Charlwood Charcoal Clamp

In 2016 a large magnetic anomaly was investigated during the Charlwood excavations and the linear feature partially revealed was tentatively interpreted as a charcoal burning clamp (Bull 457). Charcoal retrieved from this feature was subsequently sent for radiocarbon dating which has resulted in a date between AD1455-1645.

Some limited local history research into Charlwood during these dates has allowed this feature to be provisionally set in context.

This charcoal clamp is in a field which belonged to Highworth Farm in the 1842 tithe, and the construction of Highworth Farmhouse has been dated to the late 15th century or early 16th century (SHHER 9545). Charlwood had known ironworking sites in the period and the manor of Charlwood had been given to Sir Robert Southwell, Master of the Rolls, by Henry VIII in 1539. Southwell’s wife was the daughter of Lord Abergavenny, then owner of the Ewood ironworks.

In 1558 Charlwood was one of the manors exempted from the prohibition of the felling of large timbers for ironmaking and it was in 1558 that the Crown became the owner of Ewood furnace until 1604. It seems possible that this Crown ownership may well have influenced the exemption enabling charcoal to be supplied to the local furnace.

There must have been many such charcoal clamps within the Weald at this time but few have been found. This unexpected discovery of a brick lined clamp in Charlwood could be of interest to both local and industrial historians researching the ironworking industries of the Weald.

Sources (accessed 9/6/17)

Victoria County History, Surrey, Vol 3, p182-189; ed HE Malden; London; 1911

The Free Men of Charlwood; R. Sewill & E. Lane; Crawley; 1980