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Scowles in Blake's Wood 870m north west of Scowles Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Coleford, Gloucestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8027 / 51°48'9"N

Longitude: -2.6429 / 2°38'34"W

OS Eastings: 355767.759263

OS Northings: 211751.742177

OS Grid: SO557117

Mapcode National: GBR FP.XM1B

Mapcode Global: VH86W.4YPG

Entry Name: Scowles in Blake's Wood 870m north west of Scowles Farm

Scheduled Date: 8 June 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016900

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28865

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Coleford

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Details

The monument includes an area of open cast iron ore mining in the Forest of
Dean, on a south east facing slope about 1km 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 large crevices left suggest that rock was
removed together with the ore bearing material, 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 be confidently placed in date before the
end of the 17th century.
In this monument the scowles are found around an area of modern tipping. At
the northern end of the area are some large shallow scowles about 7m across
and 0.5m to 1m deep. The area covered by the scowles then forms an elongated
lozenge shape aligned north west-south east. This band is approximately 100m
across at its north end and 200m across at its south end, with a total length
of about 600m. The scowles on the outer edges of the lozenge are quite small,
0.5m to 1m deep and about 5m across. Towards the centre of the area on the
west side of the dump the scowles are long and narrow, as though they are
following seams or veins of ore. These trenches are up to 2m wide, of a
similar depth and extend for 10m or more. The scowles here are also
characterised by having exposed limestone faces. On the east side of the dump
the scowles are quite small but also quite deep, about 5m across by 2m deep.
The largest scowl in this lozenged shaped area is about 25m to 30m in diameter
and 3m to 4m deep in the bottom of which there are a couple of deeper shafts.
The presence of the scowles clearly demonstrates that this area was used for
the extraction of iron ore at some time before 1844 when afforestation took
place here.

MAP EXTRACT
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 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 in Blake's Wood were recorded as an area of woodland in 1792
which suggests regenerative growth in an area too pitted for normal
agricultural use. This belt of scowles is distinctive in the form of scowles
represented. Outliers of quite small proportions give way to long narrow
trenches on the west side of the modern dump and to generally small deep
scowles on the east side of the modern dump. It is thought that the outliers
represent exploratory pits which were dug to locate the extent of the main
seams of ore bearing strata. The difference in scale and nature of the scowles
is considered to reflect differences in style of extraction and date of the
work.

Source: Historic England

Sources

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

Source: Historic England

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