Abinger Hammer Mill

Abinger Hammer mill and forge on the Hammer pond

Abinger Hammer mill on the Hammer pond

Abinger Hammer Mill, also known as the Hammer forge or Shere forge in its earliest days, is the most northern of the sites associated with the Wealden iron industry, situated on the extensive Hammer millpond, where the ‘Kingfisher’ farm shop and watercress beds are today. The Abinger forge flourished in the 16th century in particular, and by 1557, Edward and Thomas Elrington had built an iron mill on the site of a corn mill in their new manor (and subordinate manor of Paddington Bray), establishing 300 acres of new plantations on Abinger Common to provide the necessary timber to convert into charcoal and turn the raw iron. Local tradition holds that has guns were made in Abinger and used at sea against the Spanish Armada, and it is possible that cannons and cannon balls were made at the forge under Thomas Elrington, until he left the parish, for reasons unknown, in 1576. The water provided by the Tillingbourne turned the wheel and drove the trip hammer at the forge (whose cast iron hammer head weighed 400 kilograms and resounded through the valley), though it is thought unlikely that smelting took place at the site, with the raw iron instead brought in from elsewhere further south.

Abinger forge site - 1st ed OS map 1870

Abinger forge site – 1st ed OS map 1870

The iron industry continued in some form at Abinger until 1787, by which time the new processes and raw material in the north and midlands of England displaced the industry in the south, and mills such as Abinger had to contend with cheap imported iron. After the iron-making days of the mill ended, Frederick Evelyn attempted to revive the mill, including plans to re-construct three pairs of gunpowder mills, though this application was rejected by local opposition in 1790. Consideration for use as a corn and fulling mill was also made, but did not come to fruition.

Earthwork remains have been surveyed at Abinger Hammer, though it is uncertain whether these are earthworks related to an unfinished works or to an earlier forge. The ‘Old Forge Hole’ in the pond bay, which was occupied by the wheel, and the forge itself appeared on maps until the end of the 18th century.

Sources

Corke, Shirley (1993), Abinger Hammer, A short history and guide (Abinger Hammer Village School Trust); Brandon, Peter (1984, rev 2003), The Tillingbourne River Story:  the history of the river in Wotton, Abinger, Gomshall, Shere, Albury, Chilworth and Shalford, Surrey (Shere, Gomshall & Peaslake Local History Society).