Duddon Iron Furnace

Location : Broughton-in-Furness

Grid Ref : SD 197882

The restored remains of Duddon Iron Works are one of the most impressive charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Britain.

Iron ore was mined in Furness and West Cumbria from the middle ages onwards, and smelted in primative hearths or bloomeries, generally in places where large quantities of charcoal were readily available.

In the 18th Century, blast furnaces revolutionised the smelting process. Large furnaces were built, consuming large amounts of ore and fuel, and harnessing water power to drive bellows pumping air into the combustion chamber.

Duddon Ironworks was established by the Cunsey Company in 1736 and operated through to 1866, using locally produced charcoal as fuel.

It is the most complete surviving example of an iron producing site with a charcoal-fired blast furnace. Pig iron cast here was sent to Chepstow and Bristol where it was used in the manufacture of anchors, chains and other iron work for ships.

The furnace stack was 29 feet high and built of local stone, and charged from above. Water powered bellows were attached at the base. The water wheel is missing, but the course of the leat has been traced, bringing water from the river half a mile upstream. Higher up the hill is the charcoal store, 100 feet in length, and as high as a church.

After closure in 1866, the site became derelict. It has now been partially restored, and is in the care of the Lake District National Park. An information panel gives a description of the various parts of the furnace.

It can be reached on foot a few yards from a lay-by some 100 yards from Duddon Bridge along the Corney Fell scenic route from Broughton-in-Furness to Waberthwaite.

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