A smelt using the new reciprocating blower

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.

Tim Smith

Click HERE to see a short video of the different stages of the smelt (66.3Mb -Be patient!).


Excavating at Great Park Wood

A Romano-British bloomery smelting site at Udimore in East Sussex, dated to the 2nd century AD, is currently under investigation.

Further dig dates for 2024 are Saturday 13 July and Saturday 2o July, starting at 10.00am.

The above dates are weather dependent. The base of our main trench is about 1.8 m below ground level because we have had to remove over a metre of hill wash before we encounter the layers associated with iron-making. The trench acts as a sump whenever it rains and is slow to drain naturally. We have to resort to a pump to remove water and then leave the trench for a few days to dry before archaeology is possible. In addition the exceptional rainfall over the past six months has raised the local water table so that the dryer trenches have water oozing into them. Sun and a gentle breeze are much needed.

For further details contact Bob Turgoose or 01424 882657


Smelting at Pippingford

The group carries out experiments in a bloomery furnace similar to those that were operated in the Weald from pre-Roman times until the end of the Middle Ages.

The smelting programme has finished for the year and will resume in 2024, when further details will be posted here.

The number of regular smelting team members has diminished and new members are sought. Smelts usually take place once a month from the Spring to the Autumn. If you would like to become part of the regular team please contact Tim Smith by e-mail secretary@wealdeniron.org.uk or Tel: 01403 710148.

The site is in Pippingford Park TQ 4382 3074 (off the A22: heading from Wych Cross, 1.5 miles S, entrance on left at beginning of layby; or approx. 3 miles N of Nutley – entrance on right at N end of layby – map can be supplied on request).

Help Needed – Who owns Roman sites?

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.