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The Duddon ironworks, A remarkable survivor

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Duddon iron foundry


Everyday on my commute to work I cross the river Duddon at the top of the estuary before diving into Smithywood and starting the climb up Corney Fell. And everyday I pass a couple of national park signs for the Car park for the Duddon furnace lurking in the woods, but to be honest it never realty registered. However with our Brooklyn's  interest growing in anything archaeological I promised to take him to have a look. A cursory look on search engines quickly showed this was going to be interesting. Before I set down to write this I did more research and the National Park and the local historical society kindly let me have the early picture and the drawings to use


So basically it is a 1736 built water powered blast furnace that has survived  almost intact since closure in 1867



a very early photograph


At this time the blast furnaces were charcoal fuelled and there were no less than eight in the local area but the sheer amount of forestry that had to be felled to make the charcoal meant that as larger coke blast furnaces were introduced these small volume plants fell by the wayside


remarkably most of the buildings have stood since then but the condition was deteriorating until it was given grade II listing and declared a scheduled ancient monument ensuring its future. Some sympathetic restoration work was done and information signs placed around the site



As you approach it the size and solid construction is very impressive




The basic principle was quite clever. Built onto the steep banks of the Duddon valley with a pack road beside it raw materials were taken by horse drawn cart to the charcoal, limestone and iron ore storage sheds which are level with the top of the stack. these were then taken in the right quantities and fed into the top of the furnace. Below was the hearth (now missing) ant the blowing arch where two huge bellows about 17 feet long pumped air into the bottom of the furnace powered by a large water wheel. This was turned by water from a headrace which was at the end of a 'leat' a channel that diverted water from the Duddon




Around the corner was the casting arch where the molten iron and slag were tapped. The iron being cast into pigs. It could produce 10 tons of iron every 12 hours which is pretty impressive for those days


The casting arch



more in a mo'

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The blowing arch




inside the stack




the wheelpit



The casting floor




The furnace mouth




The large Charcoal store





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The large Charcoal store




iron ore store. the only part to have a roof




The leat. All the trees felled for the charcoal are certainly back now



workers bothies. Now private homes



I had never considered how iron was made back in those days but as industrialisation grew. particularly with the growth of tramways for coalmines and quarries and the development of iron hulled ships this place must have been hugely important. At the head of a navigable waterway, raw materials could come in from Lindal and Dalton and the finished product taken out the same way. I said to Brooklyn today that we are going to go back and I'll do a youtube video off it later in the spring


However I have since discovered that just across the river are the remains of a Bobbin Mill and up the former pack road on the way to Whitehaven there are some standing stones! More exploring required


Needless to say as were exploring Brooklyn did his usual trick... find a hole, stick your arm in it!. This pic does give you an idea of how big the casting arch is though





Edited by kevsmiththai
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I love following these adventures of yours. It makes me want to do the same around here. Now that vacation is restricted essentially to my state and the contiguous states, it seems like this might be the perfect time. 

Edited by gavino200
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2 hours ago, kevsmiththai said:

Needless to say as were exploring Brooklyn did his usual trick... find a hole, stick your arm in it!.

every kid has to have their thing!



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There is some truth to that. In normal times I would have been all around the country filming trains but with local lockdown it has given us chance to really get to now where we live.


Our Chelsea has asked me too help Brooklyn to do a short powerpoint presentation on King Henry VIII.


Hmmm, do we have anything with a local connection to the much married tyrant?




Something to do with the dissolution of the monastries?


One of the biggest, richest, most powerful abbeys in England, Furness Abbey, now in ruins. two miles from Brooklyn's house. That ought to do



I don't think I've done the Abbey on this forum so I'll knock a thread together. The railway runs right by it and is a favourite place to film when the light is right



Edited by kevsmiththai
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If you don’t have a copy, it might be worth buying the Ordnance Survey map titled “Ancient Britain”. It covers all of Great Britain and shows (if I recall) every major Saxon, Roman, Iron Bronze and Stone Age site. 


A great way to get some ideas for areas to research, and a decent decoration for an empty wall too

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I wonder how this furnace was preserved. Could it be brought back to life? FYI modern blast furnaces are demolished and rebuilt from scratch when their life cycle is over.

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