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Historic England awards repair grant to FoD Trust for Gunns Mill

Historic England has awarded a grant of £31,020 to the Forest of Dean Building Preservation Trust to help plan the repair of Gunns Mill furnace, one of Britain's most important industrial heritage sites in Littledean, Gloucestershire.

The grant will enable architects and engineers to design a structural solution to repair the timber frame of the roof of the bridge house and provide a usable space inside. The bridge house once protected the charcoal and ore from the weather before loading into the furnace. It is the only surviving bridge house for a furnace of this type and adds to Gunns Mill's national importance.

The Trust's intention is to repair Gunns Mill and find a sustainable new use so that it can be enjoyed and understood in the future.

Gunns Mill is considered to be the best-preserved charcoal blast furnace in Britain. It dates from around 1682 when the Forest of Dean was one of the most important centres for iron production in the country, as it had been since the Roman period. It was converted to a papermill in 1743 but had fallen out of use by the 20th century. It is on Historic England's National Heritage at Risk register.

The Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust took on the ownership of Gunns Mill in 2013 and since then has carried out several repairs to the structure with support and funding from Historic England. In 2020, a grant of £84,000 supported the repair of the mill wheel pit structure and in 2022, works to stabilise the north wall, a major structural issue with the building, were successfully completed with a further grant of £95,000.

Kate Biggs of the Forest of Dean Preservation Trust said: "Once the architects and engineers have prepared a solution, we will fundraise for the work to be undertaken. This is a major step forward in the journey of this building and would mean that we could remove some of the scaffolding, after over 20 years!

"For many years the scale of the project and the masonry repairs required meant that this point seemed a very long way off. It now feels that goal is achievable for our small Trust."

Rebecca Barrett, south west regional director at Historic England, said: "Gunns Mill tells an important story about Britain's industrial past and is vital to our understanding of the iron industry in the Forest of Dean. It is now very fragile, and the next phase of repair needs to be carefully planned. Our funding will help the Trust to do that, and we look forward to supporting them along the way."

Mark Harper, Member of Parliament for the Forest of Dean, said: "I have previously had the pleasure of visiting this important heritage site and have been consistently impressed with the dedication of both the Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust and Historic England in bringing this site back to its former glory.

"I look forward to returning to Gunns Mill to view the progress for myself and to a time when this significant piece of local history can be enjoyed by my constituents."

Gunns Mill will be open to the public on Saturday 16 September for Heritage Open Days  and is protected as a scheduled monument and a Grade II* listed building.

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