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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

And as a natural consequence Cinderford sank


"In

the Forest of Dean and thereabouts the iron is made at this day of cinders, being the rough and offal thrown by in the Romans' time; they then having only foot blasts to melt the ironstone, but now, by the force of a great wheel that drives a pair of bellows twenty feet long, all that iron is extracted out of the cinders, which could not be forced from it by the Roman foot blast. And in the Forest of Dean and thereabouts, and as high as Worcester, there are great and infinite quantities of these cinders; some in vast mounts above ground, some under ground, which will supply the iron-works some hundreds of years, and these cinders are they which make the prime and best iron, and with much less charcoal than doth the ironstone . . . Let there be one ton of this bar-iron made of Forest ironstone, and 20 pounds will be given for it."

According to a paper examined by Mr. Mushet, and referring probably to the year 1720 or 1730, the iron-making district of the Forest of Dean contained ten blast furnaces, viz. six in Gloucestershire, three in Herefordshire, and one at Tintern, making their total number just equal to that of the then iron-making district of Sussex. In Mr. Taylor's map of Gloucestershire, published in 1777, iron furnaces, forges, or engines are indicated at Bishopswood, Lydbrook, The New Wear, Upper Red Brook, Park End, Bradley, and Flaxley. Yet only a small portion of the mineral used at these works was obtained from the Dean Forest

mines, if we may judge from the statement made by Mr. Hopkinson, in 1788, before the Parliamentary Commissioners, to the effect that "there is no regular iron-mine work now carried on in the said Forest, but there were about twenty-two poor men who, at times when they had no other work to do, employed themselves in searching for and getting iron mine or ore in the old holes and pits in the said Forest, which have been worked out many years." Such a practice is well remembered by the aged miners, the chief part of the ore used coming by sea from Whitehaven. Thus Mr. Mushet represents, "at Tintern the furnace charge for forge pig iron was generally composed of a mixture of seven-eighths of Lancashire iron ore, and one-eighth part of a lean calcareous sparry iron ore from the Forest of Dean, called flux, the average yield of which mixture was fifty per cent of iron. When in full work, Tintern Abbey charcoal furnace made weekly from twenty-eight to thirty tons of charcoal forge pig iron, and consumed forty dozen sacks of charcoal; so that sixteen sacks of charcoal were consumed in making one ton of pigs." This furnace was, he believes, "the first charcoal furnace which in this country was blown with air compressed in iron cylinders."

The year 1795 marks the period when the manufacture of iron was resumed in the Forest by means of pit coal cokes at Cinderford, the above date being preserved on an inscription stone in No. 1 furnace. "The conductors of the work succeeded," in the words of Mr. Bishop, communicated to the Author, "as to fact, and made pig iron of good quality; but from the rude and insufficient character of their arrangements, they failed commercially as a speculation, the quantity produced not reaching twenty tons per week. The cokes were brought from Broadmoor in boats, by a small canal, the embankment of which may be seen at the present day. The ore was carried down to the furnaces on mules' backs, from Edge Hill and other mines. The rising tide of iron manufacture in Wales and Staffordshire could not fail to swamp such ineffectual arrangements, and as a natural consequence Cinderford sank."


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