Little Clifton Open Heap Coke Producing Bases and Associated Slag Heap, 220m North of Oldfield Bridge
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Cumbria County Council
Allerdale Borough Council
SJ059059 (305927, 527922)
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The buried remains of three intact stone-built open heap coke bases which were used to produce coke for a nearby 18th century iron furnace, together with remains of the furnace slag heap. It is located on level ground between the River Marron and a steep bank 220 metres north of Oldfield Bridge. Little Clifton Furnace was the first coke-fired iron furnace in Cumbria, commencing operations in 1723 and producing cast iron until its closure in 1871. Locally mined coal was used to heat the iron ore for smelting but before it could be used the coal had to be cleaned. This cleaning operation converted the coal into coke and the process employed here at Little Clifton was described by Gabriel Jars in 1765, who noted that round areas about 3.5 metres in diameter were filled with large pieces of coal to form a cone-shaped pile some 1.5 metres high. The coal was arranged in such a manner as to allow air to circulate through the pile, then lighted coal was placed into the top of the pile and the whole covered with layers of straw, earth and coal dust. Two workers were employed to oversee the whole operation and once the coal had been converted to coke it was taken to the furnace to be used in the iron smelting process. Remains of these three coke bases were visible until the 1980s when they were covered over by earth during landscaping; they now lie buried and undisturbed. A short distance to the north is an irregularly-shaped flat-topped mound of furnace slag up to 2.5 metres high. This represents the waste product from the iron smelting process.
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