History

As you engage your senses in the tranquillity of nature and the verdant scenery of Furnace Brook, it isn’t challenging to instil yourself in the present moment. 

Noticing the branches that reflect over the shimmering ripples on the lake at your feet, you yourself may begin to reflect. For that tree to stand now, overlooking us, its roots have been established long before we came to know it or even be. What might it have witnessed and what knowledge could we acquire if it could communicate the past? 

Human influence spanning the breadth of our existence has shaped our landscapes, ecosystems and ultimately our climate.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realise that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

The ancient Weald

The landscape looked a little different back in 8000BC-dense woodlands with glades and clearings amongst the trees.

Rocks provided shelter and narrow streams provided a water source for deer and wild boar which in turn were hunted.

Foraging endeavours consisted of nuts, berries and honey.

Although the landscape has changed vastly over the centuries, the land still remains a haven for wildlife and our efforts here continue working towards increasing biodiversity and producing food

14th Century Water Mill

The water wheel is the earliest source of power known to man. Water is diverted from a river or pond to the water wheel, usually along a channel or pipe. The force of the water drives the blades of the wheel to power the machinery, in this case, furnace bellows.

In 1978 an excavation proved rewarding when the only remains of a medieval wooden waterwheel in the area were found on site. Also excavated, were some 14th-century pottery and an Edward III half-groat (coin) dated between 1351 and 1361.

The remains of the watermill lie beneath our car park.

The mill was part of a 700-acre estate owned by the de Batsford family. The mill was situated on the Clippenham stream, north of Trolliloes Bridge. It is thought that the mill would have gone out of use when the estate was inherited in 1406 by Roger Fiennes, Lord of the Manor of Herstmonceux on the death of his grandmother, Margery de Batsford.

Water use today

Our bore-hole provides us fresh, iron-rich water which we are planning to process for washing, drinking and for our onsite micro-brewery

For other purposes such as irrigation for food growing, the water comes from the lake and nearby streams.

16th Century Furnace & Gun Foundry

Also discovered during the excavation dig in 1978 were the remains of a blast furnace, with evidence of two phases, the second larger furnace built directly over the remains of the first. In addition, a gun casting pit was unearthed in the same area.

 

Furnace Brook, formally known in 1571 as Batsford Farm was home to Batsford (sometimes referred to as Clippenham) Furnace. The clay soil, rich in iron ore, together with charcoal produced from the local woods and water from the stream held all the components necessary for iron production. The proximity of Batsford to the coast with water access via the Clippenham Stream when it was full in winter, made an ideal location for the casting of guns for coastal defence and naval warfare.

 

Read the original Wealden Iron Research Group report below 

Furnace use today

Now we utilise fire to produce biochar – a magical ingredient used for drawing down substantial amounts of CO2. Project Drawdown predicts that biochar could contribute to sequestering at least 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions by 2050, a big step in the right direction.
Find out more by clicking on this section

16th Century-20th Century Hopping

Hops were hand-picked in the UK for 400 years. A tradition Diane is proud to have been a part of.

Diane remembers fondly the camaraderie, the community sat around the fire; one of the old aunties would have a pot of stew bubbling and at weekends the men would come down, get a big jug of beer from the nearest pub and to Diane it was incredible “Wow, our hops went in to make that beer.”

And now 60 years later, life turns full circle with Diane as head brewer of her own brewery, assisted by her fabulous team including her right hand man, Richard. Bringing those same values of community, lovingly crafted, locally sourced, sustainable beer to her own brewery, making small-batch, hand crafted beer with local hops, no finings or sulphites just delicious tasting beer!

Hops today

The hops used to make our beer are either grown on site or what we can’t grow ourselves is provided by a local hop farm a Bushel of hops.

To find out more about a Bushel of hops click here

Beer today

Furnace Brook CIC operates an onsite micro-brewery crafting small-batch, lovingly made beer

All profits support community events and activities at Furnace Brook
Find out more click here

20th Century Land Management

During the Second World War, many children were evacuated to the High Weald from London to escape the frequent bombings. Efforts to boost the country’s food supply were aided by the Land Army and the infamous ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. This was set up by the British Ministry of Agriculture, which encouraged everyone across the country to grow their own food in times of harsh rationing. The clay soil in the area would have been utilised to grow plenty of shallow-rooted crops. The self-sufficiency movement also allowed ships that would usually have been used to transport food supplies to be used instead for ammunition and raw materials that were vital for the Armed Forces.

Community resilience today

Today we face a different challenge, as a result of transporting food from all over the world we’ve seen a huge rise in carbon emissions. Perhaps we should look back and this time ‘Dig for Victory’ against climate change. 

We have a range of unique artefacts on display here from WW2 that capture the action and efforts displayed through community resilience. In order to learn from the past and educate future generations.

To find out more about the Barn museum click here

Get Involved

We invite you to become a part of the history of Furnace Brook by getting involved!

Whether it be gaining practical skills on a course or completing a bird monitoring capture form whilst enjoying the scenery. It is the action of small efforts individually and as a community that enables us to come together to shape our land and the course of human history, starting today!

Follow us on social media to keep up to date with our journey so far…

We are putting together an exhibition on local history and land management. If you have any reports, information or photos you would like to share with our exhibit please get in touch