Abstract: The Eighteenth-Century West Midland Ironmasters in Their Landscape

Richard Coopey


This paper considers the relationship between the ironmasters of the Dowton gorge and their surrounding environment. During the eighteenth century Dowton gorge was the site of the densest concentration of water-powered ironworks in Britain. Fully integrated works, such as those at Bringwood furnace and forges, were among the most important suppliers of iron to a range of burgeoning industries. For over a hundred years these works were owned and controlled by members of the Knight family. Key individuals from this family displayed an overt interest in nature and the environment. This paper seeks to connect the two aspects of Downon gorge, at the center of industry and at the center of the landscape. It aims to explore the relationship between exploitation and sustainability of natural resources during a period of transition in iron production markets, methods, and technologies, and to provide a bridge between economic and cultural history in Britain in the eighteenth century.