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HER Number:MDV7967
Name:Furnace at ironworking site in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton

Summary

The remains of a probable rectangular building are sited on the floor of the broad, east-west gully adjacent to the bloomery slag mound (MDV30876). The building now totally ruined, comprises an earth and loam covered, sub-rectangular mound of tumbled stone, measuring 3.9m wide by an undefined length. Slight vestiges of the inner wall face are visible on the south side, revealed during recent clearance work, which display a rough stone construction incorporating killas and granite, including water-worn boulders. The western end of the structure and its immediate exterior have been disturbed by forestry vehicles. Growing from the northern wall of the building is a tall, mature oak tree with a girth of 2.7m, suggesting an age of at least 150 years. There is no visible evidence to indicate the function of this building. Although a water channel originating from a nearby leat (SX 77 SW 54), runs close by the southern wall, no wheelpit is visible and the position of an entrance or other structural or diagnostic details are not apparent.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 726 711
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: SX77SW53
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1183502
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX77SW/1

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BLOOMERY (XVI to XVII - 1595 AD (Between) to 1615 AD (Between))
  • FURNACE (XVI to XVII - 1595 AD (Between) to 1615 AD (Between))

Full description

Amery, J. S., 1924, (Presidential Address) The Ashburton of past days: its manners, customs and inhabitants, 95-96, Appendix 2, Fig. 2 (Article in Serial). SDV315287.

Plan and section of furnace given.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1960, SX77SW13 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV299997.

Site visit 24th March 1960. The ruins of one furnace are still in existence. Two parallel walls 2.032 metres apart were apparently permanent parts of the smelting-house. Between them was constructed a furnace, inside diameter of 914 millimetres. Local slate was used for the furnace lining. Iron slag was found in the vicinity.
Site visit 2nd August 1960. Centred at SX72707150 is a grass and tree covered complex which may be associated with the iron mill. It consists of a wide cutting extending across the island from a gap in the leat retaining bank on the east side, to the Dart on the west side. Within the cutting are the foundations of a building near the Dart, and adjacent to the sluice gap is a quare mound of earth and stone. The purpose of this is obscure. In the southern side of the cutting there are traces of two tumbled walls at SX72707149 which correspond in size to Amery's description of the furnace. Positive identification could not be made for lack of any orientation on Amery's plan and the fact that no iron slag was visible. The latter may be accounted for by the collection of humus and silt at the site which shows signs of subjection to flooding.

The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Unit, 1985, The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project (Interpretation). SDV340940.

Not visible on Royal Air Force 1946/7 aerial photographs.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1987, List of donations to the Plymouth Museum (Un-published). SDV243606.

Site visit 19th June 1986. Slagged and vitrified stone, possibly furnace lining, lying within the furnace structure.

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

(10/12/1998) The site of bloomery smelting activity in Ausewell Wood is evident from a heap of slag at SX72717148. The heap appears to consist exclusively of iron bloomery slags, including both furnace and tap slags. It is sites to the south of a large artificial channel and is not so much a heap as a spread and the vegetation prevents quantification of its full extent from earthwork evidence alone. Fragments of the slag are also visible on the north side of the channel, though their deposition may be secondary. Two modern vehicle tracts cut through the heap making a evaluation of the dumping regime difficult. Fragments of a wall which indicate the possibility of a structure are visible on the north-west corner of the heap at SX72717149. The remains are almost totally covered with loam and insufficient masonry is visible to determine if this is a building.
The remains of a probable rectangular building are sited on the floor of the broad, east-west gully adjacent to the bloomery slag mound at SX726971?50. The building now totally ruined, comprises an earth and loam covered, sub-rectangular mound of tumbled stone, measuring 3.9m wide by an undefined length. Slight vestiges of the inner wall face are visible on the south side, revealed during recent clearance work, which display a rough-stone construction incorporating killas and granite, including water-worn boulders. The western end of the structure and its immediate exterior have been disturbed by forestry vehicles. Growing from the norther wall of the building is a tall, mature oak tree with a girth of 2.7m, suggesting an age of at least 150 years. There is no visible evidence to indicate the function of this building. Although a water channel originating from a nearby leat (SX 77 SW 54), runs close by the southern wall, no wheelpit is visible and the position of an entrance or other structural or diagnostic details are not apparent.

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

Earthworks indicating the furnace and associated buildings lie in a strip east of the river Dart, with head-race along east edge.
A little-known but important complex, which deserves intensive survey and research.

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

Passmore, M., 2000, Iron Working on Dartmoor, 14 (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, 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).

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, 16-17, 30-34, Figs 8-10 (Undergraduate Dissertation). SDV350732.

Surviving remains comprise two blocks of masonry on either side of a slightly oval crucible. On the inner face of the northern block are the remains of what was probably the shaft wall of the furnace which inclines inwards slightly and is coated with slag debris. It is faced with vitrified blocks of slate.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV243606Un-published: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1987. List of donations to the Plymouth Museum. Unknown.
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.
SDV299997Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1960. SX77SW13. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV300000Article in Serial: Passmore, M.. 2000. Iron Working on Dartmoor. Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 75. Paperback Volume. 14.
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. 95-96, Appendix 2, Fig. 2.
SDV340940Interpretation: The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Unit. 1985. The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project. The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project. Map (Paper).
SDV350732Undergraduate Dissertation: Crombie, D. S.. May 1982. Ironworking at Ausewell Wood, East Dartmoor, Devon. University of Exeter Dissertation. A4 Bound. 16-17, 30-34, Figs 8-10.
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.
SDV361169Report - Interim: Juleff, G.. 2000. Iron Smelting in Ausewell Wood: Evaluation Excavation and Quantitative Sampling of Slag Deposits. University of Exeter. Digital. [Mapped feature: #137789 ]
SDV362922Report - Assessment: Lancaster University Archaeological Unit. 1998. Iron and Steel Industries, Monument Protection Programme (MPP), Introduction to Site Assessments. Historic England. A4.

Associated Monuments

MDV103390Part of: Iron and Copper Working Site in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton (Monument)
MDV8014Related to: Ausewell Mine or Wheal Hazel Copper Mine, Ausewell Wood (Monument)
MDV30876Related to: Slag Heap in Ausewell Wood, Ashburton (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • 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)
  • 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 7 2022 1:23PM