Scowles in Blake's Wood 870m north west of Scowles Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016900

Date first listed: 08-Jun-1999


Ordnance survey map of Scowles in Blake's Wood 870m north west of Scowles Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Gloucestershire

District: Forest of Dean (District Authority)

Parish: Staunton Coleford

National Grid Reference: SO 55778 11696


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 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 in Blake's Wood were recorded as an area of woodland in 1792 which suggests regenerative growth in an area too pitted for normal agricultural use. This belt of scowles is distinctive in the form of scowles represented. Outliers of quite small proportions give way to long narrow trenches on the west side of the modern dump and to generally small deep scowles on the east side of the modern dump. It is thought that the outliers represent exploratory pits which were dug to locate the extent of the main seams of ore bearing strata. The difference in scale and nature of the scowles is considered to reflect differences in style of extraction and date of the work.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes an area of open cast iron ore mining in the Forest of Dean, on a south east facing slope about 1km 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 large crevices left suggest that rock was removed together with the ore bearing material, 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 be confidently placed in date before the end of the 17th century. In this monument the scowles are found around an area of modern tipping. At the northern end of the area are some large shallow scowles about 7m across and 0.5m to 1m deep. The area covered by the scowles then forms an elongated lozenge shape aligned north west-south east. This band is approximately 100m across at its north end and 200m across at its south end, with a total length of about 600m. The scowles on the outer edges of the lozenge are quite small, 0.5m to 1m deep and about 5m across. Towards the centre of the area on the west side of the dump the scowles are long and narrow, as though they are following seams or veins of ore. These trenches are up to 2m wide, of a similar depth and extend for 10m or more. The scowles here are also characterised by having exposed limestone faces. On the east side of the dump the scowles are quite small but also quite deep, about 5m across by 2m deep. The largest scowl in this lozenged shaped area is about 25m to 30m in diameter and 3m to 4m deep in the bottom of which there are a couple of deeper shafts. The presence of the scowles clearly demonstrates that this area was used for the extraction of iron ore at some time before 1844 when afforestation took place here.

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: 28865

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing