What are the five holes in the rock in the middle of the river?
The honest answer to this question is that we don’t know. We don’t even know that they have a connection to Beckley Furnace, in fact. The facts that they’re in a perfectly straight line, that they’re in the bedrock and not in a boulder that might have washed into this position, that they’re exactly the same width and the same depth all combine to make it pretty clear that they were man-made.
But why? They represent a fair amount of work, and clearly somebody wanted them to be right where they are.
So, lets explore possibilities.
Were they part of the blast furnace or related processes? Likely not; they’re a bit far from both the furnace itself and also from the blowing tubs farther upstream.
Were they part of a bridge foundation of some sort? Well, we don’t have any historical evidence of a bridge at that location. The likeliest possibility would have been a bridge to carry slag across the river to be dumped, but we’ve not seen similar holes elsewhere along our stretch of the river. Also, they’re at a slight angle to both river banks — not what you would expect for a bridge support.
So we’ll leave our answer as “We don’t know” and ask you to suggest possibilities that might occur to you!
(The photo is by Helen, by the way!)