North Park Furnace: iron works and gun foundry


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


Ordnance survey map of North Park Furnace: iron works and gun foundry
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SU 87956 28155

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, including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and features at extraction sites. 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. A comprehensive survey of the iron and steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of sites of national importance that represent the industry's chronological range, technological breadth and regional diversity.

The remains of the North Park Furnace iron works and gun foundry are well preserved and will increase our understanding of the post-medieval Wealden iron idustry. Partial excavation of the site has shown the importance of the brick lined casting pit and other features for understanding the contracted-out nature of 18th century gunfounding. In this period the Navy contracted out orders for guns to middlemen who took guns from small local industries and suppliers. This pre-dated the great Royal foundries and Ordnance factories. In addition, the site at Fernhurst dates to 1614 and is one of the earliest and best surviving sites in the western Weald. It has been assessed as part of a national survey of the iron industry and is recognised as being nationally important for its type and period.


The monument includes the remains of North Park iron working furnace. These include a dam, a blast furnace and associated wheel pit, water channels and casting pit. The site lies within woodland and there are further remains of associated shanty accommodation, coppiced woodland and water features beyond the scheduled area. North Park Furnace, also known as Fernhurst Furnace, lies about 1km west of Fernhurst village in the former North Park. The main components of the monument are a pond bay dam, which is pierced by two sluices to provide water for the wheel pit, and other furnace structures to the east of the northern sluice. The pond, which was constructed to provide water to the site, was later landscaped as part of the park and is not included in the scheduled area. Documentary research and limited archaeological excavation of the site have shown that there is good survival of buried remains of a number of structures related to iron working on the site. The pond bay is about 100m long and is pierced by two sluices, the southernmost being an overflow channel. The northern sluice has been replaced by a modern concrete one following the washing away of the original in the 1940s. The southern sluice is constructed of Greensand ashlar and has been repaired on two identifiable occassions. Sluice board slots are still visible in the masonry and evidence of rope or chain abrasion marks are visible on the lintel above the original sluice. The site of the tail race and the wheel pit were partially excavated in 1989 and this has provided detailed plans and section drawings of these structures. The wheel pits and tail race provide evidence of several phases of construction and activity which eventually led to three wheel pits being operated here at the same time. It is believed that the wheels provided power for the bellows and for other machinery used in the iron working process. Thus the site would have been, at its height, a very busy and productive industrial enterprise. Further remains within the immediate vicinity include slag heaps to the east and down stream of the wheel pits, which suggest a long period of use on the site. Beyond the scheduled area, and as yet unconfirmed, there is anecdotal evidence of a workers shanty town and other associated structures and activity. The site is first mentioned directly in association with iron working in 1614 when an Iron Mill was completed according to the Shulbrede Court Roll. In 1659-61 rent records for North Park mention 'the ironworks'. North Park is also mentioned in the 17th century list of Wealden Furnaces being shown on a map of 1660. Further references to its existence and associations continue until 1777 when the site was advertised to let in the Sussex Weekly Advertiser. There is no evidence of iron working on the site after this date. The modern concrete sluice is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground and masonry around and beneath it are included. The pond and further sections of leat outside the scheduled area are not included because they have been subsequently altered as part of the wider water management and landscaping of North Park. They remain however of historic interest locally and within the Park setting.

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
Magilton, J, Fernhurst (North Park) Furnace, West Sussex, (2003)


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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