Robertsbridge – Time line

You can find more details of named people from the WIRG Sites and People Database
on the navigation bar above.

16th Century
1539 Sir William Sydney purchases Robertsbridge Abbey on its dissolution.
1539 William Sidney engages Alexander & John Collins – ironmasters at Socknersh – to supervise building of a forge and blast furnace at Robertsbridge and also a blast furnace at Panningridge (about 8 miles SW of Robertsbridge).
Forge was built in advance of furnace and supplied with sows from elsewhere and later Panningridge.
1541 Building of Robertsbridge Furnace commenced and completed. Started to supply sows to forge that summer (no ordnance was cast during the Sidney’s ownership of the estate).
1541 Saxbeche (Saxpes) and Woddye (William Woddy of Battle) supply 21 tons sows to Forge (possibly from Markly Furnace, Rushlake Green) (each sow typically weighed 10cwt).
1542 Panningridge Furnace built for William Sidney about 8 miles SW of Robertsbridge.
1542-3 Hammerman at forge is Bartholomew Collins, younger son of John Collins Snr who was then founder at Robertsbridge Furnace.
1542 Robertsbridge Furnace damaged by flood when bay breached. Extensive rebuilding required.
1542-3 Hammerman at Forge is Bartholomew Collins, younger son of John Collins Snr who was then founder at Robertsbridge Furnace.  
1540s John Trew founder at furnace (probably after John Collins left)
1542-6 Forge supplied by Robertsbridge Furnace.
1543-51 William Hatto (alias Fewtrell) hammersmith at forge.
1546 Robertsbridge Furnace idled until 1573 (27 years). This was possibly due to a high sulphur content in the ore (from CaSO4) which rendered the forged product suitable only for nail making and small items.
For this 27 years the forge was supplied from Panningridge about 8 miles to the SW and from other Wealden furnaces.
1546 List of employees at forge.
1546-63 Panningridge Furnace supplies Forge.
1548 Pot supplied to forge by Charles Polleyn of Buxted – a founder of pots.
1549 Jane Bine (widow of Richard Byne died 1549, a Frenchman working for William Sidney at the forge) taxed until 1551 (unusual for a woman to be taxed beyond the year of her husband’s death).
1550 Hugh Collins employs Hugh Marchant as finer at forge.
1553 Estate passes to Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586), son of William
1554 New huts purchased for forge
1560s Sir Henry Sidney employs ‘Dutch’ (German) ironmaster to make steel. (They prefer to use Welsh haematite iron to Wealden.)
1563 Sidneys relinquish lease of Panningridge.
1563 Panningridge Furnace leased by William Relf and Bartholomew Jeffrey.
1564 Sidneys bring in more German workers to make steel at forge.
1564 Henry Sidney leases a blast furnace in Glamorgan in partnership with Ralf Knight and Edmund Roberts (London ironmonger) to provide iron as plate to Robertsbridge for conversion to steel and wire.
1565 Two steelworks set up, one in the buildings of Robertsbridge Abbey and the other at Boxhurst Farm 5 miles NE – 2 miles from Bodiam bridge where iron plates from Glamorgan were brought in and steel shipped out via the Rother.
1565-6 ‘Dutch’ workers employed.
1566-8 ‘Dutch’ labourers at Salehurst.
1567 Robertsbridge Manor survey of demesne lands written in July – November
1572 Steelmaking no longer profitable as undercut by imports from Baltic.
1574-8 Sir Henry Sidney leases furnace and forge to Michael Weston ‘and partners’.
1576 Alien workers present as taxed.
1586 Sir Henry Sydney dies and estate passes to Robert Sidney (1563-1626) second son as eldest son Phillip dies the same year.
17th Century
1609 John Hawes, steelmaker, farmed (i.e. had a lease of) the Robertsbridge Abbey estate. No reference to steelworks in estate survey.
1609-30 Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, and Elizabeth (née Sidney), his wife, lease forge (and furnace?), and sell underwood, to Thomas Culpeper (of Wigsell in Salehurst) for 21 years.
1609 Robert Sidney evicted from Udiam farm as property required by Richard Burke, Earl of Clanricarde. Udiam was a source of ore and timber (for building) and underwood (for charcoal). An iron store was established there and wharf to ship products down the Rother to Rye.
1613 Thomas Culpeper dies; lease assigned to Henry English (yeoman of Salehurst).
1623-30 Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester, John Locherson (London gent), Kenrick Parrey (London gent), and Thomas Beare grant ore and timber rights [locations listed] to partnership of Henry English, & John Culpeper (of Astwood, Worcestershire) for 7 years.
1623 Robert Sidney takes lease of Udiam Iron House (store for forged iron).
1626 Robert Sidney dies
1629 Henry English has two ironworks in Salehurst (i.e. confirming second 21-year lease still operating).
1651 William and Robert Hawes tenants of the furnace and forge.
1677 John Roberts tenant of the furnace and forge.
1692 Furnace and forge occupied by Thomas Western a London ironmonger also with interests in Ashburnham and Brede furnaces.
18th Century
1707-18 Elizabeth (Countess dowager of Leicester) and her son John Sidney, 6th Earl (1680-1737), and son of Robert, lease furnace to Thomas Snepp Snr (a yeoman of Battle) and Thomas Snepp Jnr for 11 years.
1713-25 Thomas Snepp tenant.
1725 Sir Thomas Webster (1677-1751) purchases estate from Sidneys.
1725 Partnership formed between William Harrison (London founder), William & George Jukes (London ironmongers), Thomas Hussey, Maximilian Gott and John Legas.
1725-37 Estate runs ironworks for 12 years.
1726-33 Combined expenditure accounts with Beech Furnace (near Battle).
1728 Reference to gun cleaning at Robertsbridge – first indication of gun founding at the furnace
1734-40 Sir Thomas Webster leases furnace to William Harrison, William and George Jukes for 5 and a half years.
1737-47 Sir Thomas Webster leases forge to William & George Jukes for 9and a half years on condition they spend £100 on repairs (furnace ruinous). Includes 2 boring houses, either side of Forge, and Ironhouse.
1740-7 Sir Thomas Webster leases furnace to William Harrison, William and George Jukes for 7 years. Lease includes closure of Beech furnace at Battle from 1740.
1744 Dry Winter – treading water wheel
1745 William Harrison dies
1749 William Jukes dies.
1751 Sir Thomas Webster dies
1754-68 Sir Whistler Webster (son of Thomas Webster) leases forge and furnace to John Churchill (a Staffordshire ironmaster). Churchill insists second finery hearth reinstated from air furnace installed by Jukes. Forge output stated as 7cwt bar a week. Furnace output stated as 7-11 tons / week.
1756 Churchill and son propose supply of 200 ton ordnance.
1757 Churchill and son propose supply of 400 ton ordnance (probably using Darwell Furnace as well).
1760 Churchill and Webster share cost of adding a parlour and lean-to for forgemaster’s house.
1761 Churchill loses Ordnance Board contract; casts guns for Robert Morgan, of Carmarthen.
1763 James Bourne (a kinsman of Churchill) buys 195 cord of coppice wood on behalf of John Churchill.
1764 Churchill uses coal at Robertsbridge (but may be for drying cannon mould rather than for production and no evidence Churchill has an air furnace). Churchill reports his furnace has blown up.
1764 Mr Rose Fuller (of Burwash Forge & Heathfield Furnace) writes to Board of Ordnance to say he cannot cast cannon at £14/ ton if using charcoal.
1765 Repair of bellows at furnace.
1767 John Churchill bankrupt.
1767 John Churchill dies.
1768-70 William Polhill (of Hastings), David Guy (of Rye) and James Bourne (of Salehurst) take 18 month lease on furnace and forge & two boring houses.
1773-4 James Bourne supplies guns to Board of Ordnance.
1787 Furnace owned by Mr James Bourne but standing idle.
1787 Forge owned by Mr Bourne making 50 ton/ year.
1793 Robertsbridge Furnace closed permanently and Forge no longer recorded in accounts.
1801 Forge put up for sale following bankruptcy of Thomas Willis, forgeman.

Prepared by Tim Smith with additions by Jeremy Hodgkinson
WIRG Bulletins Series 1, 1969-1980,
WIRG Bulletins Series 2, 1981 – 2013,
Sidney Ironworks Accounts, 1541-1573, Edited by David Crossley, Royal Historical Society, 1975
WIRG Database of People
J S Hodgkinson, The Iron Industry in the Weald in the period of the Seven Years’ War, 1750-1770, (unpublished MA dissertation, University of Brighton 1993)

Goto: Summary, Time Line  References to Technology and Location  References to People  Maps   Discoveries  Photos