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Celebrating 300 years since the first firing of the Dolgun blast furnace

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23 April 2019

This March, 300 years had passed since the first firing of the former blast furnace at Dolgun near Dolgellau. As part of an arranged programme of events to mark the occasion the Snowdonia National Park Authority will hold an open day which will give local residents an opportunity to learn more about this remarkable site.

The Dolgun blast furnace was designed in 1713 by the renowned innovator of the Industrial Revolution, Abraham Darby, and was first fired in 1719, fuelled by local charcoal. The pig iron was transported by sail boats along the Mawddach from Dolgellau to the Payton Smithy in Glanfred to the south of the Dyfi Estuary, where it was refined into iron bars. It is likely that the furnace became redundant in 1736.

Later, between around 1757 and the early 1800s, the site was re-occupied as a forge to refine pig iron brought in from other locations including Horsehay, Coalbrookdale between 1759 and 1761, and Backbarrow, Furness in 1787, with around six tonnes of iron bars generated every week.

In preparations for the site’s 300th anniversary celebrations, the Snowdonia National Park Authority has been working in collaboration with the Park Authority’s former Archaeologist, Peter Crew, to undertake research and conservation work on the site which included vegetation clearance, excavations and drone and magnetometer surveys.

The Snowdonia National Park Authority will hold an open day on the site on the 27th of April between 11.00am and 12.30pm. There will be presentations by speakers including Michael Darby, a descendant of Abraham Darby, as well as a guided walk of the site.

Tomos Jones, the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s Cultural Heritage Project Officer said:

“It has been a pleasure to be involved with the conservation and improvement work at this special site. Not only has it raised awareness of the existence of the iron furnace, but the work will also contribute to safeguarding Snowdonia’s heritage for the future. It is an honour to be part of this special celebration on such a significant site in Dolgellau’s past.”

Peter Crew, the National Park Authority’s former Archaeologist said:

“ This has been a satisfying conclusion to 40 years of work on a series of remarkable iron-working sites between Ffestiniog and Dolgellau. The Dolgun project has been the result of hard work by a small group of local enthusiasts, made possible by the ready agreement and cooperation of Aled and Rhodri Jones, Fronalchen. Thanks are due for funding to the Historical Metallurgy Society, the Cambrian Archaeological Association and the Snowdonia National Park Authority.”

Notes to Editors

  1. If possible, those who wish to attend the open day can express their interest by emailing archeoleg@eryri.llyw.cymru
  2. The recent work at the site builds on previous work undertaken by Peter Crew and a team from Plas Tan y Bwlch, which included excavations between 1982 and 1985, and site management until 2007.
  3. For more details, contact Ioan Gwilym,  the SNPA’s Communications Officer – Corporate Services on 01766 770 274 or 07900267506, or email ioan.gwilym@eryri.llyw.cymru