Broadcast 15 February 2004
Archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s Time Team at two sites in the River Churnet valley, near Oakamoor, Staffordshire, (centred on SK 0415 4355 and SK 0350 4490), to investigate the development of medieval and post-medieval iron smelting in the area. The opportunity arose following an approach to Channel 4’s ‘Big Dig’ programme from the owner of Oldfurnace Cottage, who wished to investigate the site of a former Elizabethan blast furnace, known to have been constructed on the site of the present cottage by Lawrence Loggin in 1592. The results of the ‘Big Dig’, undertaken in a 1 metre square test pit, indicated that earlier, previously undocumented, medieval bloomery smelting had also taken place on the site.
The evaluation undertook additional trenching at the cottage in an attempt to locate the blast furnace and at Eastwall Farm, 1.5 km to the north-west of Oldfurnace Cottage, where there were documentary records to show that medieval bloomery smelting had taken place.
The results of the work at Oldfurnace Cottage confirmed that iron smelting using the bloomery process, with associated pottery of 13th-14th century date, was wellestablished on the site in the medieval period. However an unstratified sherd of Late Saxon pottery suggested that iron working on the site may have begun as early as the 10th-11th century. The bloomery slag was overlain by large accumulations of postmedieval slag dating from the later blast furnace. The depth of deposits indicated that the valley sides had undergone considerable modification during the use of the site. No traces of any furnaces were found, which are likely to lie beneath the present cottage. A trench north-west of the cottage provided evidence of unsmelted ore in what may have been a storage area.