HISTORIC England has awarded a grant of £163,812 to carry out urgent repairs at Gunns Mill furnace, one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites.

The grant will fund the repair of the timber frame of the roof of the bridge house, which once protected charcoal and ore from the weather before being loaded into the furnace.

The grant has been made to the Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust which is working to save the site near Flaxley.

Gunns Mill has the only surviving bridge house for a furnace of this type dating from the late 17th century.

The Trust plans to make this part of the building a usable space in the future.

The bridge house roof repairs were carefully planned in late 2023 with advice from architects and structural engineers.

This will be the third major repair project at Gunns Mill since 2020, when the Trust successfully completed repairs to the mill waterwheel pit.

This was followed by urgent structural works to the north-east wall in 2022.

Historic England provided grant funding and technical support for both projects.

Kate Biggs of the Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust, said: “The architects and engineers have prepared a solution, and we are fundraising for the next steps to be undertaken.

“This is major progress 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: “The repair works to this rare 17th-century bridge house have been carefully planned to take into account its fragility and structural complexity.

“It will be great to see work getting under way as a first step towards the building being used again 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 paper mill in 1743 but had fallen out of use by the 20th century.

“Gunns Mill was placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register in 1998.