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HER Number:MDV103390
Name:Iron and Copper Working Site in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton

Summary

Ausewell Wood contains remarkable evidence of late 16th/early 17th to early 19th century metal mining and processing. The evidence shows two distinct phases with an early phase of iron smelting followed by a later phase of copper mining and ore-processing. The present remains include a leat, wheelpits, furnace and the foundations of several buildings and structures. Excavation in 1999 revealed a number of finds.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 726 713
Map Sheet:SX77SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishAshburton
DistrictTeignbridge
Ecclesiastical ParishASHBURTON

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Late 16th/early 17th to early 19th century iron and copper working site in Ausewell Woods, Ashburton including a leat, wheelpits, furnace and the foundations of several buildings and structures

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX 77 SW 13
  • Pastscape: 445279
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • IRON WORKS (XVI to XVIII - 1501 AD to 1800 AD)
  • COPPER WORKING SITE (XVIII to XIX - 1701 AD to 1900 AD)

Full description

Amery, J. S., 1924, (Presidential Address) The Ashburton of past days: its manners, customs and inhabitants, 95-6 (Article in Serial). SDV315287.

Iron mill. Position of mill located on a map of Ashburton Manor dated 1605. Two buildings are shown on the southern most of the three islets on the Dart, north-west of Ashburton and directly west of Hepstock Rock. The eastern watercourse appears to be a leat with the river on the west side of the mill.


Hedley, L. and Cranstone, D., 1995, Monuments Protection Programme, Zink, Copper, Minor Metals, Step Three: The Copper Industry, Introduction to Step 3 Assessments, 18 (Report - non-specific). SDV357718.

11. Ausewell Wood Mine SX 727 710.
Definite national importance.


Newman, P., 1998, Ausewell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex (Report - Survey). SDV350775.


Lancaster University Archaeological Unit, 1998, Iron and Steel Industries, Monument Protection Programme (MPP), Introduction to Site Assessments (Report - Assessment). SDV362922.

The site is believed to include an extensive complex of iron smelting and mining remains.
Given the rarity of iron smelting sites within the National Park and the proximity of other important industrial remains the site is important and may retain remains which warrant statutory protection.


Juleff, G., 2000, Iron Smelting in Ausewell Wood: Evaluation Excavation and Quantitative Sampling of Slag Deposits, 4-18 (Report - Interim). SDV361169.

The site comprises a long and substantial stone-lined leat fed from the river at the northern extreme of the site. This leat runs along the eastern edge of the site and serves a series of shorter east-west channels that connect the leat with the river. Associated with these channels are a number of remnant structures including stone-line wheel-pits, retaining walls, buildings and, at the southern end of the site, the well-preserved lower portion of an iron-smelting blast furnace.
10 days of fieldwork carried out in 1999 (alongside a geophysical survey) intended to examine the nature of the deposits of the slag heap and characterise this material to help interpret metal-working sites.
The fieldwork revealed a far more complex sequence of primary and disturbed slag and charcoal deposits overlaying well-used working surfaces than expected. A date of early-mid 17th century is suggested from the pottery finds. Further work suggested to resolve unanswered questions. See report for full detail.


Substrata Ltd, 2001, A Gradiometer Survey over part of Auswell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex, Ashburton (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV350774.

Gradiometer survey carried out on the site of an ore processing and smelting complex in Ausewell Wood in order to progress the work begun in 1999 and refine the techniques used. The survey was conducted on three of the four northernmost grids originally surveyed in 1999. Several potential archaeological features were recorded including an in-situ furnace site (Feature E), a possible deposit of ferrous-rich material such as furnace lining, waste materials or iron (g25) and a possible working platform (g29).


Phillpotts, Dr. C., 2003, Ausewell Wood, Devon: Documentary Research Report (Report - non-specific). SDV359635.

The metal working site lay within the lands of Ausewell which emerged as a separate unit from the parent manor of Ashburton in the mid 16th century. The significance of the metal working at Ausewell Wood lies in its representation of the transition from bloomery smelting of iron to the use of blast furnaces.


National Monuments Record, 2007, Archaeological Survey Catalogue - Ashburton (Report - non-specific). SDV363063.


Passmore, M., January 2000, Iron Working on Dartmoor (Article in Serial). SDV300000.

Excavation at the metal working complex showed evidence of two types of iron smelting slag, remains of buildings, blast furnace, leats and areas associated with copper and tin ore processing. Stratigraphy showed bloomery slag below the topsoil and covering a site wide charcoal layer. In one area the charcoal overlay blast furnace type slag. Charcoal was sent for radiocarbon dating and samples for particle count analysis.


Substrata Ltd, March 2000, A Gradiometer Survey over part of Auswell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex, Ashburton (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV299994.

Gradiometer survey carried out on the site of an old, disused ore processing and smelting complex in Ausewell Wood in order firstly to investigate the potential of gradiometer surveys across sites with complex magnetic signatures and secondly to find potential furnace sites and other possible archaeological features. The survey determined the extent of the slag deposits in the northern part of the area. It also identified two sites (A and B) with magnetic signatures characteristic of furnaces. Sites C and D also displayed these signatures but are less convincing. A number of other potential archaeological features were also recorded including the remains of a building (d1-d4), the leat known to run broadly north-south down the site (e1-e2) and several linear features associated with buildings.


Crombie, D. S., May 1982, Ironworking at Ausewell Wood, East Dartmoor, Devon (Undergraduate Dissertation). SDV350732.

Iron working site in Ausewell Wood shown on a map of 1605. The site occupies a flat stretch of land, some 600 metres long, bounded by the River Dart and Cleft and Hepstock Rocks. A leat runs down the east side of the site, taken off the river immediately south of a small island, and which at one time supplied, although probably not contemporaneously, eight channels and associated wheel pits, aligned east-west. From north to south the surviving remains comprise an old, shallow, eroded channel, a pair of channels with a small building aligned east-west on a raised promontory between them. The northernmost channel flows around this promontory to enter the river at the same point as the southern channel. To the south of these two channels is a slag heap and beyond this the foundations of a rectangular structure, aligned north-south. A little to the south are the remains of four wheelpits with a section of low masonry between the second and third pits. The fourth wheelpit is in front of the furnace with slag heaps to either side. To the south of the furnace are what appear to be the remains of two structures and some 2-3 metres south of these the ruins of a rectangular building with a small annex. The building is on the north side of a large, flat, rectangular area defined by a low bank.
Two additional features, in the form of trenches in an ‘H’ and ‘V’ shape respectively are considered to be unrelated to the iron works and it is suggested they may be related to military use of the area.
It was noted that the slag in the northern most heap is of a different character to that in the heaps adjacent to the furnace which may be due to different processes or to the production of iron at different times.


Page, K. N., May 2004, The Geology of the Ausewell Wood Mine and Mineral Processing Complex, Holne, Devon (Report - Scientific). SDV351098.

Ausewell Woods contains remarkable evidence of early 17th to early 19th century metal mining and processing. The evidence shows two distinct phases with an early phase of iron smelting followed by a later phase of copper mining and ore-processing, although the exact nature of the relationship between the two phases is unclear. The nature and source of the ore that was processed is also uncertain although it has been suggested that the source was the large area of open mine workings around Cleft Rock. However, documentation indicates that these were the source of copper ores. There is no confirmed evidence of iron production from this area. A geological survey was commissioned, therefore, in order to better understand the geological context of the mining and processing at this site.
The site was found to contain a wide range of geological and geomorphological features several of which are considered to be of at least county significance. These include exposures of a Carboniferous mudstone-sandstone sequence historically assigned to the Crackington Formation but likely to represent an earlier formation, a quartz-tourmaline complex which is exposed around Raven Rock and the open gunnisses of Cleft Rock. While the mineralisation of the latter is not considered to be unusual their orientation is and is potentially indicative of pre-granite intrusion. The mineral veins in the woodland are sulphide rich and as analysis of the iron slag showed no trace of copper it is unlikely that the source of iron ore was Cleft Rock. It is suggested, therefore, that the most likely scenarios for the source of iron ores being processed in Ausewell Woods are either that imported haematite was used or that a local deposit was initially processed which led to the establishment of bloomery smelting and that the slag was re-processed in a blast furnace supplemented by imported material. The site is located on a natural, relict river terrace which provided a level platform for working above normal flood levels and underlain by material soft enough to allow relatively easy excavation for leats and wheel pits. The branch of the river channel to the north provided a suitable point from which to take the main leat and the surrounding woodland provided an ample supply of charcoal for fuelling the furnaces.


Gale, R., post 2000, Ausewell Wood, Ashburton, Dartmoor. The Analysis of Charcoal Excavated from Slag Heap 1 (Report - Scientific). SDV351086.

Analysis of charcoal recovered during excavations undertaken in 1999 and 2000. Coppiced oak predominated but other species such as birch, hazel and holly were also present. The charcoal was almost certainly produced on site at the charcoal burning platforms on the adjacent hillsides. The ratio of oak to the other species is probably directly related to their distribution in the environment.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV299994Report - Geophysical Survey: Substrata Ltd. March 2000. A Gradiometer Survey over part of Auswell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex, Ashburton. Substrata Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV300000Article in Serial: Passmore, M.. January 2000. Iron Working on Dartmoor. Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 75. Paperback Volume.
SDV315287Article in Serial: Amery, J. S.. 1924. (Presidential Address) The Ashburton of past days: its manners, customs and inhabitants. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 56. Unknown. 95-6.
SDV350732Undergraduate Dissertation: Crombie, D. S.. May 1982. Ironworking at Ausewell Wood, East Dartmoor, Devon. University of Exeter Dissertation. A4 Bound. [Mapped feature: #62868 ]
SDV350774Report - Geophysical Survey: Substrata Ltd. 2001. A Gradiometer Survey over part of Auswell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex, Ashburton. Substrata Report. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV350775Report - Survey: Newman, P.. 1998. Ausewell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex. Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England Archaeological Survey. Unknown.
SDV351086Report - Scientific: Gale, R.. post 2000. Ausewell Wood, Ashburton, Dartmoor. The Analysis of Charcoal Excavated from Slag Heap 1. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV351098Report - Scientific: Page, K. N.. May 2004. The Geology of the Ausewell Wood Mine and Mineral Processing Complex, Holne, Devon. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV357718Report - non-specific: Hedley, L. and Cranstone, D.. 1995. Monuments Protection Programme, Zink, Copper, Minor Metals, Step Three: The Copper Industry, Introduction to Step 3 Assessments. English Heritage. A4 Bound. 18.
SDV359635Report - non-specific: Phillpotts, Dr. C.. 2003. Ausewell Wood, Devon: Documentary Research Report. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV361169Report - Interim: Juleff, G.. 2000. Iron Smelting in Ausewell Wood: Evaluation Excavation and Quantitative Sampling of Slag Deposits. University of Exeter. Digital. 4-18.
SDV362922Report - Assessment: Lancaster University Archaeological Unit. 1998. Iron and Steel Industries, Monument Protection Programme (MPP), Introduction to Site Assessments. Historic England. A4.

Associated Monuments

MDV7967Parent of: Furnace at Ironworking Site in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton (Monument)
MDV30876Parent of: Slag Heap in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton (Monument)
MDV30877Parent of: Slag Heap in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton (Monument)
MDV8014Related to: Ausewell Mine or Wheal Hazel Copper Mine, Ausewell Wood (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV6800 - BOWL (XVI to XVIII - 1550 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV6801 - JUG (XVI to XVII - 1550 AD to 1650 AD)
  • FDV6799 - BOWL (XVI to XVII - 1580 AD? to 1700 AD)
  • FDV6802 - METAL WORKING DEBRIS (XVII to XVIII - 1650 AD to 1750 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV6088 - Survey of Ironworking Site in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton
  • EDV6130 - Gradiometer Survey over part of Ausewell Wood Ore Proccessing and Smelting Complex (Ref: R-AUS99-2009)
  • EDV6131 - Gradiometer Survey over part of Ausewell Wood Ore Processing and Smelting Complex (Ref: R-AUS00-3105)
  • EDV6090 - Gradiometer Survey in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton
  • EDV7543 - Excavation and sampling of slag deposits in Ausewell Wood
  • EDV8114 - Survey of the ore processing site in Ausewell Wood (Ref: AF1183450)

Date Last Edited:Jun 18 2019 2:58PM