MSO8543 - Medieval iron-smelting site at Oldrey (Monument)


An iron-smelting site is indicated by several reports of iron smelting refuse and finds of iron slag. Charcoal from the site has been dated to the 13th to early 15th Century.

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Type and Period (1)

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Full Description

Refuse heaps of iron smelting scoriae (slag) were recorded as being found in the yard of the farm at Aldworthy, near Eisen Hill, in 1858. The name 'Aldworthy' is reputed to be a corruption of 'Old Foundry'. These heaps would result from charcoal smelting which was almost extinct before 1775. ('Aldworthy' is at SS 903379 on Sellick's map, and the farm therefore would be 'Oldrey', which is at SS 90203768 on Ordnance Survey 6 inch 1962 map). [1,2] Collinson, in his account of Exford, writes "About a mile and a half eastward of the church are the vestiges of some ancient iron works, in which tradition says much of the wood of Exmoor was consumed. Many of the old pits where the ore was dug still remain, and great quantities of the scoria are found about them". [3] Howes says that the only place he knows to which the description applies is Oldre Farm, sometimes known as Aldre and shown on the Ordnance map as Aldworthy, which is however in Winsford parish. He adds that evidences still exist that some process of smelting must have been carried on there and scoria and charcoal ashes are still to be found. [4] At SS 37625 90195 in the garden of Oldrey Bungalow are small pieces of iron slag. They support the assumption that iron smelting took place at Oldrey. Cursory investigation failed to locate slag heaps although it is recommended that detailed investigation takes place in and around the buildings of Oldrey and Oldrey Bungalow. [5] The area of Oldrey Farm is disturbed by recent house building and slag is visible dispersed over a wide area. The main concentration covers an area little more than 10 metres in diameter. [6] A slag deposit at Oldrey was excavated by Exmoor National Park in 2005. Four samples of oak roundwood charcoal were submitted for radiocarbon dating. [7] The analysed samples returned dates from the 13th to 14th Century, or very early 15th Century. [8] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [9]

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Monograph: Sellick, R.. 1970. The West Somerset Mineral Railway and the Story of the Brendon Hills Iron Mines. David and Charles Limited. Second. P. 11,13.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <3> Monograph: Collinson, J.. 1791 (2006). The History and Antiquities of Somerset. Archive CD Books Ltd. Vol. 2, P. 21.
  • <4> Article in serial: Howes, J.G.. 1889. Notes on Exford. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 35. 2. P. 39.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 6 January 1998.
  • <6> Report: Juleff, G.. 1997. Earlier Iron-Working on Exmoor: Preliminary Survey. P.19; 30.
  • <7> Report: Juleff, G. + Bray, L.. 2007. Exmoor Iron: An Exploration of the Impact of Past Iron Production on the Environmental and Cultural Landscapes of Greater Exmoor: Post-Excavation Assessment. P: 19; 133-4; 159; 174.
  • <8> Report: Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. 2006. Radiocarbon Dating of Charcoal from Oldrey, Winsford. SUERC-10112 (GU-13970); SUERC-10113 (GU-13971); SUERC-10114 (GU-13972); SUERC-10115 (GU-13973).
  • <9> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36676, Extant 12 April 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 9017 3769 (155m by 227m) Centred on
Map sheet SS93NW

Finds (2)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 93 NW 10
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36676
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34564

Record last edited

Apr 12 2022 4:02PM


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