The Forest of Dean Iron Industry 1st to 4th centuries A.D.

Walters, Bryan (1993). The Forest of Dean Iron Industry 1st to 4th centuries A.D. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001017e

Abstract

This thesis examines the considerable volume of new archaeological evidence revealed by field survey, aerial survey and excavation in recent years west of the Severn in Gloucestershire, along the lower Wye Valley and in south Herefordshire where it borders Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire.

Without its vast iron resource of rich hematites Roman Dean would have been unremarkable. Its iron industry proved to be central to the development of high status buildings and a sophisticated communications system involving Roman military-constructed roads and its river boundaries, the Severn and the Wye. The thesis is therefore as much about Roman Dean as it is about the iron industry.

Recent evidence has made possible an hypothesis concerning the administration of the industry, not merely that the resources came under state control but that the area was probably an Imperial Estate with the central woodlands reserved as an Imperial Forest for hunting.

There is no longer any doubt that, unlike the Wealden iron industry, Dean ores were, moved over sometimes considerable distances to the smelting and smithing sites in and outside of Dean. So were its iron products - in the first century supplying a mainly Roman military market and during the second century a rapidly expanding civilian market.

Estimates are made for iron production and manpower requirements for each of the four centuries under review and evidence is presented for a major recession in the early third century AD which resulted in the closure of some of the largest and oldest iron-working centres and from which the industry never fully recovered during the period of Roman occupation.

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