Kent Archaeological Review extract

Excavation in the Early Iron Working Site at Minepit Wood, Withyham, Sussex.
by J H Money.
(Tonbridge Historical Society Archaeological Group.)

During 1966 three more furnaces, all for roasting the natural ore before it was smelted, were discovered on Site C. Two of the three furnaces occupied the same spot, being one on top of the other. Since it is not known to what period they belong, charcoal associated with both was collected for Carbon 14 tests. A third roasting furnace was found under the smelting furnace which came to light in 1965, but has not yet been fully explored.

A few sherds of mediaeval pottery, which are probably of 14th, or early 15th, century date, were found in the slag heap produced by the smelting furnace, and this may be its date.

The rectangular structure which surrounds the smelting furnace was completely uncovered and a plan made of the numerous postholes associated with it. It is now clear that the stones were laid as a foundation for a timber superstructure which was supported by rows of stakes on each side of the stones. So far no evidence of roofing has come to light. It was probably just a fenced in enclosure for work, in which the iron ore was smelted and stores of roasted ore and charcoal were kept.

Charcoal from the smelting furnace on Site A which was excavated in 1964 has now been dated by a Carbon 14 test at the British Museum to 340 AD +/- 150 years. This important result, taken in conjunction with few Roman sherds found in an occupation area near the furnace, makes it virtually certain that the furnace, which is one of the best preserved early iron-working furnaces in this country, is of Roman date.

During the final season this year a search will be made for more pottery in the slag heap. The excavation and planning of the smelting furnace and underlying roasting furnace will be completed, and work will also be done on a small area where there appears from surface indications to be another small structure, possibly another smelting furnace.

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