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Folklore: Sussex iron industry relics

Penny S. 07 May 13 - 08:16 AM
Rob Naylor 07 May 13 - 08:51 AM
Will Fly 07 May 13 - 09:10 AM
Penny S. 09 May 13 - 04:24 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Sussex iron industry relics
From: Penny S.
Date: 07 May 13 - 08:16 AM

When I was a little thing, I walked on what was then Crowborough Common, and came across, by the side of the railway line, a horribly dangerous looking spot, an iron stained boggy patch, to which I gave a wide berth. It is not marked on modern OS maps, which do show Chalybeate Springs in some places.

Some time later, I read, somewhere I cannot now recall, that there were a number of such places, and they had a name. It could be that they were the remains of bell pits which had not been back filled. I cannot recall the name. I can recall that the writer, remembering her youth (I'm pretty sure it was a woman) emphasised the danger thse places represented.

Does anyone have any idea about the history of this, or is it only in my imagination?

(PS. It was close to Jarvis Brook, but I believe has no connection with treacle mines.)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Sussex iron industry relics
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 07 May 13 - 08:51 AM

There were mine pits (as in Mine Pits Shaw, Mine Pits Field, Mine Pits Bottom, etc) and hammer ponds and pond bays.

There are quite a few springs and natural ponds/ boggy areas that may well be iron-stained too....I walked past several yesterday near Groombridge, Ashurst, Penshurst and Fordcombe (it was a fair old walk!).

Near Jarvis Brook I know of a couple of drying-out ponds (one a natural but erratic spring and one man-made which had been "puddled" to make it watertight but which had later deteriorated and mainly leaked away/ silted up)...but they're more over Town Row way than Jarvis Brook itself.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Sussex iron industry relics
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 May 13 - 09:10 AM

There was plenty of early iron-smelting activity in Sussex east and west. Quite a few hammer ponds still exist around the south of Horsham in West Sussex, and in the border areas of East Sussex and Kent - and not all marked on OS maps.

There also dew ponds on the tops of the downs, if you know where to look.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Sussex iron industry relics
From: Penny S.
Date: 09 May 13 - 04:24 PM

Smaller than dew ponds, and much much smaller than hammer ponds.

I wouldn't have read anything into it without this memory of having read someone's work and though, "Oh, that was what that was!"

The subject came up for me because of chasing a bit of family lore. My grandfather owned Tickerage Farm between the wars (up the road from the famous celebrity infested Mill, and down the road from the ditto Blackboys Inn.

Grandad wrote to the then Water Board about a spring in the valley bottom which was not intermittent, had an abundant flow, and never froze, but steamed in the winter, suggesting that it be used to supply water to the village. This became the site, apparently, on which they built the local sewage works, which was viewed in the family as a waste of a good resource.

Listening to the radio on which the national sinkhole expert was discussing features oop north which could have influenced Lewis Carroll, he described one site as never failing and steaming in winter, and I thought, "so what, Grandad had one of those". I thought it even more when I googled the site and saw it to be just a couple of ponds in a field. Then I realised where Tickerage lay with relation to the Jurassic inlier in the Weald and the associated gypsum, and wondered if there could be some similarity in the two sites.

Looking at Wealden springs on the OS site showed that it was in a very unusual place - most are upslope, and probably associated with faults or variations in strata. This one was in the valley bottom, where there was no evidence for unusual geology. What was more, there was a spring in that valley now, the other side of the stream from the sewage works. I wondered if the family story was wrong.

I went down there on Monday. The whole valley bottom is flat and boggy, with, in places heavy iron staining. At the point where the spring is mapped, was a patch of iris, but no open water. I think the valley is probably a silted up mill pond - it is upstream of the current mill dam - and the stream has since cut down through the sediment. It is about a metre below the bog of the valley and the "spring", and with no sign of the water from the higher level draining into it at the part I could reach. Rather an odd position for a spring - and not on my grandfather's land.

I was with a friend, and the story of bottomless slurry filled pits was useful in preventing someone without wellies from going somewhere messy!

I'm going to write to Southern Water to see if there is a groundwater source at the sewage works (there isn't much water coming out of it - doesn't look much for a village full of loos and baths, and certainly not enough to supply one with drinking water back between the wars).

The only other spring in a position like it I have found on the map is near the Poohsticks bridge. But then, it doesn't mark the Pantiles Well, so may not be definitive.

As for the iron holes, maybe the person whose work I read had a family word for them - to enable the parents to warn the child about them.


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