Monday, 21 August 2017

Living In The Furnace

We all know the story of how Bugsworth changed its name to something more respectable. A hundred years beforehand, a similar change took place in Furness Vale. We might otherwise have all been "Living in the Furnace"

Our community at the end of the 1700s was no more than a small hamlet called The Furnace. Within ten years, the canal, printworks and turnpike road had all opened and the village rapidly grew in size and population. 
We don't know when the name "Furness Vale" first came into use but it must have been around the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Maps published as late as 1831 still give the name of the village as "Furnace" or "The Furnace" and show the mill as "Furnace Print Works". Legal documents such as "Hansard" (the Parliamentary record) still quote the "Furnace" spelling in 1831.  "Furness Vale" was however, in use by 1821 for the name appears in a trade directory for that year.  There appears to be a gradual transition from one name to the other rather than an official change.

The first record of a furnace in the parish of Disley is in 1690.  A charcoal fired iron smelting furnace stood where the "beehive" kilns of Knowles Brickyard were later constructed. This must have been a reasonable sized operation for "Jodrell Pig" was sent to forges in South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.  Small iron foundries were to be found in many parts of the country, wherever charcoal or coke, and iron ore were available. The mineral was probably mined locally among the coal seams of Furness Clough and charcoal produced in nearby woodland. Most of these small local furnaces had closed by the late 18th century, replaced by much larger and more profitable coke fired plants. The disused kiln was probably still in evidence in 1811 for John Farey, described its location in his book of that date.

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