Fernhurst's iron industry
Fernhurst's 'iron age' and the Fernhurst Furnace Trust
Latest news (see also our latest Furnace newsletter)
Official website: http://www.fernhurstfurnace.co.uk/
Fernhurst Furnace Open Days
September 8th-9th 2012, 10.30 am – 5.00 pm
unique historical event trying to capture some of the spirit when the
iron industry was alive in the weald.
Video from the 2006 Open Days:
Dog owners: be aware of muskets and cannons being fired.
The site is 1 mile west of Fernhurst, Grid Reference SU 879 283, and will be sign-posted on the day.
Find out more about Heritage Open Days in the District: www.chichester.gov.uk/heritageopendays
Fernhurst Furnace (North Park Furnace), c. 1614-1777.
The remains of Fernhurst Furnace, also known as North Park Furnace, are some of the best preserved in the Sussex Weald. The iron industry flourished here in the 17th and 18th centuries using local ore, charcoal and water power. The untouched nature of the site and the rural surrounding belie the production of cast iron, tools and cannon which was effectively the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Even though there are many ‘hammer/furnace’ ponds throughout East and West Sussex, many people know little about the great historical and social importance of this bygone industry.
The Threats to the Site
The furnace site was first recorded and excavated by Chichester District Archaeology unit in 1989, and it became apparent that there was a long standing threat to the lower parts of the site from erosion as excessive volumes of water from the furnace pond poured through a 1940s sluice in winter, washing away parts of the wheel-pits and tail race. An assessment of the scale and rate of destruction was possible in 1989 thanks to an earlier (1976) survey drawing of the area by Haslemere Archaeological Society, but there has been further dramatic erosion since during the 1990s. Attempts have been made to minimise further damage, but the long-term solution will incur considerable costs.
The furnace site is currently under dual ownership of Robin and Carla Barnes, who own the east side of the structure and the Cowdray Estate, who own the other half. West Sussex County Council has an interest in that the site is crossed by a public bridle path that it has a duty to maintain. The responsibility is currently devolved to The Sussex Downs Conservation Board. English Heritage has confirmed that in its view the site is of sufficient quality to justify its scheduling as a nationally important monument, and independent experts from the Wealden Iron Research Group have confirmed that the site is as well preserved as any in the south of England.
Fernhurst Furnace Preservation Group
The Fernhurst Furnace Preservation Group (Uk registered charity no. 1119894) has been set up with the aim to preserve, enhance, conserve, restore and promote the site of the Wealden Blast Furnace at North Park, Fernhurst. The Group seeks to work with all interested parties and take responsibility for the future care of this historic feature by seeking to secure a long-term lease of the entire site.
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The Future Plans for the Site
It is intended to conserve, interpret and display the furnace site for public access, and funding will be sought through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Initially an access track is required to bring materials to create a water relief system that will protect the existing fragile archaeological remains. Also, parts of the pond bay wall supporting the public bridleway and spillway urgently need to be rebuilt to prevent collapse. The previously excavated furnace would be revealed again and a covered area provided for visiting groups as well as pathways for safe access between the two spillways for visitors. Nature walks would be created in the surrounding woodland and existing ancillary buildings further investigated. Limited car parking for visitors will be required. Interpretation of the site, explaining the history and technical aspects of the industry would be located at appropriate positions.
The Friends of the Fernhurst Furnace Trust
The Trust looks to a growing body of Friends for financial, practical and moral support. If you would like to be kept informed of the Fernhurst Furnace Trust’s continuing works or would like to be involved and offer your support to the Trust by becoming a Friend, please send your name, address, email and telephone number to:
The Secretary, Fernhurst Furnace Trust, c/o Vanlands, Van Common, Fernhurst, GU27 3NW, England.