11 April 2011

Stirchley Furnaces: excavations II

After the first day, we were all full of enthusiasm... rather too full as it turned out, for we managed to excavate more than we could record on Friday! As a result, some of us returned (and some new recruits joined us) to help out on the Saturday as well. Friday began by clearing the final bit of overburden on the south-western side of the southern furnace. Here Malcolm (left, inside the furnace) and Craig and Janis (in one of the blowing arches) have almost finished the job.


The furnace wall is alarmingly thin here; it seems to have failed with iron still in situ and clearly the lining had eroded considerably by the time of the final campaign. The floor that Craig and Janis are on is a later modification by the Wrekin Chemical Company; the original furnace floor would have been about a metre below this.

After lunch, the survey team went off to look at the rest of the site, spending the rest of the afternoon in the undergrowth - and in the process discovering the remains of an engine house, possible hot blast stove (of 1828?!), ore bins and other exciting features.


Meanwhile, back on site, Janis and Malcolm laboured in what was becoming an unseasonably hot day. Their mission was to clean up the south-eastern corner of the furnace, and in particular investigating a flue that ran from one blowing arch to the other.


This flue turned out to have been later filled in with brick and concrete - so excavating it was hard going - but it seems to have been part of Thomas Botfield's patented furnace gas recycling system of 1828... more evidence to suggest that this was a very early hot blast furnace. This view from the inside of the furnace shows the flue (running between the two long scale rods in the background).


Saturday was another spectacularly warm and sunny day, and we were joined by Jim and Jo who helped put levels on the plan of the furnace...


...and, with Nigel, developed a curious but ultimately rather effective method of creating a three-dimensional profile of both of the furnace stacks.


Meanwhile I carried on creating the detailed plan of the southern end, whilst Malcolm and Jo worked out what was going on with the flue. A long day but well worth it. We seem to have uncovered the interesting remains of a quite unusual early 'hot blast' furnace. Hopefully it will be possible to conserve as much of this as possible... this next stage will be interesting.

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