Archaeology at Apley Uncovered

11th March 2014

Lord & Lady Halimton have recently discovered that Apley Holiday Cottages, in the heart of the Apley Park estate are surrounded by 18th century ironworks, furnaces & forges.

Forge & Bridge Cottages were workers’ cottages & a thrid house, overlooking the River Severn, was the Forge Master’s house. Local historian Stephen Dewhirst guided Lord & Lord Hamilton round familiar places, but helped them to see them through totally different eyes & understand how the landscape was as early as 1639 until 1815, when peace (after the Napoleonic Wars) saw a decline in the demand for military hardware such as cast iron cannons, the cannon balls & swords etc.

Jesson & Wright ran the ‘Wren’s Nest Forges’ sourcing cast iron from their furnaces in Broseley & converting it into bars of wrought iron. Those bars were then taken on sailing boats (trows) down the River Severn to Stourbridge where they were transferred to barges (on canals) & distributed throughout the Black Country to be made into finished goods such as nails.

This is decades before the Foster family bought Apley in 1867. The Whitmores owned much of the surrounding land, but not actually the Wren’s Nest Forge site at this time.

There were 3 pools – Upper, Middle & Lower (water being the most important factor in iron production), 3 water-powered mills, a steam engine pumping the water used in the mills back up-stream for re-use, several melting furnaces (making wrought iron from cast iron) & many more buildings than there are there now. These included those housing hammers driven by the water-wheels.

There were many changes to the site over the decades. The 1862 railway line (now National Cycle Route 45) was built 50 years after the furnaces fell into disuse. The railway line was built on an embankment which cut right through the Lower Pool, so a culvert had to be built under the line to allow Linley Brook to continue to flow into the River Severn.

Apley Park is strictly private, but special permission can be obtained from the Apley Estate Office 01746 762 110.