FURNHURST FURNACE also known as NORTH PARK FURNACE, LINCHMERE.
2. LINCHMERE: NORTH PARK FURNACE – Excavation and recording 1989.
2a. THE DOCUMENTRY HISTORY OF THE IRONWORKS – Continuing research.
3. LINCHMERE: NORTH PARK FURNACE – Excavation and recording 1992.
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 therefore it has a duty of maintenance.
Independent experts from the Wealden Iron Research Group have confirmed that the site is as well preserved as any in the south of England.
The site has been scheduled by English Heritage under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended, as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. English Heritage List entry number 1021403 refers.
Illustration and Model
Based on the Ironworks at North Park/Fernhurst Furnace
|Illustration of the Fernhurst furnace, painted by M Codd and commissioned by West Sussex County Council.
|Model of the Ironworks made for ‘The Fernhurst Furnace Preservation Group’.
Excavation and recording 1989
The site lies in mature woodland on a small stream forming the boundary of Fernhurst and Linchmere parishes, about 600m south of Lower Lodge Farm. In June a detailed survey and limited excavation was carried out because the wheel race complex was suffering erosion from floodwater and the roots of large trees were damaging the buried remains of the furnace and other features. It was also intended to assess the degree of preservation of the complex with a view to consolidating and displaying the remains as part of an educational trail.
Before excavation, the visible remains consisted of a large pond retained by a dam or bay pierced by two sluices (Fig. 16). The southern sluice, of 18th century ashlar construction, is currently being repaired by the owner, Mr Robin Barnes. The northern sluice, replacing one washed away in 1928, carried water into the wheel race complex of the former ironworks. On the northern bank of the stream the masonry remains of the furnace were visible amongst the trees, and the recent erosion of the sides of the stream had revealed other features in section. To record features in the stream bed, debris was removed from the culvert and tail race, thereby lowering the water level by about 0.6m. This revealed large timbers on which the original bay had been built, and a circular brick-lined structure which partial excavation showed to be a gun-casting pit. A detailed 1:20 drawing of in situ stonework, brick-work and timbers was made.
North of the casting pit lay the furnace, which was about 5m square at the base. Excavation revealed the brick lining of the furnace in place against two of the walls, but nothing remained of the hearth. A small excavation to the west of the furnace, where the bellows would have been situated, revealed the face of a masonry revetting to the pond bay. Detailed analysis of the remains has yet to be completed, but at least three phases of construction could be seen in the wheel pit and tail race, and it may be possible to link constructional phases to the recorded history of the site.
Elements of the ironworks which have still to be located include the boring-place, where cannon were drilled out, which may lie on level ground due east of the furnace, and a possible forge on the south-west bank of the stream, since at one phase there seems to have been provision for two water wheels, one driving the bellows and the other presumably a large hammer.
The site of a shanty town occupied by 18th century ironworkers is known on the north side of the pond, and the nearby minor place-names Furnace Wood and Minepit Copse indicate the source of the charcoal and ore used.
North Park is the best surviving example of an ironworks in West Sussex, and no similar site in the Weald has been consolidated and displayed for the general public. Given the former importance of the industry in south-east England, this is regrettable. At North Park there is relatively easy access by footpaths and bridle paths, the remains are well preserved and the owners are eager to see the site consolidated and displayed. A strong case can be made out for further excavation in 1990 onwards with this as the objective if necessary funds can be obtained.
Chichester District Archaeological Unit
The earliest certain documentary reference is the Lynchmere and Shulbrede Roll for 1615 (W.S.R.O. Cowdray MS.)
‘Item the hommage do present the honorable second Viscount Montague and Thomas Gray, Gent., for buildinge an iron mill on the above said coppiehold called Peerish and for makinge of highwaies through the said ground and for digging myne pius and for makinge of sawe pitts and coale pitts to the great advantage of the tenant to the same”. Since the works had been completed it seems reasonable that 1614 is the year in question. No reference is made to the damming of the stream to form a bay; was this an oversight or because the works had been built on an older site? The first Viscount Montague had considerable interests in iron and the 1574 lists of Ironworks refer to ‘‘one furnace in Haselmore or thereabouts also a furnace called Pophall”. The unnamed furnace has still to be identified but may be North Park. The site could also have been one of the unnamed ironworks in Anthony Viscount Montague’s will of 1592 (PROPROB 11/81/22).
In 1632, W.S.R.O. 38663 for Vanlands (part of the Hollist Estate) Montague to Robert Shotter grants William Yalden the ironmaster the right to take wood, timber, underwood and coals. In 1643 William Yalden, Steward to Viscount Montague had leased Northpark. It is not clear whether this included the furnace but Yalden operated several sites. In 1659 he became M.P. for Midhurst.
Northpark is known to have been operative in 1653 and in 1660 is shown in a clear map (W.S.R.O. Cowdray 1640) but in a 1664 list is described as ruined. Stent’s map of 1680 shows the pond in water. W.S.R.O. Cowdray 96 dated 1683/4 itemised carriage of iron to Pophole lists names of carriers several of which correspond with those of adjoining landholders to Northpark furnace but the source of the iron is not recorded.
In the eighteenth century papers from the Hollist collection (W.S.R.O. 38663/7 and specifically 38666) refer to rights to take ore and myne; these documents are dated 1708 to 1712. W.S.R.O.38664 of 1712 a Court Baron of Lynchmere states the right of the Cowdray Estate to take iron ore for the furnace built on Hatch Hill (i.e. Northpark Furnace). The 1717 Iron List does not refer to Northpark and Budgen’s map of 1724 does not indicate the site but then it misses out other notable features in the vicinity.
E.S.R.O. S.A.C.RF15/25 refers to John Butler buying 18 lb guns in 1738. The Butler family had lived at Stanley Farm in Fernhurst for three generations and he was a careful and astute businessman with iron interests in various sites. Butler worked with a partner named Eade for some years. Eade’s christian name is not given but contemporary with this is the partnership of Jonathan Eade and William Wilton, suppliers of government ordnance. They seemed to have purchased guns from other founders including Fullers (Heathfield Furnace) and William Clutton (Gravetye Furnace). A link between Butler and Eade & Wilton would explain Butler’s gunfounding business and the absence of his name from the transactions of the Board of Ordnance. Difficulties were encountered in finding skilled workers and according to the “Butler Family Memoir” of 1815 Butler brought craftsmen from the north country. His purpose in 1738 of purchasing guns must have been to fulfil an order. The family memoir refers to his starting work in the iron industry in his middle years during the wars with Spain and with America. In 1729 the war with Spain was over and the Jenkins Ear episode occurred in 1739. Butler became very rich on the proceeds of his business. He purchased the Chiltley Estate in Liphook with the proceeds of one blast and several other valuable estates in the neighbourhood.
W.S.R.O. Cowdray 1443 of 1769 is a 21 year lease with seven year options to Joseph Wright and Thomas Prickett and refers to John Butler as the previous tenant of Northpark and Pophole. Wright & Prickett were gunfounders and were based at Southwark. W.S.R.O. Cowdray 1664 of the year 1775 is a map which shows the working sluices to Furnace Pond and the water system serving it from due north.
In that year a James Goodyer of Guildford takes on the tenancy of Northpark with Pophole. He went bankrupt in 1777 and he had a lease of Abinger Hammer from 1766-80. One of the assignees of his bankruptcy was Richard Crawshay, a London ironmonger who had a connection with a large gunfounding business in South Wales. It is not yet known if this is significant to the history of Northpark.
In 1776 the Carron Ironworks of Falkirk, after a long struggle to produce guns which were not only as good and reliable as those made of Sussex iron but also cheaper finally secured the Naval Contracts and iron-making in Sussex effectively came to an end. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser of 13th January, 1777 carries an advertisement for the sale of Northpark together with Pophole. It is not yet known for sure when Northpark finally ceased but by 1785 the title papers in the Hollist Collection no longer contain iron industry related clauses (W.S.R.O. Add. MS 38665).
Acknowledgements and thanks.
Historical Notes on Linch and Woolbeding, Sussex. Unpublished typescript written by Louise Cochrane, author of Linch and its Iron Resources (S.A.C. Vol CV – 1967). My thanks to Miss Cochrane for allowing me to borrow her notes.
Mr Jeremy Hodgkinson of the Wealden Iron Research Group for supplying me with information about the later eighteenth century iron founders.
Mr Laurence Giles of Bramshott & Liphook Preservation Society for assistance with information about John Butler in particular.
Carla Barnes, Vanlands, Van Common, Fernhurst, Haslemere, Surrey, GU27 3NW.
Images from the 1989 Survey
|Fig.16 North Park furnace site plan, 1989.
|Fig.17 North Park survey and excavation, 1989.
|VIII. North Park furnace. The site from the east.
|IV. North Park furnace. The 18th Century overflow sluice.
Source: The Archaeology of Chichester & District 1989,
Published by Chichester District Council, (Archaeology Advisory Unit).
Excavation and recording 1992
The limited excavations carried out in 1989 were to have been followed by a further investigation in 1990, but resources did not permit it. In order to protect the brickwork of the furnace base from frost damage and weathering, the remains had been covered with straw and tarpaulins but this was not adequate for long-term preservation. In the autumn of 1992 the area was covered by a permeable polythene membrane and backfilled with sand. The time allocated for this work proved to be over-generous, and the opportunity was taken to investigate a further area of the site where a scatter of roofing tiles indicated a building to the east of the furnace. This was similarly backfilled after recording.
The 1992 site was in an area of large trees, some of which were growing through the remains. The scatter of tiles sealed a very thin layer of soil above an extensive brick floor which was of several phases of construction, and which may represent two buildings and a yard. At the western end of the area was a sub-circular raised hearth (101) constructed of Greensand, its east side bonded into a north-south stone wall (102) faced with brick forming the east wall of a building, and its north side forming part of the north wall. Butted up to the hearth was a brick floor (105) bounded by a drainage gully (117) on the west. There was no certain trace of a wall footing here, so the building may have been open-sided. Its southern limit was not determined, but the room was at least 4m long. To the south of the raised hearth the brick floor originally incorporated a hearth at floor level made of bricks set on edge (106). This was replaced by a second raised hearth (104) similar to (101) but made of bricks. Outside the building, butted up to the wall (102), was a short brick wall (111) which, although a secondary feature, may be associated with the early hearth (101). Since the hearth was exposed but not excavated the function of the wall is unclear.
Adjoining the north-east corner of the first building was a well-laid brick floor (108) bounded on the north, west and south by a narrow stone wall foundation (107,110) and incorporating a gully (109) one brick wide at its western end, formed by sinking a row of bricks about 50mm below the general floor level. The structure measured roughly 2.1m by 7.5m internally, and had a drainage gully similar to 117 at its eastern end.
To the south of wall 107 was a further area of brick floors. Next to wall 102 was a small area of badly pitted bricks laid east-west (112) 0.8m wide and at least 1.2m long. Next to it was a larger brick-paved area (113) bounded on the east by a beam-slot (115). Beyond this was a small area of square tiles with a further beam-slot (116) marking its eastern edge, beyond which was a very small area of disturbed bricks perhaps representing further paving.
The area south of wall 107 and east of wall 102, characterised by irregularly laid brick and tile surfaces, may be interpreted as a paved yard. The badly disturbed area of 113 occurs in the middle of the building represented by floor 108 and could indicate the site of a doorway. The tiled floor 114 and beam slots (115, 116) may constitute a fuel bunker or something of that nature, as may the brick floor 112 to the west, which is of identical width. The date of the area’s use was indicated by a coin of George III (1733) found on top of the brick paving 113. Of the two buildings identified, the structure represented by floor 105 seems to be earlier both on stratigraphic grounds and because of the more extensive use of Greensand. It plainly had a specialised function but its precise nature is unclear. The hearths could perhaps suggest a smithy. The long, narrow building represented by floor 108 must also have had a distinctive function but its use is uncertain.
South of the tail-race a trench was dug on the line of a timber-lined drain (15) noted in 1989 protruding from the eroded bank of the stream. The trench, sited 4m south of the stream, was dug through layers of hard-packed redeposited clay and slag. In the base of the trench was found an iron grid set in a brick surround. Further erosion of the south bank of the stream since 1989 had revealed additional floors and walls which were added to the drawn section. These must represent buildings which had gone out of use before the final phase of the furnace’s operation.
In the Annual Report for 1989 it was stated that a long-term aim of the project was to consolidate and display the remains of the furnace. In the current financial climate, this ambition is as far away as ever. However, the problem of site erosion which inspired our initial recording of the furnace persists, and the only medium-term solution seems to be to divert some of the overflow via the southern sluice. The stonework of this part of the pond bay has been stabilised as an interim measure, but it will require a considerable outlay before the southern sluice can be made operative again.
Chichester District Archaeological Unit
Images from the 1992 Survey
|Fig.18 North Park furnace, Linchmere. Site plan (1992)..
|Fig19 North Park furnace, Linchmere. Plan of 1992 site.
|IX. Linchmere: North Park furnace 1992. The raised hearths 101 (left) and 104 from the west.
Source: The Archaeology of Chichester & District 1992,
Published by Chichester District Council (Archaeology Advisory Unit).