Red Smiddy, near Poolewe

01 April 2010

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The Red Smiddy iron works on the River Ewe at Poolewe preserve one of the earliest known blast furnaces in Scotland. We tend to think of the industrial revolution as getting underway in the mid 18th century, but documentary evidence combined with archaeology shows that the Red Smiddy works were operating throughout the 17th century. It was one of several in the area sited because of good access to water (for water power and to export the final product) and timber (to produce the charcoal needed to get hot temperatures for smelting iron).

At the Red Smiddy, the blast was produced by bellows powered by a water wheel. Limited excavations in 1980 found traces of a lade, remains of the furnace stack, and a large amount of slag. The furnace was a square building of stone. The charcoal and ore would have been loaded at the top. At the bottom were two arches, one for blowing the air into the furnace, the other to allow molten iron to flow out into moulds. The full height of the furnace when complete can only be estimated, but probably was no greater than 5 metres. Evidence of vitrification and rebuilding suggest the furnace was in use for considerable time.

Further information:
The Local 17th Century Iron Works. Pamphlet published by Gairloch Heritage Museum.

John H Lewis 1984. ‘The charcoal-fired blast furnaces of Scotland: a review.’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 114, pp. 433-479. Available on-line.

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
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