When the furnace was fired the steam engine blower, (no longer here), forced a continuous blast of air into the bottom of the furnace in order to make the coke burn brighter and raise the temperature inside high enough to melt the iron, any hot gases being sent out of the low chimney at the top of the furnace. When ready, the molten iron was tapped from the bottom of the furnace and run into moulds to produce pig iron.
However it was not a commercial success and experienced continual problems for a multitude of reasons. It was eventually abandoned with its final charge inside, partially smelted. The foundry which attached it however did go on being used, the pig-iron being brought in, but this was demolished in the 19th century and the bridgehosue and engine house were converted to houses and survived until in the1970's when the engine house, having been affected by subsidence and being derelict, was demolished.
Today the remaining structures have been fully restored, by North West Leicestershire District Council, and houses a new industrial history exhibition.
The furnace site includes:
The museum - within the original blast furnace building; and contains three areas
The Bridge Loft – where the raw materials for smelting were assembled and fed into the top of the furnace. Now houses interactive displays showing how the furnace worked.
The Hastings Room – where the furnace building was converted into cottages after it stopped working. Now displays the working life of the furnace and the history of the buildings on the site.
Mary’s Kitchen - a reconstructed Victorian kitchen. This contains authentic objects giving an insight into the everyday lives of the mining families who lived in the furnace later in the 19th century.
A group of small craft workshops, including pottery, stoneware and metal sculpture.
Woodland - a boardwalk trail, specially designed for visitors with disabilities to enjoy, has been provided in the deciduous plantation that links the playground and car park to the main museum site. Here you can see all kinds of plants and animals throughout the year.
Pathways and Cycles ways - As well as the woodland and towpath walks that the site offers, the Furnace is a good starting point for the many local family cycle trails which have been created in the Ashby Woulds and National Forest area.
Free access to woodland, country park, canal towpath and children's play area.
Towpath connects to Conkers
Events throughout the year as well as the offer of education programme for pre-booked groups and schools.
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