Medieval Iron Workings

Located at the northern end of RavenscliffeWoods, straddling Fagley Beck, once stood a medieval iron works. At this point the stream was dammed to provide a head of water, which was used to power drop hammers. Charcoal for heating the metal was made from wood collected from the surrounding woodland. The smith was obliged to gain permission from the Calverley family, who owned the woodland, and in 1377 documents from the Calverley Estate show that he was indeed given permission to fell a given number of trees.

It is quite likely that the iron-makers in Ravenscliffe Wood used a bloomery to smelt iron from its oxides. The structure comprises a chimney as shown in the picture above or a pit which had heat resistant walls of earth, stone or clay. Pipes  (Tuyeres) made of metal or clay allowed air to enter from the sides into the base of the furnace. The air came in by natural draft or was forced with bellows or a trompe. The latter is a simple device that uses water power to create compressed air which can be used as required. By damming Fagley beck a sufficient head of water could have been created to operate a trompe.

Charcoal and crushed iron ore are added to the top of the bloomery in a ratio of approximately one to one. Under the intense heat created by burning charcoal with air forced through it, the carbon monoxide from the incomplete combustion of the charcoal reduces the iron oxide ore to metallic iron without melting the ore. Small particles of iron produced this way gravitate to the bottom of the bloomery and form a spongy mass called the bloom. This bloom is porous and the open spaces are full of slag (Impurities). To create the bar iron, the bloom is extracted and then reheated and beaten with a hammer to drive the molten slag out. The end result is wrought iron.

A medieval bloomery in full swing

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West Leeds Country Park Part 3 - Apperley Bridge to Woodhall Lake