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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Chair-borne Foray.
by Joseph Pettitt.

One source of field-names for many purposes, but perhaps most useful for Wealden Iron investigation, are the Tithe Apportionment documents. These are a magnificent monument to the professional skill of early Victorian surveyors and map-makers and are the result of a decision of the Whig Government of the 1830's to reform the Tithe system. See Footnote [1]

For each parish in England and Wales there is a schedule showing the receivers of tithe: these might be clerical or lay. In the main section are shown the owners of land and tenants, each holding, the buildings and land of each holding, field and holding acreage, and use of each field whether arable, meadow or pasture, woodland or waste. Last comes the tithe payable.

To the field-investigator the field-names are the most useful part. The accompanying map, often of the magnificent scale of 26.6 inches to the miles (1 inch to 3 chains), shows all the buildings and fields with their numbers as in the schedule. Holdings are sometimes named.

A W.I investigator selects all field-names suggesting W.I activity and also those incomprehensible since he hopes they will turn out to be W.I Suppose, having looked at the Speldhurst and Penshurst schedules he has found the following: in Speldhurst Lower and Upper Forge fields (626 and 635); in Penshurst Forge Fields (533 and 537); in Speldhurst Blower's Meadow (701). Reference to the map enables him to identify the fields on a 6-inch or 2-inch OS map. He notes that they were not visited by Straker See Footnote [2] though they are near, but not part of, Barden Furnace. See Footnote [3] They are all by or near running water and the first three not possibly behind a blacksmith's shop. Their Grid references are respectively: TQ 555 422, 544 422, 542 422 and 559 415.

Reference to Straker again shows that in Cowden there was a bloomery at Blower's Hill; there is, indeed, a Blower's Hill by our Blower's Meadow. But why select Blower's at all? Because one meaning of Blower is "smelter." See Footnote [4]

None of the fields is near to the best-known ore stratum: this lies about 25 feet above the Wadhurst Clay-Ashdown Beds junction and surfaces a little north of the Bidborough-Penshurt road. See Footnote [5] But we know that there are other ore-horizons and would like to prove that they were used.

Though the famous list of Furnaces and Forges in England and Wales in 1717 See Footnote [6] gives Barden Furnace, another list circa 1725 gives Barden Forge. See Footnote [7] By the stream near the Upper and Lower Forge Fields the OS 2-inch shows a bay (pond dam). Did this make a reserve pond for the Furnace downstream? If so, why the forge names?

One's speculations, over sanguine no doubt, are: knowns to Straker were one hammer-forge and three bloomeries in one small area just south of Barden Furnace. Field-investigation will prove -- or disprove.


The reform consisted of a commutation of all Tithes, whether in kind, labour or money, into an annual lump-sum payment in money only. One notes that often the local land- owner was the recipient (impropriator). Return to the paragraph.


Ernest Straker, Wealden Iron (1931). Return to the paragraph.


Straker, page 219. Return to the paragraph.


Straker, page 231. Return to the paragraph.


1-inch Geological Map Number 287. Return to the paragraph.


Sussex Archaeological Trust (now handled by the East Sussex Record Office), RF/ 15/25. This is one of the documents of the Fuller family, ironmasters in Heathfield, Sussex. Return to the paragraph.


Anonymous, The Interest of Great Britain in Supplying Herself with Iron. Thought by Rhys Jenkins, a W.I. pioneer ten years before Straker, to have been printed circa 1725. See his article "The Rise and Fall of the Sussex Iron Industry," in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, volume 1, pages 16 and on, as stated in H R Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel Industry from circa 450 BC to AD 1775 (1957), page 161. (kindly supplied by Dr Felix Hull, The County Archivist). Return to the paragraph.

List of Fulling Mills known to the Kent Archives Office.

  • Cranbrook,
  • Lenham,
  • Milgate Park,
  • Greatness in Sevenoaks,
  • Pollmill in Maidstone,
  • Hurst or Boxley Mill in Leeds,
  • Hothfield and Little Chart, Powells,
  • later Tolhersts and then
  • paper mill in Maidstone,
  • Boscombe in Leeds,
  • Frittenden,
  • Horsmonden,
  • West Peckham,
  • Mereworth,
  • Shoreham.

Dr Hull has also supplied me with dates and references.

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