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Iron Mining

By David Hardwick

Iron Mining has been carried out in South Gloucestershire from an early date. It is has been suggested that iron has been worked locally since Roman times as iron slag from processing the ore is often found at Roman sites in the area. Certainly the origins of iron mining date back to before the Norman Conquest as it is referred to in the Domesday Book. The legacy of the industry is found in local names such as the village of Iron Acton and Iron Hogg Lane in Falfield. Areas that have been mined for the brown haematite iron ore include, Frampton Cotterell, Pucklechurch and Rangeworthy.

Early workings would have been surface workings with the ore smelted in charcoal fired bloomeries to extract the iron. Evidence of cinders from these can still be found and were extensive around Iron Acton and Pucklechurch indicating the scale of these early operations. The name Sinder Ford appears as the name of a crossing of the Frome in Frampton Cotterell in a Saxon Charter of about 950AD. Also in Frampton Cotterell is an area that used to be called Furnace Hill.

During the mid nineteenth century an extensive mine existed in Frampton Cotterell. Iron Ore was extracted from a nearly vertical vein with at least 4 levels being worked down to a depth of 120 yards. The mine, however suffered difficulties with flooding. It had pumping engines and to provide the steam for these it sunk it's own coalmine at Rangeworthy. These pumps removed 3000 gallons of water per hour. Such was the extent of water ingress that when mining ceased the site was used by the Bristol Waterworks Company as a water supply, with the water being pumped to a reservoir at Tormarton.

Various names occur in relation to this mine. In the 1860's the mine is owned by Thomas & George Barker of the Chillington Iron Works Wolverhampton. In 1867 the Victorian industrial entrepreneur John Crossley of the family of Halifax Carpet makers is the leaseholder along with Edmund Lloyd Owen who was also the manager. In 1871 three brothers named Brogden took over the lease.

Conditions in the mine could not have been pleasant with the damp and dangerous conditions and the ever-present threat of water ingress. In 1873 the foreman Silas Dando was killed when he fell down a shaft. Delays from the need to repair pumps damaged by the grit in the water must have had an effect on the profitability of the mine.

The most ore extracted in a single year was in 1870 when over 15,000 tons appears on the mineral statistic. At that time the site had its own branch line from Frampton Cotterell to Iron Acton where it connected to the Midland Railway line from Yate to Thornbury. Ore was being sent to the iron works at Seend in Wiltshire. The last recorded year of extraction is 1875.

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