The artist is Mona Hynes based on an original sketch by Helen Caird.

Ironworks in Woodford 

In 1681, the earliest blast furnace for smelting iron ore in Co. Galway was built by Sir Henry Waddington at Woodford. The furnace used local bog iron ore  mixed with rock ores from further south along Lough Derg, and timber, mostly oak, converted to charcoal.  

Blast furnaces in the 17th century were large square buildings with a side-length and height of approximately 5m.  The furnaces had two arches; the blowing arch where water powered bellows were placed and the casting arch where liquid iron and waste material were removed. 

The lintel of the casting arch bearing the date 1681 is the only ‘source’ we have which provides the start date of the Woodford iron industry and is now displayed outside the Heritage Centre on Bark Hill. 

Charcoal and iron ore were fed into the top of the furnace. Once it was full and lit, more ore and charcoal were added. The liquid iron was either poured into the shape of an object (cast iron) or into so-called ‘sows of iron’ which were destined for the finery to be re-melted into forgeable wrought iron.

A typical 17th century blast furnace would have had a daily production capacity of about a ton of cast iron or about 600kg of wrought iron. This required up to 10 ton of charcoal or the equivalent of half a hectare or 100m by 50m of woodland per day. 

After Sir Henry’s death in 1692, his estate manger Thomas Croasdaile took over the business. The ironworks at Woodford were still active in 1760 and it is unknown exactly when the operations finished though 1777 is estimated in Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. The furnace itself, which was located in the field to the southeast of Woodford Bridge, did not survive but the ground there is covered with its attractive glassy blue waste material (slag).   Its legacy remains in the place names of ‘Upperforge’ and ‘Barkhill’ and Woodford itself is known as ‘Gráig na Muilte Iarainn’ or the “Hamlet of the Iron Mills