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Tudor Smelt House

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Unusually for this project the most substantial evidence for the Tudor Smelt House is documentary evidence; other features have generally been discovered during fieldwork. The Smelt House is identified in a map of 1611 where it is named and illustrated. The map is accurate, having been surveyed for the allocation of leases of parcels of land in the area which occured in 1612, action that leads to the conclusion that mining and smelting had ceased by that time. Little else is known about the smelt house except that it was water powered.

 

"Smelt house" is a term commonly used in the lead industry but the field evidence suggests iron, leading to the possibility that this was a blast furnace, indeed there was no evidence of lead whatsoever until the recent fieldwork on the site when a tiny particle of galena (lead ore) was found together with a single piece of lead slag. There is another site at Dacre Banks (Smelt Mires) one mile away where both iron and lead slags have been found, leading to the conclusion  that both iron and lead had been smelted there. It is quite possible for an iron smelting facility to process lead ore so it may be that it was also done at Dacre, a site that is only six miles from Greenhow where galena is found in abundance and where it has been mined from Roman times (or earlier) until the 20th century.

 

The main archaeological evidence consists of the remains of a wheel pit, the walls of which have been used as the supports for a bridge that seems to have been constructed to provide access to the furnace to enable it to be used for some other purpose. Since the galena was found on the cobble and clay track that crosses the bridge it is possible that lead was being smelted there without the aid of water power after iron smelting ceased, an alternative possibility is its use is for purposes associated with a feldmonger because a house nearby was occupied by such a person eighty years later.

Wheel Pit / Bridge