A forgotten iron industry along the Shannon river in the 17th and 18th centuries.
For centuries, the western shores of Lough Derg were tranquil and heavily forested. People lived in small settlements in the cleared areas and local lords would compete with each other over the better lands. This would all change in the 17th century. As the area had high quality iron ore and vast amounts of wood, mostly oak, it quickly attracted the newly arrived Protestant planters. They introduced a technology never seen before in Ireland: the blast furnace.
At least eight furnaces were active in the area between Tuamgraney, Feakle and Woodford between the early 17th century and 1780. These had a lasting effect on the landscape; as the furnaces needed up to one hectare of mature woodland per day the local woods were decimated Places like Scarriff, Whitegate and Woodford all own their current existence to these ironworks. Less obvious, the area has many remains of iron mines, some rather extensive ones indeed.
As in many cases the businesses were relatively short-lived, and the furnace not very extensively used, half of the ironworks are still preserved, some very well. It is no exaggeration to say that the Sliabh Aughty area has the best preserved collection of this type of monument anywhere worldwide!
www.furnacefestival.ie/For information on the 2022 Furnace Festival, see the new website
For images and information on the 2018 Furnace Festival, organized by SAFP click here
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