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IRON MAKING IN THE OLDEN TIMES:
As instanced in the Ancient Mines and Furnaces of the
FOREST OF DEAN

By Rev. H.G. Nicholls - c.1866.



Sample text :-

'The prices affixed to the ore, including delivery, indicate a discontinuance, in a measure, of the mines on the north-east edge of the Forest. Those adjoining Newland and in Noxon Park, both on the opposite side of the Forest, appear to have formed the principal sources of supply. The records of the Court of Mine Law, belonging to this date, allude oftener to these works than to others, for the same reason.

Its "order," dated 8th December, 1685, in providing that "the one-half of the jury of 48 should be iron-miners, and the other half colliers," manifests considerable decay in the influence and number of the former operatives, once so much otherwise. It is remarkable that the later orders are silent as regards iron, owing to the suppression of the Forest furnaces.

With respect to the mode now in use of reducing the mine ore, there is preserved so explicit an account, from the pen of Dr. Parsons, the county antiquary and naturalist of that age, as to call for its verbatim insertion here :-

" The ore and cinder, wherewith they make their iron (which is the great employment of the poorer sort of inhabitants), 'tin dug in most parts of the Forest, one in the bowells, and the other towards the surface of the earth.

" There are two sorts of ore : the best ore is your your Brush ore: of blewish colour, very ponderous, and full of shiny, specks Iike grains of silver; this affordeth the greatest quantiy of iron, but being melted alone, produceth a metal very short and brittle. To remedy this inconvenience, they main- u;nę of another material, which they call cinder, it being nothing else but the refuse the ore, after the molting hath been extracted, which, being melted with the oilier in duo quantity, gives it that excellent temper of toughness for which Ibis iron is preferred before any oilier that is brought from foreign parts.

" After they have provided their ore, their first work is to calcine it, which is done in kilns, much after the fashion of our ordinary lime kilns ; these they fill up to the top with coal and ore untill it be full, and so, putting fire to the bottom, they let it burn till the coal be wasted, and then renew the kilnes with fresh ore and coal. This is done without any infusion of mettal, and serves to consume the more drossy part of the ore, and to make it fryable, supplying the beating and washing, which are to no other mettals ; from hence they curry it lo their furnaces, which are built of brick and stone, about 24 foot square on the outside, and near 30 foot in hight within, and not above) 8 or 10 foot over where it is widest, which is about tho middle, the top and bottom having a narrow compass, much like the form of an egg. Behind the furnace are placed two high pair of bellows, whose noses meet at a little hole near the bottom : these are compressed together by certain buttons placed on the axis of a very large wheel, which is turned round by water, in the manner of an over-shot mill. As soon as these buttons are slid oil', the bellows arc raised again by a counterpoise of weights, whereby they are made to play alternately, the one giving its blast whilst the other is rising.

"At first they fill these furnaces with ore and cinder inter-mixt with fuel, which in these works is always charcoal, laying them hollow at the bottom, that they may the more easily take fire ; but after they arc once kindled, the materials run together into an hard cake or lump, which is sustained by the furnace, and through this the mellal as it runs trickles down the receivers, which are placed at the bottom, where there is a passage open, by which they take away the scum and dross, and let out their mettal as they see occasion.

"Before the month of the furnace lyolh a great bed of sand, where they make furrows of tho fashion they desire to cast their iron : into these, when the receivers are full, they let in their mettal, which is made so very lluid by the violence of the fire that it not only runs to a considerable distance, iut stands afterwards boiling a great while.

"After these furnaces are once at work, they keep thorn constantly employed for many months together, never suffering the fire to slacken night or day.... '


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