Centre for Iron and Armaments

The Wealdon iron industry, based on local iron ore, water and wood, has left its marks all over this area but often you have to be made aware of them before you notice them. The industry was already flourishing during the Roman occupation and had its heyday in the 16th and early 17thC. Ralph Hogge of Buxted made the first iron cannon in 1543 and Sussex guns and Sussex shot helped to defeat the Armada. Besides domestic firegrates and the like, Sussex iron was used for the railings of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, for milestones and even for grave-’stones’.

The industry brought wealth to a region that was ideally suited for the production of iron: ironstone and wood were abundant, and there were plenty of streams to drive the machinery and act as coolant. For hundreds of years it looked as if there would never be an end to the prosperity. But when timber for the furnaces finally became scarce and coal, discovered in the Midlands, proved to work better in the smelting process than the Sussex charcoal, the industry eventually moved north.