Iron Works Visit 8th September 2001

Furness and the surrounding areas had a flourishing iron industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, based on an abundance of local high-grade iron ore, extensive woodlands to provide the charcoal necessary for iron smelting, and fast-flowing becks to power the iron making processes. After 1711, earlier small-scale, batch-wise production methods were rapidly superseded by the introduction of blast furnace technology and the industry grew in size and importance.  On this outing, led by Messrs. James Price and George Niven, we explored the history and technology of this early iron industry. 


This furnace operated from 1713 to 1806 when it blew up.  Nothing remains of the blast furnace but the charcoal barn and ore store have been restored as a house and garages.

George explains the layout of the site.

Outside the restored ore store.

The ore store before restoration.

The restored charcoal barn.


We stopped here to look at John Wilkinson's monument and to have coffee at the Royal Oak Hotel.

The John Wilkinson monument.  Click on the picture to see an enlargement of the lower portion.

Coffee in the Royal Oak.


This furnace was operational from 1711 until 1967.  Charcoal was used until 1920.

The Backbarrow site.  The blast furnace is on the right.  The charcoal and ore stores are behind it on the other side of the road.

A closer view of the blast furnace.  The casting house lay to the right and the Tuyeres, or air inlet, to the left.

The base of the blast furnace with the outlets for slag and smelted iron.  The lintel has the date 1711.

The Tuyeres.


This furnace was active from the 1730s until 1891.  It is set in a small industrial hamlet.

The blast furnace is the ivy covered structure in the centre background.

The charcoal barn.

The waterwheel and bellows stood on this side of the furnace.

The casting house.  The furnace is currently undergoing restoration.


This furnace operated from 1737 until 1867.  The buildings remained undisturbed and are remarkably complete.  They have been consolidated and the site can be easily and safely explored.

The blast furnace with casting house in front.

Another view of the furnace showing the charging house on top.  Supplies of ore, charcoal and limestone would have been carried by wheelbarrow over a bridge to the charging house and emptied into the top of the furnace.

Tuyeres side of the furnace.

The ore store.

Top of the furnace in the charging house.

Inside the charcoal barn.

The charcoal and ore stores.

Looking up inside the furnace.

Worker's cottage.

And finally... It was a great day for blackberries, and butterflies!