North Park Furnace: iron works and gun foundry
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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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:
- SOUTH DOWNS
- 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