The Wealden Iron Research Group (WIRG) was founded to focus and initiate research into the extinct iron industry of the Sussex, Kent and Surrey Weald, and aims to foster interest in this subject, to work with other groups and institutions having allied aims and, above all, to publish its researches. In its annual bulletin, Wealden Iron, can be seen the results of this work, together with articles by historians and archaeologists on different aspects of the industry. The group also publishes a twice-yearly Newsletter for its members. One of the original aims of WIRG, to publish a new survey of the industry, has resulted in the new standard reference on the subject, The Iron Industry of the Weald, by Henry Cleere and David Crossley, first published in 1985 and which ran to a second edition in 1995, and contains much of WIRG’s research over the previous 35 years. This book is now out of print but can be downloaded as a digital version (pdf) or borrowed from libraries or purchased second-hand. The Wealden Iron Industry by Jeremy Hodgkinson, for many years chairman of WIRG, published in 2008, is an excellent introduction to the subject. In 1981, the group won the BBC’s Chronicle Award for Archaeology.
Although WIRG is predominantly a loose association of individuals who pursue their own interests and researches, it does have active sections which engage in particular activities. Its Field Group organises a monthly programme of fieldwork between October and April, looking for undiscovered sites, surveying, and carrying out small-scale excavations. Meeting on Saturdays, the forays, as they are called, take place all over the Weald, and a number of projects are in progress; use the events sidebar to find out details. One of these activities is the systematic field walking of an area of the Weald to record all the iron-making sites there. Another group within WIRG undertakes experimental iron smelting at a primitive bloomery furnace on Ashdown Forest, attempting to replicate the products and waste materials of the Iron Age, Roman and medieval iron makers. Members assisted in an experimental smelt for one of the Time Team’s broadcasts (to view a login is required). The group holds two meetings a year, in January/February and in July, with visiting speakers. The summer meeting also includes a site visit. In addition, the group advises archaeological units where iron-related material is being excavated, and has provided information for several television and radio programmes. Some of WIRG’s members are regular lecturers to local societies, and have run adult education courses on the industry. Talks and guided visits to sites for schools can also be arranged.
WIRG is a registered charity managed by its trustees, who are elected annually at its AGM at the summer meeting. A copy of the constitution (PDF) can be downloaded
© Wealden Iron Research Group 2000-19.