byAdam Jagich via web
The volunteer team recently returned to the Stirchley Furnace site to try and learn a bit more about its layout and operation. There is no map of the site in the 19th century, so it is only through archaeology that we can hope to find out more about it. The first trench explored some of the mysterious 'humps and bumps' in the woodland between the chimney and the furnaces which we excavated last year. We know that this area must contain the boiler house, engine house and blowing apparatus. We found a series of brick walls, including two very substantial ones which seem to have been part of the internal structure of the Engine House.
The other trench was cut across the large mound that we thought might be a parallel bank of furnaces to the ones we discovered last year. After a long slog moving some quite difficult rubble in heavy rain, the team discovered a lovely ashlar-faced wall which is identical to that of the other furnaces. It looks as if these were indeed another pair of furnaces, but were demolished and concreted over during the 20th century. This is excellent news, confirming that our suspicion of the layout of the furnaces is correct.
On the basis of the levels we took last year, these finds are actually the upper half-metre or so of buildings that survive to a much greater depth beneath later tipping. We estimate that most of the ironworks structures will survive to a full height of around two metres - and some much more substantial than that. Even the demolished furnaces should be at least a metre high!
More work is planned for later this year, and the potential of the site for research, learning and engagement is huge – please help us if you can!