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Scowles in the north of Blake's Wood 620m south east of Church Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Staunton Coleford, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8064 / 51°48'22"N

Longitude: -2.6457 / 2°38'44"W

OS Eastings: 355574.568263

OS Northings: 212167.697055

OS Grid: SO555121

Mapcode National: GBR FP.XD9W

Mapcode Global: VH86W.3V5L

Entry Name: Scowles in the north of Blake's Wood 620m south east of Church Farm

Scheduled Date: 8 June 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016899

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28864

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Staunton Coleford

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire


The monument includes an area of open cast iron ore mining in the Forest of
Dean, on a north east facing slope about 500m south east of Staunton. The area
is characterised by the remains of surface extraction or excavation holes
which are known locally as scowles. The scowles represent surface workings
which followed the ore bearing seams. It is not known precisely how the
scowles were worked, and indeed, a number of different shapes of scowles
exist which would indicate different methods of working either at different
times or contemporaneously. Some of the huge crevices left suggest that rock
and ore were occasionally removed, although the smaller workings suggest that
only the ore was taken. The precise date of the scowles in Blake's Wood is not
yet clear, but by the end of the 17th century below ground mining of ore,
which had co-existed with surface working since at least the Romano-British
period, had become the normal method of extraction in the Forest of Dean. Thus
the scowles can confidently be placed in date before the end of the 17th
In the monument the scowles are not of uniform shape or size, but are a
mixture of small holes, linear evcavations and larger pits. The small scowles
are 2m or 3m in diameter by about 1m deep, the linear ones about 2m wide and
1m deep which continue for about 10m or more. The larger pits are generally up
to 6m in diameter by 1m deep, with some up to 10m in diameter and of similar
depth. The scowles in this area do not appear to have exposed limestone faces,
but are covered by a uniform layer of soil. The ground between the scowles is
generally uneven, with spoil heaps and working areas. In the south east the
smaller scowles tend to predominate, while further to the south east, beyond
these, larger scowles are present. A track to the west which runs in a
north west-south east direction marks the extent of the scowles on that side.
One of the largest scowles in this group lies to the east of the group and is
about 50m long, 20m wide and about 10m deep. This scowl bifurcates as though
following a vein or seam.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From at least the Roman period until the 18th century the Forest of Dean was
an important production centre for iron. The iron ore bearing strata between
Lydney and Staunton are likely to have been exploited since the Iron Age, and
the crease limestone to the south of Staunton has been identified as a likely
source of iron ore supplying the iron industry at Blestium (the modern
Monmouth) during the Roman period. It was almost certainly being exploited
again by the end of the 13th century. The below ground mining of iron ore is
considered to have become the dominant method of extraction by the end of the
17th century. Thus although it is impossible to accurately date the scowles on
the basis of present evidence, it is probable that they were in existence by
the beginning of the 17th century, and are likely to be earlier in origin.
Although iron ores occur, and have been worked to some degree, in almost every
county of England, national iron production was dominated in the Roman,
medieval and earlier post-medieval periods by two orefields: the Weald and the
Forest of Dean. The major field remains of the industry in these two areas are
therefore of considerable importance. They are a distinctive feature of the
Forest of Dean, and the term scowl is believed to be unique to this area. This
type of surface working following the ore bearing strata is very rare
elsewhere, although a few, broadly similar, features are thought to exist in
South Wales and north Lancashire. The Forest of Dean scowles therefore have a
particular importance as the main representatives of early open cast iron ore
mining. The scowl belt to the north of Blake's Wood is distinctive in the
mixed form of scowles represented. The area contains small, large and linear
scowles with no limestone faces exposed. It is thought that the differences in
the size and nature of the scowles reflect a difference in the style of
extraction of the ore, which has a bearing on the date of the work. The ground
between the scowles is uneven and is believed to contain spoil heaps and
working areas which will provide further evidence for extraction methods and
efficiency of procedure.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hoyle, J, Western Stowfield Quarry, Staunton, Gloucestershire Arch Assess, (1992), 2

Source: Historic England

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