Wednesbury Forge, Sandwell
There has been a forge in Wednesbury since the days of Elizabeth I. By the 17th century a large industrial complex had developed, fed by water power from the River Tame. In the eighteenth century this substantial site produced guns, a process which for a time appears to have involved a windmill to provide additional power. Later, during the nineteenth century, the Elwell family specialised in making pipes and tubes. They built housing, a church and recreational facilities for the workers. This included a football field which may have been West Bromwich Albion's original ground. The Elwells developed the tool making side of the business, which in the 20th century was taken over by Spear and Jackson who still manufacture garden and edge tools in the forge on the site.
Archaeological fieldwork on this site revealed parts of the eighteenth century and later forge and water power system. It was clear that the forge was much larger at an earlier stage than first thought. Late medieval pottery suggested that men forged iron on this site a long time before the first documentary record.
Excavations uncovered substantial remains of the water power system, including fully intact sluice gates and grilles, wheelpits (still containing the early 20th century turbines) and culverts. We have also found a large number of grinding wheel pits, forging areas and associated flues and furnaces. Perhaps the most exciting discovery has been the remains of the only windmill ever built for metallurgical use.
An open day attracted over 700 visitors to the site. We also hosted visits by school groups and other interested people.