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Sherracombe Ford during late stages of excavation in 2003

Shircombe Slade iron smelting workshops: stone-built setting with central clay-lined furnace and in situ final run of tap slag

Exmoor Iron

Dr Gill Juleff

Exmoor Iron is a multi-disciplinary, multi-period, multi-site exploration of the impact of past iron production on the environmental and cultural landscapes of Exmoor. The fieldwork component of the project took place between 2002 and 2006 and was funded by English Heritage and was run in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority and the National Trust (Holnicote Estate). Directed by Dr Gill Juleff, excavations took place on four large iron smelting sites, a mining site and a woodland charcoal-burning platform.

The sites span from the late Iron Age/Romano-British period to the post-medieval and witness a continuum in exploitation of high-grade local iron ores, which extends into the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Major excavations, at Sherracombe Ford on the southern edge of the moor, revealed a Roman period workshop complex comprising furnace structures surrounding an extensive central smithing floor of compacted slag residues trampled underfoot during the primary forging of probably hundreds of iron blooms.

At another smelting site in Blacklake Wood evidence for subsidiary activities including ore collection and roasting, and charcoal storage was recorded. A medieval period smelting site in the Barle valley demonstrated the development of permanent stone structures for both furnaces and workshops. 

A feature of the iron production sites of Exmoor are their exceptional preservation. Fieldwork is now complete and the project is in its analysis and interpretation phase.

Visit the BBC's feature on the project.