A cannonball made of Wealden iron

Contributed by Adam Nicolson

A cannonball made of Wealden iron

A few years ago, this cannonball was found under the road outside Hammer Mill Farm on the borders of Biddenden and Sissinghurst parishes in the Weald of Kent. The children of the Halls, who live in Hammer Mill Farm, used to play with it, rolling it across the floor of the farmhouse. From the 1580s until the end of the 17th century there was an iron works on the site, belonging to the Bakers who lived at Sissinghurst Castle which is just a mile or so away. Iron ore from the Weald was converted here into all sorts of weapons and instruments and for some reason this cannonball was not sent off for the military use which many thousands of others just like it must have been. Mrs Hall was a teacher and brought it into her primary school one day. The following morning five other children brought in their own cannonballs which were treasured in their own families. Now this part of Kent is entirely rural but in the late 16th and early 17th century, this was among the most industrialised parts of England. The only sign of the ironworks that remains is the long dam or pond bay which held back the huge, 50-acre mill pond, whose waters drove the waterwheels powering the bellows and hammers.

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Hammer Mill Farm, Kent

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