Exmoor Iron: a historical perspective

A presentation to the Archaeology Department Seminar, 21 November 2002


In August of this year a comparison was made between the amount of iron produced in the Roman occupation period on Exmoor and that produced in the area in modern times - suggesting that the former was, relatively, of greater importance.


"This dig is part of a four-year programme run by Exmoor National Park Authority, the University of Exeter and the National Trust, with funding from English Heritage, to investigate all periods of iron exploitation on Exmoor. What we are seeing so far suggests that the iron production from Exmoor's ores was at its greatest during the Roman period - in relative terms, even greater than during the nineteenth century. What we thought would be a straightforward site is turning out to be a very complex industrial operation with many phases of activity. It is our job to unravel these phases in the ground and date them so that we understand how the site and the technology developed over time."

Exmoor National Park, Press Release No. 27 (August 2002).

This paper provides a historical perspective on the current interest in early iron working on Exmoor, relating it to later, post Industrial Revolution, activity and making comparisons with the mining and processing of non-ferrous metal ores. It questions the validity of the comparison between Roman (pre-industrial) iron production and that in the late 19th century when the Brendon Hill mines in particular provided an essential input into the South Wales iron and steel industry. The paper also includes an extended review of the evidence for pre-industrial iron working on and around Exmoor, only touched upon in the presentation

The paper is available for download as a Lotus WordPro file (607Kb), with illustrations embedded in the document - Exmoor Iron: a historical perspective - or as a Word 6 file however, as the file was written using WordPro and converted to Word 6, there may be some loss or corruption of illustrations; alternatively a paper copy has been deposited with archaeology department for photocopying - see Dr Gill Juleff.


Peter Claughton / SHiPSS
Last modified 13 December 2002