, Western Stowfield Quarry, Staunton, Gloucestershire Arch Assess, (1992), 2


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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