The impact of charcoal iron production on the landscape of the South Lakes, Cumbria (UK) during the eighteenth century using archival material combined with remote mapping techniques

Alastair Pearson, Zoë Hazell

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The history of the charcoal iron trade in the Southern Lake District in Cumbria, England is well recognised, with activity controlled by a very small number of iron production companies intensifying during the eighteenth century. This activity, from the initial extraction of the ore, through the development of a transport infrastructure and the construction of furnaces, to the management of woodlands for charcoal production, has left its mark on the landscape. A wealth of untapped information is held in the region’s documentary archives, which provides data on the iron production companies themselves, primarily via account books and associated documents. These records include detail on the charcoal bought in—not only the dates and precise quantities, but the names of the source woodlands and even the names of the individual producers themselves. Using GIS, these sources have been examined in combination with remotely sensed data to provide new evidence of the impact of the iron trade on the woodlands of the Lake District. The results demonstrate that charcoal production was so vital to the iron industry that the woodlands were carefully and sustainably managed, the legacy of which we enjoy today.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date26 Mar 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 26 Mar 2024


  • Charcoal
  • iron
  • archives
  • woodland
  • GIS
  • remote sensing
  • UKRI
  • AHRC
  • AH/V011758/1

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