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1901: Sussex firebacks thanks to the vicar

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

1550-1600 Cast iron Sussex John Harvo in the V&A

There has just been opened at Lewes Castle a very interesting exhibition of ancient Sussex iron work, which is exhibited by reason of a suggestion of Mr Charles Dawson. FSA, to the Sussex Archeological Society at its last annual meeting. The firebacks some of which date back to the fifteenth century, were especially interesting. Up till recently it was a matter of doubt when the first iron furnace in Sussex ceased to exist, but it has now been ascertained that it was in 1828, the then Earl of Ashburnham being the last ironmaster. A number of the pits where the ore was dug may still be seen around Ashburnham Place. It will be remembered that the railings which until a few years ago surrounded St. Paul's Cathedral were of Sussex iron.

Brighton Gazette, 26 December 1901

Cuckfield's vicar at the time was Canon JH Cooper (1831-1909). he was a highly respected local historian and both an active member and knowledgable Chairman of the Sussex Archaeological Society. We know that he was involved in the creation of this exhibition.

An ironwork exhibition owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society can be seen at the Anne of Cleves House in Lewes, and is well worth visiting. There is a substantial collection of firebacks and two rare, original fireback patterns on display.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details



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