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Abinger Hammer TQ 097474

The watercress ponds at Abinger after harvest

There are few visible remains of the chain of ponds along the dammed Tillingbourne stream that powered Abinger Hammer (formerly known as Shere) Forge. I include this site because Abinger Forge was the most northerly site of the Wealden iron industry, built before 1557 by Owen Bray. The forge converted iron sows from Sussex into wrought-iron: there were no furnaces nearby due to lack of suitable local ore. It was still operating circa 1751 when John Goodyer occupied the works and supplied his family’s ironmonger business in Guildford. Alexander Raby, who had also established iron mills on Surrey’s Wey and Mole rivers, was the last known owner of Abinger Hammer in 1787. The forge ponds have since long been converted into watercress beds, and so water levels are considerably lower than the original ponds. Best viewed from the farm shop on the original site. The ‘old forge hole’, assumed to be remains of the wheelpit, can be seen by the entrance to the car park here, on the north side of the bay.

Hedgecourt Lake TQ 360404

This huge sheet of water, 42 acres, was once used as a pen pond for Woodcock Hammer Forge at Wiremill Lake below, and subsequently powered a corn mill until the early twentieth century. Do not confuse this with Hedgecourt Furnace: this was the original name of Warren Furnace just over the county border at Crawley Down, West Sussex. Both belonged to the manor of Hedgecourt. There is a path from here to Wiremill Lake, below.

Thursley Common, near Hindhead SU 915402

There are three forge ponds in the Thursley Common National Trust nature reserve area, connected with Thursley and Witley Forges, first mentioned in 1608. The Upper Hammer pond at the GR above has a bridge and a small spillway. The original bay, at 916403, is not easily accessible through the trees and undergrowth. The pond is fed by a stream running (northwards) through a chain of ponds from Hindhead Common, and in turn feeds the (restored) Lower Hammer Pond at 916408. This mill was later reused for silk.

Nearby Coldharbour Hammer Pond (920406) runs on a different stream east of the other hammer ponds, and lies partly in Thursley and partly in Witley.

Warren Mere lake, just north of here, was not connected to the iron works; there was a Witley Park Furnace further south at 927374 circa 1673, but the pond is long gone.

Wiremill Lake, Newchapel TQ 367418

Wiremill Lake looking towards the bay

Woodcock Hammer Forge pond straddles the Eden Brook. The Gages of Hedgecourt Manor leased this site to John Thorpe in 1574, who worked it together with Hedgecourt (later known as Warren) Furnace, by Cuttinglye  Wood, Crawley Down just over the border in West Sussex. It reputedly made the nails for St Paul’s Cathedral and by the late eighteenth century operated as a wire mill. The building has been restored as an inn and restaurant on the pond bay. There is a path from here to Hedgecourt Lake, its former pen pond (see above).

Photos and text © Helen Pearce 2014