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Darkhill Ironworks

Location

Gloucestershire Map

OS Ref: SO 589 088

Last Visited: 2015

Darkhill Ironworks

Darkhill Ironworks

For such an important historical site, Forest Enterprise seem to be doing their best to make the Darkhill Ironworks at Gorsty Hill difficult to find.

Approaching from the east, the car park is unsignposted (or if it is, I didn't spot it); from the west it is discrete to say the least.

From the car park there is only one path of of any significance. This leads to a crossways with no indication of which way to go. I chose to turn left, and eventually spotted the ruins of what looked like an old barn. This turned out to be the unimpressive remains of the Titanic Steelworks.

The Mine Entrance

The Mine Entrance

Backtracking across country, I eventually found myself at the entrance to an old mine. From there I followed the path as detailed below. But backwards, so you will have to forgive me if there are any inaccuracies in the directions.

If I had turned right at the crossways, the broad path along the trackbed of the old Parkend to Coleford branch of the Severn & Wye Joint Railway, would have taken me to the viewing platform for the far more impressive remains of the Darkhill Ironworks with no problems. The route back detailed below, however, is only for those with a good sense of direction, as I am not entirely sure how accurate it is.

Access to the centre of the site is for group visits only, however, most of it can be seen from the viewing platform.


Click the Next button for printable directions

The Ironworks

Darkhill Ironworks

Darkhill Ironworks

Despite having significant deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone, iron was not made using coke in any quantity in the Forest of Dean until the 1820s, over a hundred years after Abraham Darby invented the process in Coalbrookdale. This was because the Forest of Dean coal did not produce good smelting coke.

In 1818/19 Scottish metallurgist David Mushet built a coke-fired 'experimental furnace' at Darkhill Ironworks and, using this furnace in around 1820, Moses Teague discovered a way to make good iron from local coke.

Darkhill Ironworks

Darkhill Ironworks

Although significant quantities of iron were produced for sale, the larger part of the works was given over to research and experimental production.

David Mushet retired in 1845 leaving the works to his three sons. After a bitter family dispute, his youngest son, Robert, took over in 1847. Robert opened a small experimental steelworks on the upper terrace of Darkhill in 1848, called the Forest Steel Works, in partnership with a Birmingham merchant named Thomas Deykin Clare. It seems likely that commercial iron production ceased around this time.

In 1856 Robert Mushet solved the problems with the Bessemer Process allowing steel of a consistently high quality to be produced.

Titanic Steelworks

The Titanic Steelworks

The Titanic Steelworks

Whilst still at the Forest Steel Works, Robert Mushet was experimenting with different steel alloys and in particular with titanium, which proved particularly good for machine tools. In October 1862 he decided to build a new works dedicated to its production just a short distance from Darkhill. This he named the Titanic Steelworks after the metal.

He continued to experiment, and in 1868 invented R Mushet's Special Steel (RMS), the forerunner of modern high speed steel.

This was so successful that he out-sourced the manufacturing to a Sheffield steel-maker called Samuel Osborne, and the works closed in 1871. The buildings were demolished in the 1960s, and the rubble being used in the construction of the old Severn Bridge.

Only the shell of a small building that once stood in the northern corner of the works remains. This is on private land, and can only be viewed from outside the property boundary.