Following on from Tim Smith’s article in Newsletter 77 on the painting of ironworks by the artist Herri met de Bles that hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Grohmann Museum of the School of Engineering in Milwaukee, USA, has a collection of paintings of people in work situations. The collection includes two paintings by Marten van Valckenborch (1534-1612) which show furnaces and forges probably in the Meuse valley of southern Belgium.
Marten and his brother Lucas produced many paintings of similar scenes with ironworks as either the main subject or merely as features in the landscape.
WIRG’s experimental bloomery at Pippingford and its display at the Fernhurst Furnace Open Weekend were featured in an item on ITV’s local news broadcast by Meridian on 13 October 2022.
WIRG members Tim Smith, Jeremy Hodgkinson, Judie English and Jonathan Prus were interviewed during filming which took place on consecutive weekends in early September. The video sequence and accompanying text can be accessed here.
In a move towards greater authenticity in our smelting experiments at Pippingford Park we have switched from our vortex blower, which supplies a constant flow of air, to an electrically driven reciprocating pump kindly denoted to WIRG by Peter Crew who conducted numerous experimental smelts using this in North Wales. Designed and built by Roger Miles, using a section of mains water pipe as the cylinder and a motor from a washing machine, the reciprocating pump better simulates blowing with bellows. This would have been the method used in early times, but requires a number of fit personnel to supply air for the duration of a day’s smelt.
Our latest smelt revealed both the change in colour of the flame as reduction takes place with the flame at the start being yellow and luminous as carbon monoxide is burning away, then fades to a more transparent flame as the ore consumes carbon monoxide during reduction. The flame returns to a luminous state during ‘burn down’ once all the ore has been reduced.
A temperature profile during the smelt shows a general fall in temperature while reduction takes place, as this is an endothermic (takes heat) reaction. This is best seen following the red line which is the thermocouple in the hotter position, closest to the reduction region.
A TV reporter from Meridian News filmed part of the smelt, interviewing me, and also Jeremy Hodgkinson, Jonathan Prus and Judie English the following weekend at the Fernhurst Open Day. You can see the filmed sequence HERE
Our final smelt for the season is scheduled for Saturday 8 October. Should you wish to come, but the weather forecast be wet, check with Tim (01403 710148) on the Friday evening to see if we have had to postpone.
Click HERE to see a short video of the different stages of the smelt (66.3Mb -Be patient!).
Our sponsored PhD student Ethan Greenwood is planning his post-doctoral project, which will look further into Roman sites in the Weald. In these restricted times it will not be possible for him to call on prospective owners of sites to seek access to them, so he is appealing to WIRG members for help in identifying who owns some of these sites.
Details of the Roman sites can be found by following THIS LINK.
If you know a person who owns one or more of these sites, please pass on their contact details (address, phone number or email) to Ethan Greenwood so he can get in touch with them.