Charcoal Burning in the Wyre Forest

Text: Malcolm Dick

Image: Charcoal burning in the Wyre Forest. A burner is standing outside his hut in the Wyre Forest. Outside are the various tools of his trade, including a shovel or “ship”, sacks for carrying charcoal and a windbreak.

[Image from: Bewdley Museum from an image in the Stone Collection, Birmingham Central Library, late 19th century.]

Summary: Charcoal burning was a traditional craft, but vital to substantial parts of the Midlands’ economy. Between 1700 and 1900, the Wyre Forest on the borders of Worcestershire and Shropshire, was a major centre of production. Charcoal was used as a fuel in several regional industries. Using photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the text explores the history of the industry and identifies a number of the techniques of charcoal burning which had not changed for centuries. The industry experienced the introduction of new technology, but competition from other sources of fuel meant that the market for charcoal declined. During World War II charcoal burning for commercial purposes disappeared from the Wyre Forest.


Continue browsing this section

747-0Woodland Industries in the Wyre Forest 941-0The Wyre Forest and Bewdley 749-2Bark Peeling 750-0The Making of Snuff 940-0Charcoal Burning in the Wyre Forest 236-0Charcoal and its Uses 219-0Work and Labour 248-0Charcoal Burning 246-0Charcoal Burning 243-0Charcoal Burning 242-0Charcoal Burning 247-0Charcoal Burning Tools 238-0Charcoal Burning Tools 237-0Charcoal Burning Tools 239-0Charcoal Burning Tools 244-0Charcoal burning: Retorts 245-0Charcoal Burning: Retorts 240-0The Decline of Charcoal Burning
Sources and Further Reading

Barrett, N M, Charcoal Burning in Wyre Forest, Bewdley Museum Information Sheet No 1, (1973).
Bewdley Historical Research Group, Bewdley in its Golden Age, vol 2 Trades and Industries, (Worcester, 1999).
Bewdley Museum, Information Sheet: Charcoal Burning in Wyre Forest, (1973).
Emrich, Walter, Handbook of Charcoal Making, the Traditional and Industrial Methods, Dordrecht, Lancaster, 1985
Kelley, D W, Charcoal and Charcoal Burning, (Princes Risborough, Shire Publications Ltd., 1996).
Pitt, W., General View of the Agriculture of the County of Worcester, (London, 1813).