The Construction of the Dartford Furnaces
By James McDermott
arly assays upon samples of ore returned from the 1576 and 1577 voyages were indecisive. Their perceived failure was blamed upon inadequate furnaces by the German assayers, whose skills were considered superior to those of their English counterparts. It was decided to build new smelting works at Dartford to process the hundreds of tons of Baffin Island ore returned in the final 1578 voyage. These works, the largest in southern England, placed an additional burden upon the resources of the adventurers, and accelerated the slide towards the financial collapse of the enterprise. Financial accounts for the construction work at Dartford were - unlike those devoted to other aspects of the enterprise - arranged chronologically. Drawing upon that source, this paper reconstructs a "diary" of the Dartford works from their inception to completion, and identifies the flaws and failures which characterized their brief working life.