One-Minute Essays
Charlcote Furnace, Shropshire

Charlcote NW
Charlcote furnace, from the 17th century, now sits in a farmers' horse pasture.

Charlcote NW
On the left, the blowing arch, where bellows once pumped air into the stack...

Charlcote W
Although showing the ravages of time, its massive solidity still appears under the ivy.

Charlcote W
And the casting arch, where the molten iron could be tapped out onto the hearth where it would run into shallow troughs cut into the sandy floor.
These views of the furnace show what a remarkable state of preservation it is in for a nearly 400-year old furnace. It was clearly square with very near-to-perpendicular sides. It is not perfectly clear which was the blowing arch and which was the casting arch, although likely the northwest arch (leftmost picture above) was the blowing arch. No trace of the blowing equipment or even the raceway that presumably powered the waterwheel for the blowing engine is visible today. The furnace is made of laid cut sandstone with iron header bars to support the arches.

Charlcote - humanscale
Although the ground level is a little higher than it was when the furnace was in operation, you can see that it was not a mammoth structure. The wooden beams are not original but have been added for stability.

Charlcote - stack
Looking up into the stack from the tapping arch. The stack is lined with a mortar and is perhaps 6 feet in diameter near the bottom, tapering to only 3 near the top, some 15 feet above the current ground level.

Charlcote - headers
On the blowing arch side, you can see the two iron header bars that support the weight of the stone above.

Charlcote - headerbar
The corner of the header bar has an interesting square cross-section. Presumably the moulder knew that the end should be square to fit in the masonry, but beveled the midsection both to save iron and avoid skinned heads!
  • You can see the size of this substantial furnace at the left.
  • Looking up into the stack from the casting arch (the top is covered to prevent erosion and as a safety measure)
  • There are two header bars made of cast iron over the blowing arch, which allows the masonry to taper outward from the bottom of the furnace to the bosh (the widest part of the inside of the furnace)
  • On one end of the main header bar over the casting arch, the cast iron has been formed into a square section, although you can see the foresight of the foundrymen in that they beveled it over the rest of its length - this reduced weight and the valuable iron, and also likely saved a good number of scraped scalps over the years.

Charlcote - hand
In the header bar on the tapping arch, the founder pressed his hand into the sand mold for the bar to leave his symbol for future generations...

Charlcote - handbar
... or was it his mischevious child who has left us this record 3 centuries later?

On the streamside of Charlcote furnace, numerous trees grow in the massive slag piles that cover the site. Some slag piles are 10 feet tall and 40 feet by 10 feet in area, and they extend for 80 yards in three directions.

Charlcote - slag
An example of a huge lump of slag in the pasture. Although most pieces are the size of peas or at most an orange, some huge pieces still remain.
Left two photos: It is fascinating to note that, when you look closely at the main header bar over the casting arch, you can see that a foundryman - or foundry boy, more likely, given the size - has put his hand into the sand mold for the bar before casting, thus preserving his hand for posterity.

Right two photos:Today the furnace sits quietly in the middle of a horse paddock, although lightly fenced off from the horses. Trees have grown up on the slag piles that surround the entire site and slag of all sizes (like the breadbox-sized one protruding from the ground at the right).