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Letterewe, Ironworks

Iron Works (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Letterewe, Ironworks

Classification Iron Works (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Furnace Burn; Amhainn Na Fuirneis; Loch Maree

Canmore ID 12047

Site Number NG97SE 1

NGR NG 9580 7075

NGR Description Centred NG 9580 7075

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Gairloch
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NG97SE 1 centred 9580 7055

See also Red Smiddy (NG87NE 20) for information relating to the location of surviving pig iron ingots.

(NG 95817054) The ironworks at Furnace, Letterewe are the earliest historic ironworks in the country. The furnace is situated on the north bank of the Furnace Burn, which flows into Loch Maree about one mile to the south of Letterewe House. The foundations of the furnace are still to be seen, although by no means perfect. They stand on the top of the bank of the burn, which must have materially altered its course since the works were in existence. The furnace was built of Torridon sandstone and brick, masses of which, much vitrified, are still visible in large quantities.

The first mention of these works was in 1610 but they had been established for some time prior as they are shown on Speed's map of 'The Kingdome of Scotland' (1610), and it may have been as early as 1598.

W I Macadam 1893; J H Dixon 1886.

In a small copse on the NW bank of Amhainn na Fuirneis, 20.0m SW of the footbridge crossing the burn, are the mutilated remains of the ironworks, standing 2.3m above the present water-level. They comprise a portion of the wall of the furnace, and 2 large scatters of heavy iron slag 15.0m NE of this. The remains of the furnace, survive to a height of 0.8m, but a fairly modern field wall may partially overlay the remainder. A considerable quantity of vitrified Torridon sandstone is visible in the furnace walling. A scatter of slag, charcoal and burnt material can be seen in the cultivated field immediately to the NW. Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (N K B) 5 April 1965.

NH 011 654 Between August and November 1996 a programme of assessment, survey and excavation was undertaken around Loch Maree, Wester Ross, and specifically on the early 17th-century ironworks at Fasagh. The work focused on the assessment of previously identified ironworking sites, topographic survey, geophysical survey, excavations, and test-pits in support of the geophysics.

Loch Maree Assessment

In August 1996 an assessment of the Loch Maree area was undertaken as the initial step in the fieldwork programme. In the case of the previously identified bloomery sites no evidence of iron production was noted. The blast furnaces on the other hand remain as impressive monuments. No new bloomery localities were located on the burns traversed. Additional information was recovered for the sites of Fasagh, Letterewe and Red Smiddy, including at Letterewe the presence of haematite ore, and at Red Smiddy and Fasagh the location of settlement possibly related to them and also further structural components of these ironworks.

NG 9580 7075 Site of Letterewe, furnace mound, slag heaps, walling, ore dump.


NG 9580 7075 Topographic survey recorded the remains of ironworks along the W bank of the Furnace Burn. At the N end is a slag-rich area, while to the S the furnace consists of sandstone slabs with a vitrified superstructure, measuring 5 x 4m. A concentration of slag lies immediately S of it, as well as what may be a stone-built channel leading to the river.

An interim report on this work will be lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Letterewe Estate.

J A Atkinson, M Donnelly, J Duncan, O Lelong and E Photo-Jones 1997

NG 9580 7075 (centre) Survey and evaluation at Letterewe, Wester Ross, revealed an area of landscape which had undergone substantial changes from the early 17th century to the mid-19th century. The results of a walkover and topographic survey indicate that the study area had gone through a period of landscape transformation as part of an 'Improvement' programme in the early 19th century. Those changes have in effect removed any association between the agricultural settlement pattern and the industrial exploitation of the site during the 17th century.

Geophysical survey and trial trench evaluation at the earlier site on the banks of the Furnace Burn revealed the remains of a charcoal-fired blast furnace and an associated charcoal storage bin, together with other structural features (including pits, walls and hearths within an adjacent field) and deposits of metallurgical waste. Analysis of the metallurgical waste is currently underway. The evidence would appear to support iron production at Letterewe in the early 17th century, possibly associated with Sir George Hay of Nethercliff. (GUARD 537)

A full report will be lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsors: Mr P van Vlissingen and Ms C Tisdale, Letterewe Estate.

M Donnelly, J A Atkinson and E Photos-Jones 1998


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