Whitecliff furnace restoration begins near Coleford

Whitecliff Furnace
Image caption Whitecliff Furnace played an important role in the development of iron and steel making in the UK

A project aimed at saving the historically important Whitecliffe furnace near Coleford is under way.

The site, currently classed as high risk by English Heritage, dates back to 1795 and is the only coke-fuelled blast furnace left in the Forest of Dean.

It is said to have played a major part in the development of the UK's iron and steel industry.

The £65,000 refurbishment is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Forest of Dean Local Action.

Climbing specialists

"We've got the scaffold going up now but we've been waiting for about 30 years," said project manager Kate Biggs from the organisation Overlooking The Wye, which helps to renovate and promote local attractions.

Climbing specialists are also involved in the restoration.

"They literally dangle down into the interior of the flue," Ms Biggs added.

"They'll be using a big core drill which will gradually grind it's way through the masonry of the interior flue, along about 2m depth, in order for them to put in a steel bar."

Historically important

Whitecliff Ironworks attracted the metallurgist David Mushet to settle in Coleford to experiment with the processes of producing iron and steel.

Mushet moved to Coleford to take up full-time management of the ironworks in February 1810.

His son Robert Mushet helped to develop the steel-making process.

Ms Biggs said the site was only partly successful, and it was thought that the furnace never really performed to expectation.

The company went bankrupt, preserving the furnace in its current form as a result.

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